Tag Archives: Aquinas

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Sloth: A Slow Suicide

‘Sloth is a kind of oppressive sorrow that so depresses a man that he wants to do nothing.’ Aquinas

Not long ago I faced a series of events that tempted me to despair. I neither tend to hopelessness nor the depression it engenders. I discovered both in that hard season. What scared me was my temptation to not fight the low dark ceiling that had settled on my life. No hope, no aspiration, no action. I fantasized about throwing in the towel and doing nothing. Sloth wanted my soul.

Disappointments of a certain magnitude and frequency that converge to become despair: that is the breeding ground of sloth. And sloth seduces us into that mire and consoles us: ‘Rest here, here in the darkness. See? God does not act on your behalf. Stop fighting; give yourself up to the dark current of sorrow.’ Paul refers to sloth when he describes the ‘worldly sorrow that brings forth death,’ in contrast to the godly sorrow that inspires turning to Hope Himself. (2Cor. 7:10)

According to Joseph Pieper, sloth is the most serious sin of all because it refuses God. Sloth seduces us to unbelief. No God, no hope–death. We may be unaware of sloth’s slow stranglehold because of counterfeit emotions. Such feelings mask as legitimate: ‘I am grieving, I am being real, I am finally authentic.’ But real grief draws us unto Jesus, as does realistic assessment of our desperate state. Sloth raises itself above God; it urges us to put down the cross and blanket ourselves in a godless, self-piteous resignation.

Sloth has immediate rewards. If there is not hope, then why try? And why worry about God? If He either does not exist or does not care about me enough to act, then why not eat, drink, and drug your blues away? Throw off the moral yoke and throw in a little fornication too…

I have witnessed a disturbing kind of sloth fueling the ‘gay Christian’ movement. Here a group of people who claim Christ as their Source forsake Him as the Redeemer of their sexuality on the grounds that ‘gay’ roots run deeper than the River of Life. Then the faulty conclusion: ‘He must have made me that way…’ Insisting on realism, the ‘gay Christian’ settles for less, a dreadful fatalism bordered by the low ceiling of the ‘gay self.’

The return? No need to aspire to fruitfulness, to the fullness of what Jesus intends for our sexual selves. It is hard work to become who we are: to shake off years of fear and hurt and rebellion and begin to emerge into the persons of God’s design. Sloth gives us an out: be something other than who God says you are.

Joseph Pieper says it best: ‘One who is trapped in sloth has neither the courage nor the will to be as great as he really is. He would prefer to be less great to avoid the obligation of greatness.’ Truly this is the season to rouse ourselves, to shake off all vestiges of despair and to shake each other up a bit. We need to incite one another to chastity and fruitfulness and to refuse slothful ‘outs.’

‘Let us not forsake gathering, as many are in the habit of doing, but let us provoke one another to love and good deeds, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ (Heb. 10: 24, 25)

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Envy: A Villainous Void

‘Envy is a special sort of sorrow over another’s goods.’ Aquinas

Envy is a quiet killer. Less obvious than the other seven, it lurks in insecure hearts and tempts us to abdicate what we have for another’s inheritance. Envy tempts us by skewing our vision. Through green eyes we perceive certain persons as having everything and we, not much at all. Another’s good makes us feel bad, over and over again.

Envy results from a soul that allows itself to be diminished. Undoubtedly, early influences of neglect and abuse may contribute to that diminishment. But for envy to take root, the soul must agree that (s)he is entitled to more. Another’s life becomes the life we were supposed to have. Rather than admire that life and seek to emulate it in some way, the envious soul allows itself to be diminished by it. Longing for another’s good reduces our own, and may well inspire embittered emotions toward the self and the object of one’s envy.

So envy revs up our sense of entitlement only to diminish us. The emotional fall-out is wicked. Envy wreaks havoc in churches, on the job, in families, and friendships. The entitled allow themselves to be diminished over and over, which makes them sick and causes them to infect others. James says it best: ‘Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.’ (James 3: 16)

Envy emerged out of my sexual disintegration. Awkward and insecure like most teenagers, I not only admired sexy men and women but lusted after them. I wanted their power and pleasure and did not want to do the hard work of becoming a good gift for a real person. So porn and fornication became the vehicle for my entitlement and also the source of my diminishment. I could never measure up and could never get enough. I played by envy’s standards and lost every time.

We overcome envy by getting off the rat’s wheel of skewed human perception and comparison. We can choose; we can begin the process of accepting ourselves in light of our Creator and Redeemer. We make a serious commitment to who God is and who we are in light of Him. That means embracing our inheritance and allowing others to have theirs. It means repenting of our folly in allowing others’ perceived good to diminish us. We bring that offering of sin to God and ask God to take it until we bear it no more.

Gratitude to God for what we have and what He has entrusted to others is key. Just as forgiving others keeps bitterness from re-infecting the wound, so gratitude keeps envy at bay. Thank God daily for who He has made you to be and the good He has given you. Thank Him also for the specific good He has entrusted to persons who are the objects of your envy. Gratitude is your best weapon in the fight against envy.

Is God enough for You? Has He not always been good to you? Live gratefully before God and keep the ‘green-eyed monster’ underfoot.

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