Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him. (Mark 1:12-13)
As God’s first act with his son, after his baptism, drives him into the wilderness. As preparation for the work God has for his son, Jesus is put through temptation.
When the Lord is about to do a new thing in our lives, He drives us into the wilderness. It is in the wilderness of our lives that we face our greatest temptations. The wilderness is a place of hunger, deprivation, thirst, and finally, temptation. One must be so careful in the wilds, because it is there that God and Satan meet us.
Since early Christian times, the Church has found that human tendencies to sin can be categorized through, what theologians have referred to as the “seven deadly sins.” Whether or not these were the particular temptations of Christ in the wilderness, we can be assured that in our own wilderness experiences, the enemy will most often tempt us with one or more of these sins.
According to Catholic and Protestant moral thought, the seven deadly sins are not discrete from other sins, but are instead the origin (“capital” comes from the Latin caput, head) of the others. According to Catholic doctrine, vices can be either venial or mortal, depending on the situation, but “are called ‘capital’ because they engender other sins, other vices.”
The Seven Deadly Sins
First, Lust, or lechery (carnal “luxuria“) is an intense desire. The sin of lust most often involves the intense desire of money, food, fame, power or sex.
In Dante’s Purgatorio, the penitent walks within flames to purge himself of lustful thoughts and feelings. In Dante’s Inferno, unforgiven souls of the sin of lust are blown about in restless hurricane-like winds symbolic of their own lack of self-control to their lustful passions in earthly life.
From the internet to our TV set, we all know that hurricane inferno within us called lust. Living in a culture of lust, one must constantly be aware of the battle for the hurricane of our heart.
Secondly, gluttony (Latin, gula) is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste. In Christianity, it is considered a sin if the excessive desire for food causes it to be withheld from the needy.
Gluttony with food is the most obvious use of the word but it’s meaning is much broader. Gluttony is most apt defined as selfishness. Essentially, gluttony is placing one’s desires above the well-being or interests of others.
Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess. In our excessively materialistic culture of the west, we are driven in the mad pursuit of more things. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Greed is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.”
In Dante’s Purgatory, the penitents were bound and laid face down on the ground for having concentrated too much on earthly thoughts. Greed is the over emphasis of our hearts upon the earthly to the detriment and love for the eternal.
The fourth is Sloth (Latin, Socordia) which can entail different vices. While sloth is sometimes defined as physical laziness, spiritual laziness is emphasized. Failing to develop spiritually is key to becoming guilty of sloth. In the Christian faith, sloth rejects grace and God.
In my life especially, sloth can be defined as knowing the right thing to do and not doing it. It is a spiritual laziness, a spiritual dryness that creates a spirit of stupor over my heart.
Sloth would be the sin of my life that can’t get up early in the morning to pray and seek God. Sloth is that part of my life that fails to spend time with my wife and kids because I would rather watch the ballgame on TV.
Fifthly, Wrath (Latin, ira), also known as “rage“, may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath, in its purest form, presents itself with self-destructiveness, violence, and hate that may provoke feuds between people.
In a most grievous situation at my previous church, Mountain Springs Church, there have been many hurtful things said against me. I have also said things I shouldn’t have said. I have tried, to the extent that it has been allowed, in most cases to work toward reconciliation. There is now a mediator from Peacemakers Ministries that I have selected, meeting with the Board of Directors, in order to begin a process of true biblical reconciliation.
Wrath can be very closely associated with vengeance. Dante described vengeance as “love of justice perverted to revenge and spite. It is an anger misdirected and misused.
Sixthly, Envy (Latin, invidia) is characterized by an insatiable desire of discontent. Envy is similar to jealousy in that they both feel discontent towards someone’s traits, status, abilities, or rewards. The difference is the envious also passionately desire to covet what someone else has.
Again, Dante described envy as a “desire to deprive other men of theirs.” To take away what someone else has that you don’t have. Envy will kill one’s heart. I have seen over the years, many a man eaten up with envy to the point of cancer and sicknesses. Aquinas described envy as “sorrow for another’s good”.
Seventh, and last, pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris (Greek), is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others. It is identified as believing that one is essentially better than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and excessive admiration of the personal self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God).
I’m a recovering pride-aholic, and it is the great temptation for all of us. If we are not careful, and I do mean very careful, pride can steal of us of joy as we look down in a condescending manner upon those whom we want to love and care for.
Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted. All of us will go into the wilderness of our lives to be tempted. Let me encourage to embrace the temptations and then place them under the blood and cross of Christ.
We are not to be ignorant of the schemes of the devil. These seven deadly sins, if understood and embraced as the deeper tactics of the enemy, can be turned on their head through a strategy of self-examination. May I encourage you to take these temptations to Christ and surrender yourself and your heart to Christ in prayer, repentance, and forgiveness.
On the Road,