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Why the Seven Deadly Sins are Deadly: Greed & Envy

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker
2/25/2012 (5 years ago)
Catholic Online (

Holding hands with greed is her ugly sister Envy.

In our modern world it seems downright medieval to talk about the seven deadly sins. It doesn't matter if something comes from the middle ages or the prehistoric age. If it's true its true in every age, and the seven deadly sins are a pretty good summary of what's wrong with the world because they're a good summary of what's wrong with me and you. For Lent this column will zip through the seven deadly sins and see how they're killing our culture.


P>GREENVILLE, SC (Catholic Online) - In our modern world it seems downright medieval to talk about the seven deadly sins. It doesn't matter if something comes from the middle ages or the prehistoric age. If it's true its true in every age, and the seven deadly sins are a pretty good summary of what's wrong with the world because they're a good summary of what's wrong with me and you. For Lent this column will zip through the seven deadly sins and see how they're killing our culture.

In the middle of the worst financial crisis in a century, people are pointing the finger of blame. It's the bankers' fault. It's the government's fault. It's the  insurance companies, the building industry, the mortgage industry, the European Community, the Americans, the British, the Chinese, the Russians.

Why are we in such a financial mess? Because people were greedy. All of us were greedy and the bonus grabbing, money grubbing men in suits are only symbols of the envy and greed that has driven our whole society.

Why were people who were earning hundreds of thousands of pounds grabbing bonuses of several million? Because they, along with most people in our secular society, were simply worshipping the fat little god called Mammon, and the liturgy they follow is the motto of the Wall Street film character Gordon Gecko who said, "Greed is good."

Greed is not good. Greed is bad, and it is not only bad, it's deadly. It's deadly because it kills. It kills charity. How can you be generous towards others if all you do is seek more and more and more money for yourself?

How can you be concerned for the welfare of others if all you live for is the bottom line, undercutting the competition, using people as pawns and grabbing all the loot you can as fast as you can? When a whole society gives in to greed the whole society becomes a violent jungle where only the strong survive.

Holding hands with greed is her ugly sister Envy. Envy is not deadly with the violent rapacity of greed, but with a kind of slow poison that contaminates the soul. When we envy other people it eats away at us. We become discontented and angry, and that inner burning soon turns towards getting what we want at whatever cost. Envy is a deadly sin because it kills gratitude. It kills contentment. It kills happiness, and eventually, like greed, it kills the gift of charity in the soul.

G.K.Chesterton once said, 'Every argument is a theological argument.' He's right. Beneath every human crisis there is a moral crisis and beneath the moral crisis is a crisis of belief. People are greedy because they're not godly. When a society forgets God almighty they start to worship the Almighty dollar (or Euro or Pound) It's logical: if you don't believe in God and heaven and hell, then why bother with morality?

If you believe this material world is the only world you're ever going to live in, then why not get as much of this world's  riches as possible? If you're going to die in a few short years and you believe that's then end, then it makes sense to grab as much as you fan as quickly as you can. Atheism makes people behave like greedy children in a candy shop--grabbing as much candy as possible and shoving it in their mouths until they're sick.

The financial wizards may come up with a package to bail out our economy, but no matter what they do it will be a band aid on cancer. The real problems in our society are much more profound and will take far longer to cure, and the therapy will be just as painful as the problem.

The therapy, of course, is repentance, renunciation and conversion of life. It is a therapy that is impossible to implement from the top down. It can only be accomplished one soul at a time, and the only soul I can put through that therapy is my own.


Fr Dwight Longenecker is parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He is a prolific author, blogger and sought after speaker. Visit his website and blog at


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