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When Everyday Habits Turn Deadly

Why things you do all the time can kill your spirit.

"The Seven Deadly Sins" don't mean much to most of us. The term might make us think of a creepy Brad Pitt movie from the '90s, but beyond that, they’re seemingly irrelevant to our faith today. These “Cardinal Sins” are a collection of vices that the Church has decreed to be harmful for the Christian. Their origin is partly biblical (like Paul’s list of sins in Galatians 5:19-21) and partly Greek, linked to the work of a 4th century monk named Evagrius Ponticus. But here’s the list we know today: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.

These vices were deemed “deadly” because if we give them the opportunity, they can separate us from God and destroy a life of faith. Also, it has been thought that every other transgression stems from this original list. But most of our sins are a combination of these seven, which is why they’re so slippery, so capable of crippling us. For example, a pornography addiction might seem like a direct link to the sin of lust. But it might also find its roots in pride, or even wrath.

While they’re intense and perhaps a bit antiquated, these seven sins might have more relevance than we realize. Sin isn't always obvious and detestable; sometimes it is seemingly harmless or even "good." We really don’t think most of our vices are horrible, or even sins; they’re just small crutches that help us make it through. These little habits might not ever become “deadly.” But given enough power, our modern vices can be harmful, keeping us from living as God intended.

Sleep

In our culture, hard work is prized and rest—of any kind—is seen as lazy. As Christians, we need to combat this kind of thinking. Just as God rested on the seventh day of creation, we join Him through Sabbath rest. Sleep is a significant part of this godly action. Naps are a good thing.

But when we sleep to hide from our pain, or when we disengage from our relationships because they’re too much work, we let the vice of sloth worm its way into our hearts and our lives. Rest, as God intended, refreshes us, not just to do more stuff, but to be healthy and whole persons. But here’s the real danger of sloth: It prevents this wholeness through detachment and apathy. We become passive observers of our lives instead of active participants.

It’s important for us to join with God in healthy rest and remain fully present in our lives, awake to our emotions and relationships, even the ones that are hard.

Internet

My husband and I don’t own smart phones, and I like it that way. About a year ago, we went to cell phone provider to upgrade our phones. We were quickly greeted by an overzealous salesman who started showing us some of the latest devices. When we told him we were looking for a basic phone for talking and texting, he lamely gestured to the dimly lit back corner of the store before pouncing on the next customer, leaving us to fend for ourselves.

Many of us are inundated with the Internet, whether or not we carry it around with us. It’s not all bad, of course. But even the good aspects of the Internet can lead us to unhealthy patterns. The gift of connection from sites like Facebook and Twitter can lead to comparisons, judgment and self-centeredness. At their worst, these phantoms of true connection makes us more lonely, not less.

Or, if you’re like me, you’re addicted to creative blogs and sites like Pinterest. But even these can lead me to discontent and greed, making me wish I had more stuff or money, or was a better mom, or wife, or cook, or could craft memorable Christmas gifts out of vintage lace tablecloths and tree bark.

The Internet gives us a lot: information, communication, entertainment and creativity. But it also robs us of the precious gift of time and true relationships. Real creativity and inspiration usually find us when we step out of the technological haze and engage with God, creation and those around us.

Food

The word "gluttony" might seem a bit archaic, conjuring up images of a rotund court duke devouring a fat, greasy turkey leg. But the concept is as timely as ever. We eat for a number of reasons: necessity, celebration, fellowship, boredom, pain, loneliness. Of course, the last few reasons on that list are unique to our part of the world. Most of the people around the globe don’t see eating as a vice; they view it as a need and often a luxury.

Many of us, however, eat whenever and whatever we want. And when there is access, there is easily abuse. The abuse of food takes its starkest form in eating disorders, but food is misused in so many small ways—like a “coffee break” that turns into making two large cups and voraciously consuming three stale donuts that someone left in the break room. So often, food seems like a perfect antidote to our stress, our hurts or our long day at that job we hate or the kids who exhaust us.

These “semi-deadly” sins, like eating, sleeping or using the Internet aren’t inherently bad. It’s even OK to really like them. But when we depend on them to fill us, pouring more and more fuel into the insatiable furnace of these little vices, they become harmful to our relationship with God and other people.

Any sin can be deadly when it numbs us and keeps us from receiving love from God and others. Jesus said that this is the work of the thief, who only steals and destroys (John 10:10). Instead, God wants to have abundantly and radically alive, pressing into the pain and the joy, fully present in the life that He gives.

31 Comments

85,162

WMT commented…

Great job! I agree with Chris and his statement about balance. ANYTHING that comes before God needs to be examined. We cannot fool ourselves on how crafty the enemy can be. There is nothing in this world that cannot become a stumbling block if let it.

85,162

guest commented…

Thank you for the article, Bonnie. The article, and title for that matter, resonate deeply with me. I've struggled with allowing little things to deaden my spirit in terms of my relationships with God and people. Sleep, in particular, has always been a major issue for me. So in spite of any commenters who don't understand your title or the sleep issue or any other part of the article, please know that I'm grateful that you shared it.

85,162

Anonymous commented…

I've heard these arguments in varying degrees before, be it TV, internet, food, alcohol...you name it, and some group of Christians thinks it's deadly, or sinful, or a distraction from God. Many will speak of balance or priority while others will find the devils in the details. To me, it appears that fear always puts fuel on the cultural fire. Sure, there are devils everywhere (if you want to look for them), but as believers don't we profess that "all things work together for those who love God..." So perhaps we should not question the things that might get in the way of God, and instead let love be our goal: that God's love would so captivate us, saturate us, enrapture us that our vision becomes one full of Christ and everything else, is just everything else. If we continue to worry about getting rid of sin or making ourselves more holy, we deny ourselves the gift of Christ that says that we are already perfect and holy. Rest in the bliss of Christ's finished work and live unto love (which casts out fear), not unto duty (which welcomes in fear).

Stephanie Kelly

2

Stephanie Kelly commented…

This is an excellently worded article. I think that especially as a college student we, Americans, need to be reminded of these. Although the title is a bit misleading, it is perhaps intentional to get attention, and it got mine and reminded me that I need to pay attention to how God is satisfying my needs and not become greedy with our desires.

85,162

Shagginj commented…

this is why i call pinterest craft porn....

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