This is the third of a multi-part series on the Seven Deadly Sins written by Father Robert Wills, Canon Theologian of the Mid-South Diocese, ICCEC. A new part will be posted on a regular basis. As a note, Canon Wills notes these are the Seven Deadly Sins recognized by a group of monks in the 5th Century.
3. Avarice—The Desire for Material Things Above Everything Else
Avarice is rooted in the material level of human life. It is the natural human relation to the material world gone wrong. It is the splitting of our creativity and relation to material creation from God, the Creator.
There are seven other sins that result from avarice.
1. Avarice produces covetousness– the inordinate desire to possess what belongs to another, usually tangible things.
2. When we put material things or objects in place of God, this leads to idolatry, which is a result of avarice.
3. Avarice also involves the withholding of our tithes, offerings, and alms from God and from God’s people.
4. Lying to God by lying to God’s leaders for personal gain.
5. Avarice causes us to place material prosperity above all else, making us lovers of money, rather than lovers of God.
6. Avarice can lead to selfishness and self will, that cause us to put our wants and desires before God’s will.
7. Avarice leads us to seek comfort and pleasure in drugs or alcohol.
In the Tenth Commandment covetousness means an ungoverned and selfish desire that threatens the basic rights of others. Coveting was sinful because it focused greedily on the property of a neighbor that was his share in the land God had promised His people. After Israel’s defeat at Ai, Achan confessed that his selfish desire for treasure was so great that he disobeyed God’s specific commandment to destroy the enemy’s goods.
We know that God often allows the wealth or possessions of the wicked to become the possessions of God’s people.
Prov 13:22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.
But in certain cases God commanded the possessions of the enemy to be destroyed because they had been used in idolatry. A man named Achan disobeyed God in this.
Josh 7:20 And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I have done:
Josh 7:21 “When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”
Josh 7:22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver under it.
Josh 7:23 And they took them from the midst of the tent, brought them to Joshua and to all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.
Josh 7:24 Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor.
Josh 7:25 And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.
Achan was guilty of wanting to possess things for their own sake, without being grateful to God. Jesus addressed this attitude in Luke 12.
Luke 12:15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Luke 12:16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.
Luke 12:17 “And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’
Luke 12:18 “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.
Luke 12:19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘
Luke 12:20 “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
Luke 12:21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12:22 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.
Luke 12:23 “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.
Luke 12:24 “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?
Luke 12:25 “And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
Luke 12:26 “If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?
Luke 12:27 “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Luke 12:28 “If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?
Luke 12:29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.
Luke 12:30 “For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.
Luke 12:31 “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
Luke 12:32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
St. Paul classifies covetousness with idolatry—the second sin cause by avarice.
Eph 5:5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Biblical writers often denounced idolatry. None is more graphic and devastating than that in Isaiah 44:9-20. The idol is made by a workman but is powerless to sustain the workman to complete his task. Further, the idol begins as a leftover piece of a tree from which a person makes a god. He then worships no more than a block of wood.
Many scholars believe that the threat of idolatry was much less in the Jewish community after the Babylonian Exile and that it continued to be diminished though still present throughout New Testament times. The most noted problem in the New Testament concerns the propriety of eating meat, which has previously been offered to an idol (1 Cor. 8-10). Paul seemingly broadened the scope of idolatry for Christianity when he identified covetousness with idolatry. (Col. 3:5).
Col 3:5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Col 3:6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,
Col 3:7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
Of all of the Biblical writers, Isaiah makes one of the most poignant arguments against idolatry.
Isa 44:9 Those who make an image, all of them are useless, And their precious things shall not profit; They are their own witnesses; They neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed.
Isa 44:10 Who would form a god or mold an image That profits him nothing?
Isa 44:11 Surely all his companions would be ashamed; And the workmen, they are mere men. Let them all be gathered together, Let them stand up; Yet they shall fear, They shall be ashamed together.
Isa 44:14 He cuts down cedars for himself, And takes the cypress and the oak; He secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it.
Isa 44:15 Then it shall be for a man to burn, For he will take some of it and warm himself; Yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; Indeed he makes a god and worships it; He makes it a carved image, and falls down to it.
Isa 44:16 He burns half of it in the fire; With this half he eats meat; He roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire.”
Isa 44:17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, His carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, Prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
Isa 44:18 They do not know nor understand; For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, And their hearts, so that they cannot understand.
Isa 44:19 And no one considers in his heart, Nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire, Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”
Isa 44:20 He feeds on ashes; A deceived heart has turned him aside; And he cannot deliver his soul, Nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
Isa 44:21 “Remember these, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me!
Isa 44:22 I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
withholding tithes, offerings, and alms
Mal 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
Mal 3:9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.
Mal 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
Mal 3:11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the LORD of hosts;
Mal 3:12 “And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the LORD of hosts.
Lying to God’s Leaders
They saw none of it as their own. All of it came from the loving heart of God. That is why the sin of selfishness of Ananias and Sapphira was so serious (Acts 5).
Acts 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.
Acts 5:2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?
Acts 5:4 “While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Acts 5:5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.
Acts 5:6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
Acts 5:7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
Acts 5:8 And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.”
Acts 5:9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”
Acts 5:10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.
We are reminded of the authority that Christ gives to his royal priesthood.
John 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
John 20:22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Lovers of Money
People fail to pay tithes and offerings, and lie to God’s leaders because they are lovers of money, rather than truly lovers of God.
Luke 16:14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.
2 Tim 3:2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
2 Tim 3:3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
2 Tim 3:4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
2 Tim 3:5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” He meant that no one can be a slave of God and worldly wealth at the same time. The undivided concentration of mind to money-getting is incompatible with wholehearted devotion to God and to His service (Col. 3:5). In the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 15:1-13), Jesus commended the steward’s foresight, not his method. His object was to point out how one may best use wealth, tainted or otherwise, with a view to the future. Look at what Jesus said about being lovers of money (mammon), as recorded in Luke 16.
Luke 16:9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.
Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
Luke 16:11 “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
Luke 16:12 “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?
Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
To be self willed is to do something arbitrarily without divine permission; to act on one’s own decision rather than considering the needs of others and the purpose of God. Jacob rebuked Simeon and Levi for wanton, undisciplined actions (Gen. 49:6). Whenever people act through self will, instead of seeking God’s will, they create problems in their lives. Often self willed people become stubborn or arrogant and often alcoholics. For this reason, Titus 1:7 teaches that a bishop cannot be self-willed, stubborn or arrogant.
Titus 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money.
Peter defines self willed people as presumptuous, self-willed, and speaking evil of dignitaries. Our love of money often makes us speak evil of those who have or control money, because we covet what they have, wishing we were like them.
2 Pet 2:9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
2 Pet 2:10 and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,
Turning to Drugs or Alcohol
People filled with avarice often turn to material things such as drugs or alcohol for solace because they are unhappy with their lives, wishing for wealth or power that they do not have. Instead of turning to God with their problems, they drown them in alcohol or in drug induced stupor. But God can help and deliver such people, if they repent and turn to Him.
Psa 107:27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, And are at their wits’ end.
Psa 107:28 Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses.
Prov 23:20 Do not mix with winebibbers, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
Prov 23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.
Jesus warned that the cares of life may lead to anxiety and drunkenness (Luke 21:34). Paul repeatedly warned against the dangers of drunkenness (Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:11; Gal. 5:21; 1 Thess. 5:7). Timothy 3:3 and Titus 1:7 warn church leaders they must not be drunkards. Drunkenness is a pagan custom, not a Christian one (1 Pet. 4:3).
Luke 21:34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.
Luke 21:35 “For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
Luke 21:36 “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
1 Pet 4:3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles; when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.
Rom 13:13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
Rom 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
1 Th 5:6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.
1 Th 5:7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.
1 Th 5:8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
God’s answer to Avarice
The apostle Paul preached and taught a single-minded commitment to Christ. He reminded the Philippians that the source of thanksgiving was not in things but in our relationship to God in Christ (Phil. 3:13-14).
Phil 3:13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
Phil 3:14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.