The 7 Deadlies

by Marjorie George

Star Trek has gone biblical. In a new Star Trek book*, the writers have developed seven stories around the seven deadly sins, attaching each one to a different Star Trek race.  Romulans are brought down by their pride; Cardassians do themselves in through their envy; Ferengis are driven by greed.

But actually, the seven deadly sins are not listed as such anywhere in the Bible. Rather, the list was compiled by Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. These vices, say the Church fathers, are at the root of all other sins. One who commits adultery does so perhaps out of lust, but perhaps out of the pride of the conquest, the envy of another man’s wife, the greed of wanting more than one has when what one has is perfectly sufficient.

The Seven Deadly Sins are the sins of the masquerade, the lie I am able to justify. I set a goal for myself, and when I reach it I push a little deeper, ask a little more of myself, until no accomplishment is sufficient. I have made my standards higher than God’s standards. I have succumbed to the sin of pride.

This week, we begin a series on the Seven Deadly Sins. Our purpose is not to reproach but to reveal. Subtitle it “Things That Prevent Us from Growing into the Person God Made Us to Be.” The series is based on seven articles that appeared in the January/February 2008 issue of The Church News, the newspaper of The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. To that we will add more resources for your own investigation (see This Week on the Web, below). We begin with the sin of gluttony, for no particular reason.

As always, we invite your conversation.

*Star Trek: Seven Deadly Sins

Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at Marjorie.george@dwtx.org.


Gluttony

by the Rev. Mary Earle

“Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony” (Proverbs 23:2).

It started with kid mohair.  So soft.  So beautiful.  So wondrously luminous.  Then came Hill Country llama and alpaca.  Not to mention merino wool.  Yes, I confess it.  I am a fiber glutton.  This is what happens when one takes up spinning and weaving at age 50, after years of desiring to know those crafts.  Now, several years later, I have a fiber stash that looks like I could set up a store.  I fell into gluttony.

You will notice that this gluttony did not have to do with food.  While gluttony often is linked to an inordinate desire for food, it is classically defined as “the over-indulgence of things lawful” or “an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.”  As you might have guessed, we are a nation of gluttons.  We consume goods, food, energy, drink, beauty as if we were the only nation on earth.  It is such a norm within this culture that we have trouble noticing when gluttony has us in its grip.

The wise observers in Christian tradition from time to time have said that gluttony is the worst of all the seven deadly sins.  Why might that be?  Because gluttony begins with a failure to see the good gifts God gives us in the right perspective.  Gluttony begins – surprise — in the eye.  When gluttony has me in its clutches, I see and I consume.  There is no pause for beholding, no moment of deep appreciation.  Gluttony does not know how to see with love and gratitude.  And gluttony is so joyless.  The art of savoring God’s good gifts to us is lost, and we live for the passing little rush of acquisition.  (Yet gluttony is not addiction.  An addict suffers from a sickness, a disease.  A glutton is choosing to consume.  The will is active, and choice is a possibility.)

The remedy?  Again, the remedy begins with the eye, with the practice of the contemplative’s “long, loving look.”  In other words, slowing down, stilling the frenetic desire to consume, to possess.  We are recalled to that lovely harmony that is God’s design for all that is created.   Slowing down allows wonder to stir, and gratitude to grow.  We find ourselves less trapped by consuming, and we are drawn to practices of thanksgiving.   We savor life, and we savor what God has given us.  We hear Christ’s call to see things from the divine perspective, not with an eye toward consuming, but with an eye toward deepening respect, kindness and love.

The Rev. Mary  Earle is a writer, retreat leader, and retired priest in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.