Formations Lesson for June 13- Sins of Desire- Greed and Envy
May 31 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Proverbs 3:27-28; 11:24-28; 23:17-19

Each lesson in the Learner’s Study Guide begins with a question: today, “Whom do I harm in my desire to acquire things?”

I once heard John Vannorsdall, longtime chaplain at Gettysburg College and Yale University, distinguish between what he called “hot” and “cold” sins.

He identified the hot sins as sins of passion, excess, and losing self-control — well-known sins, easily identified, widely condemned. Examples from vice lists in the New Testament include theft, murder, fornication, adultery, sodomy, licentiousness, wickedness, drunkenness, carousing, reveling, a hot temper, and filthy language.

In contrast, the cold sins are calculating, callous and unsympathetic — interior sins, often more effectively concealed, more plausibly denied. Jealousy, conceit, haughtiness, selfishness, anger (as in vengeance or grudge-bearing), gossip, slander, backbiting, deceit, lying, and bitterness make the New Testament lists. So do greed and envy. (Could we add bigotry and prejudice?)

Vannorsdall noticed that most of us are quick to spot the hot sins and focus our moral attention on them. After all, they get the most publicity. It also helps when they’re done by somebody else.

The cold sins get less scrutiny. Besides being lower on the radar, they just don’t seem as bad. Is it because that’s where we do so much of our own personal sinning? Better to point the finger in another direction.

All sin is harmful: some hot sins, like murder, especially so. But Vannorsdall wondered, which sins — hot or cold — cause more harm to more people more of the time? (A clue: In the Gospels, Jesus says more about money than any other topic besides the Kingdom of God.)

Greed is when I want more. Envy is when it belongs to someone else. Both are harmful.

Greed harms those I take advantage of, pursuing more. Greed harms those I neglect, chasing after more. Greed harms those I look down on after I get more. Greed harms people the world over who must live on less because I must have more. Greed robs me of my own joy and contentment, desiring more.

Envy does the same, with a dose of resentment, spite and bitterness thrown in. The antidotes to envy and greed are trust and generosity: “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity” (2 Corinthians 9:8,11).

A bumper sticker says, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Don’t you believe it.
5/31/2010 5:34:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

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