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Religious Essays

Seven Virtues and Vices link to here link to tables of contents

It should be easy to determine if someone is participating in heaven. As Paul writes in First Corinthians 4:20, "The Kingdom of God is not a matter of words but of power."

Clear examples that should be visible are listed in a list of virtues that we cannot develop by ourselves. Galatians 5:22 reads, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…" With willpower we can act more loving, joyful, patient, etc. But only with God's help can we truly grow in these virtues. Therefore people truly participating in heaven should be distinct because of their internally increase in these virtues.

This difference is even easier to see because the seven "fruits of the Spirit" contrast with Gregory's "seven deadly sins" when each of these is examined as an attitude.

I first became interested in praying about some personal application for the seven deadly sins after reading this essay about how each is featured in a different novel in The Chronicles of Narnia.

Galatians 5:23 completes the list of "fruits" by adding gentleness and self-control. Although those are admirable virtues they do not match with the seven deadly sins, so this essay ignores them.

Love versus Entitlement link to here link to tables of contents

Do we demand our "fair share" of praise, recognition, and reward, or do we give without expectations?

The Latin word avarita has become avarice (greed), but the original meaning of the word is slightly different. More than desiring wealth or power, avarita can also apply to desiring anything that we believe is justly ours. The nearest English word is "entitlement". Entitlement is a very opposite attitude agape (self-sacrificing love), the Greek word used here that underlies Yeshua's frequent commands to always act justly while never demanding justice from others. More than selflessness, agape is about focusing on others so much that it is easy to ignore our own desires.

The "old self", sustained by self-interest, believes it is harmed when denied what it is entitled to. The "new self” cannot be threatened (Romans 8:38-39), feels no entitlement, and can afford to giving unceasingly without expectations.

Joy versus Gluttony link to here link to tables of contents

Have we felt the true, joyful connection with God that makes physical pleasures seem insignificant?

Those who have felt divine joy realize mere pleasures are comparatively unimportant. Scripture encourages us to enjoy appropriate physical pleasures, but we must have care. Even innocent pleasures can tempt us with entitlement, urging us to switch from thinking “this is nice” to “things should always be this nice”. Also, our proper focus on God is more often threatened by the desire for physical pleasure than by physical pleasures themselves.

The "old self" feels pleasure when its needs (or sinful distortions of its needs) are satisfied. The "new self" has only one need: connection with God, which is felt not as pleasure but as divine joy.

Peace versus Luxury link to here link to tables of contents

Do we seek and feel security in our intimate relationship with God, or in physical possessions?

The Latin word luxuria is true to the original meaning of the word lust: luxuria is the secure sense that our body's needs and pleasures will be satisfied. Luxury has drawbacks. It brings worries of planning and safeguarding. Spiritually, it prohibits us from fully yielding our lives to God. When we decide to strive for a certain good thing it often prevents us from welcoming a different good thing God wants us to have instead, and can even prevent us from enjoying the second good thing if we do get it.

The "old self" feels secure only when confident that its needs and pleasures will be met. The "new self" realizes that its life is eternal, cannot be threatened, and has no needs.

Patience versus Impatience link to here link to tables of contents

Do we react to the problems of others, or do we respond to a person who is beset by problems?

The Latin word ira implies being irate is the root of the issue modern language calls anger. God can feel righteous anger, but never gets irate. Think how often Yeshua recognized people's emotional baggage and, without condescending, said just enough to allow them to help themselves. Similarly, if someone acts out it moves us into an impatient and irate mood to think, "Oh, bother, there he goes again!". Instead of condemning we should respond to others' problems or weakness by interceding (helping by deed and prayer), and move into a patient and merciful mood by thinking, "Poor him, he has such suffering and distress!"

The “old self” perceives people's bad behavior as making problems and gets impatient. The “new self” understands that background problems motivate people's bad behavior and feels patience and pity.

Kindness versus Envy link to here link to tables of contents

Do we resent the good others receive (or even only might receive) or do we share their happiness for receiving something?

The phrase "a kind heart" helps us realize that true kindness shares the happiness of the person who receives. Giving something unwillingly is only a phony imitation of true kindness.

The "old self" is sustained by self-interest, and is always jealous when we see others receive what would also meet our needs. The "new self" is eternal and knows it, and thus is not threatened by lack.

Goodness versus Competition link to here link to tables of contents

Do we define ourselves by how we compare with the things and people around us, or by how we channel God's goodness?

The Latin word superbia implies the competitive root of the issue modern language calls pride. It is easy to define ourselves by comparing ourselves to the things and people around us. Do we have enough of certain things our culture and subcultures respect? Do we consider if we are as wealthy, beautiful, tall, educated, happy, or proper as certain people?

The "old self" believes that success is having enough when we compare ourselves to others. The "new self" never makes such comparisons. It instead values the effectiveness of receiving so much of God's goodness that it overflows to the people around us.

Faithfulness versus Sloth link to here link to tables of contents

Do we remain faithful to what God has called us to do despite moods, circumstances, and spiritual opposition?

Literally, "faithfulness" means "being full of faith". Sometimes faith takes effort.

C.S. Lewis writes eloquently in Mere Christianity about how faith takes effort when our moods battle our reason. It is also true that faith can take effort because spiritual truths are attacked in a way nonspiritual truths are not. (The day after I have a conversation with a friend I will not doubt that the conversation happened, or that the friend is real. But many people, the day after an indisputable conversation with God, find themselves doubting the reality of the conversation and a God that would speak with them in that way.) Finally, faith sometimes takes effort merely because acting out the faith is more difficult than ignoring it. Sloth is similarly varied. It is slothful to follow our moods instead of living by what our reason knows is true. It is slothful to accept how spiritual truths are attacked in unreasonable ways. It is slothful to take lightly what our reason knows about who God is and what God desires of us.

The "old self" lacks fortitude. The "new self" stays full of faith despite moods, attacks, and difficulties.