Deadly Sins of Ingratitude: Greed, Gluttony, and Lust
May 15, 2018 · Christopher Hunt
You’ve probably heard of the Seven Deadly Sins: pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. Most theologians consider pride to be the original and gravest of the deadly sins—a sort of precursor to the other six. However, St. Ignatius thought otherwise. In a letter he wrote in 1542, Ignatius identifies ingratitude as "the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins." And while thanklessness may be the foundation of all the deadly sins, it seems especially connected to three: greed, gluttony, and lust. These ruinous attitudes are the antithesis of thanksgiving and stifle the working of the Holy Spirit and lead to great destruction.
When enjoyed within God’s loving boundaries, wealth, possessions, food, and sex are all good things. However, greed, gluttony, and lust make idols of these things and say to God, “What you have provided is not enough, is not good enough, or is not what I want.” Invariably, as we seek to fulfil our demands for more, better, or different, we get less of the good things we need and more of the excess than we can handle. What should bless, benefit, and delight instead curses, costs, and dissatisfies.
Our greed says to God, “You do not provide enough. I want more. I deserve more.” Throughout the scriptures, God faithfully provides for the needs of his people. It pleased God, for example, to give great wealth to Job and to Abraham. To others, like Elijah in his cave, it served God to provide just what was needed in the moment (1 Kings 19:6-8). In these situations, the recipients trusted God. Jesus promised that God would provide for our material needs just as he does throughout his creation (Matthew 6:28-34). Still, we worry, and we fear for our security. We take things into our own hands. Herein lies the conundrum of greed: we cannot thank God for his provision if we do not trust God. With intense selfishness and pride, we deny our dependence on God and demand more money and more possessions as assurances to our material security. Eventually, we end up serving the things God meant to serve us, our money and possessions. As Jesus said, we cannot serve both God and money: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).
Greed certainly undergirds the sin of gluttony. Usually referring to a habitual excess of eating and drinking, gluttony can also be over-self-indulgence in other areas. Ingratitude is both the seed and fruit of gluttony. More than simply having “eyes bigger than your stomach” at a holiday dinner table, gluttony demands more than is needed; it cannot be satisfied with merely enough. Food is good. The culinary arts are valuable. God gives us food and drink for both nourishment and delight. The problem comes when we begin to worship the gift rather than the giver. In western culture, gluttony goes beyond the mere desire for more amidst plenty; it deprecates what God provides. Some zealots—almost as if they are preaching a gospel—practically label whole food groups as poison (meat, wheat, dairy, fish, etc.). Others reject foods based on packaging or presentation. These attitudes are only possible in societies accustomed to having more than enough. They are born out of thanklessness to him who gives every good gift.
Sexual intimacy is one of those good gifts. Created as sexual beings, most humans from their early teens into late adulthood yearn for the physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy of sexual relationship. God blesses the full expression of this desire inside the boundaries of marriage, where his gift of sex is safe and satisfying. In Solomon’s Song of Songs, God blesses the steamy desire shared by the Lover and the Beloved. Their expression is often quite explicit, but given in the context of the whole person (Song of Songs 7:1-9). Lust, on the other hand, willfully misplaces, misuses, and fixates sexual interest on someone or something that God has forbidden to be the object of one's desire (Exodus 20:14, Leviticus 18, Matthew 5:28). Lust says no thanks to God’s gift, “This is all about me; I want something different and more of it.” Lust objectifies the other and disregards their needs. It demands, won’t be satisfied, and is inherently unsafe. So much in our culture panders to lust.
Thanksgiving combats the sins of ingratitude. Take greed as an example. In the western world, God blesses many with plenty. When we receive this plenty with thankfulness, God frees us to be more generous, to give away from what we have been given. Like the Psalmist, we acknowledge our total dependence on God, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing” (Psalm 16:2). When faced with gluttony, what if instead we receive God’s gifts with thanksgiving? We would not need to apologize for abundance, but we could enjoy good food and generously share from our provisions with others. Finally, what if we received God’s gift of sex and sexuality with thanksgiving? How much more might our joy be? There’s one way to find out.
God is the provider for all our needs: he gives us shelter, tools, and recreation with money and possessions, he satisfies our hunger with food, and he fulfills our needs for intimacy. Received with thanks, food, gold, and sex do good in our lives. But greed, gluttony, and lust reject God’s provision and demand more and different. Acting out in these sins of ingratitude we take provision into our own hands and find it insufficient and unfulfilling. And behind us we leave great swathes of destruction and pain. Instead, as the Apostle Paul wrote, let us do “all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17) and invite the Holy Spirit to bear his fruit in our lives.
Want to learn more about the Seven Deadly Sins? Check out Groundwork's outstanding series, "7 Deadly Sins."