BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day

© John Denney 16 February 2005


There was this Greek monk called Evagrius, who, around 1625 years ago drew up a list of eight wicked human passions that drew people away from God’s law.  They were: Anger, Avarice, Gluttony, Lust, Pride, Sadness, Sloth and Vainglory.  I had to look “vainglory” up.  It’s mixture of vanity and boasting.


A couple of hundred years later, Pope Gregory the Great looked at the list and made a few team changes.  Out went Sadness and Vainglory; and in came Envy on a free transfer from the 10 commandments.  So the line-up that we know as the seven deadly sins became, in ascending order of seriousness, Gluttony, Lust, Avarice, Sloth, Anger, Envy and Pride.


But now, after 1400 years, an opinion poll has found that modern man doesn’t quite see things the same way.  There’s a new, rebranded list of sins, along the lines of the old list.  So here they are, sin-pickers: At 7, Adultery; at 6, Bigotry; at 5, Dishonesty; at 4, Hypocrisy; at 3, Greed and at 2, Selfishness.  But at number one is a new entry to the charts: the sin of Cruelty.


It’s not a bad catalogue of weaknesses, I suppose, but it is more faint-hearted than the old list, since it’s more about actions than attitudes.  And the new list doesn’t say much about right and wrong.  There’s a story about a Sunday School teacher who was trying to explain the difference between right and wrong to her class.  “If I rummaged through the pockets of a jacket a man left on a chair, and took all the money from his wallet, what would I be?”  Up piped a six year old: “You’d be his wife!”


Be that as it may, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between right and wrong.  Very often things aren’t black or white, but a shade of grey somewhere in between.  But Jesus gave us a simple, rule-of-thumb  guide: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.  Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get.[1]


So the question for today is: what do you want someone to do for you today – and who can you do it for?  Oh, and steer clear of vainglory as well, eh?


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[1] Matthew 7:12 (MSG)