Dear Friends,

Maybe the practice of medicine is better now; I am not a doctor so my example might be of date. There used to be some deadly cancers that were deadly partly because, by the time the symptoms were obvious, it was too late to treat the cancer. A lot of sin is like that.

Many Christians from long ago used to have a practice called “examination of conscience”. What that meant was that they would take the time to ask God to convict them of sin. However, to guard against them always focusing on the same one or two or three sins, they would use a broader list, asking God – how is this sin present and powerful in my life? Please help me to recognize this sin so I can repent and seek to amend my life according to Your word.

One tool that was used was a list of the Seven Deadly Sins. Each “sin” could be subtle and complex and have different shapes – but seven is an easy number to remember – so the list was easily “portable” in our head. A person could spend time thinking about the many different forms this particular sin, or class of sins took, and then repent, calling on God to help them turn from sin and live free and whole for God’s glory and the good of people. The sins were called “deadly” because all sin is deadly and, in particular, because there were forms that each sin took that we can be blind to (not able to detect or hate easily in our own lives). Different people would rank the sins differently in order of deadliest to least deadly – but note – they are all deadly, even if some are more deadly than others. I like to list the sins, from deadliest to least deadly, as: pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust.

I will talk about this list some other time; today I want to say a few words about envy. On Sunday we are looking at John’s account of how the religious authorities decided to put Jesus to death. In Mark 15:10, speaking of Pilate, the Bible says, “For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered [Jesus] up.” Envy at its simplest is a desire for what someone else has. It is inherently competitive. It does not say, “I wish I was as skilled as Suzy someday.” Envy feels sorrow at the position/possession/esteem that someone else has – and envy leads us to want to possess what the other has or it leads us to drag the other down so no one has it. I think it was CS Lewis who said that envy is the one sin which gives us no pleasure. There are “pleasures’” connected to lust and gluttony – even anger. But envy is always connected to sorrow / pain / lack / unhappiness that this person or group has something that I/we do not have. The sin of envy can be both an individual sin and a group sin – my profession / my tribe / my nation / my group does not have what some other / tribe / nation / group has and it fills us with a sense of sorrow, pain, unhappiness and injustice. We can see that this sin, as it grows, quickly leads to other sins: lying, prejudice, hatred, slander – even violence. Tragically, we usually detect this sin in other people, but cannot detect it in
ourselves – so it works its power. Ask the Lord to show you your envy – and help you to repent.