During the second half of the fourth century, a monk by the name of Evagrius moved away from the city where he lived, into the desert. His motive was to escape all the trappings of modern society. His goal was to rid himself of all the influences that pulled him away from the life that Christ desired for him to live.
You know what he discovered?
The very same trappings; the same temptations; the same weaknesses that had vexed him in the city were waiting on him in the desert. He discovered what so many of us learn sooner or later (and mostly the hard way): that sin does not come from the outside, but rather from within the hidden places of the heart.
So, Evagrius began to write down some of his more common struggles; struggles that seem to repeat themselves all-too-often. (If we were honest, we would admit that most of us have a set of struggles that seem to trouble us more than others.)
For Evagrius, there were eight.
Eight temptations. Eight attitudes. Eight behaviors. Eight sins…
that seemed to repeat themselves more than others.
He shared his list of eight with other monks, who confessed that they too shared many of the same temptations. Over time, his list was copied and transmitted from monastery to monestary. By the 6th century, Pope Gregory I had received a copy of the eight sins of Evagrius. Gregory tweaked the list a bit. He combined two of the sins into one, and refined the list to seven. He declared these seven sins were the sins that were most common to all follwers of Christ. These seven were the sins from which all other sins were born. He listed them in order of least threatening or deadly, to the most deadly.
His list (from least to greatest threat) was:
Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. Wrath. Envy. Pride.
What is crucial to know is that none of these sins simply exist in and of themselves. Like most sins, each of these seven is a distortion, or a twisting of a some good thing.
(Lust, for example, doesn’t just exist on its own. Lust is a distortion (or shadow side) of healthy, God-given desires.)
In other words, these sins don’t just show up.
They sneak up.
They creep into our lives in ways that are mostly subtle and undetectable at first. They settle into our lives wearing the mask of what seems to be normal and healthy and good. But slowly, they have the potential to eat away at our lives until there is very little left of the relationships that matter. Relationships with God; with other people; even with ourselves.
That is why on Sunday, March 9th we begin a new sermon series during the season of Lent entitled, “7 Deadly Sins.”
Using the traditional seven as a springboard, we will consider the destructive power of sin in our lives, paying particular attention to the subtle and sinister ways these sins can creep in, destroying what is most valuable to us. Throughout the series we will talk clearly and specifically about how Jesus Christ offers the only true way out; a way to be forgiven, renewed, and free.
While there is a traditional order to the 7 Deadly Sins, we will arrange our study in the following order: Greed. Envy. Wrath. Sloth. Lust. Pride. Gluttony.