Skip to comments.The Meanest of the Seven Deadly Sins?
Posted on 11/16/2011 5:48:46 AM PST by InvisibleChurch
An old Russian joke tells about a poor peasant whose better-off neighbor has just gotten a cow. In his anguish, the peasant cries out to God for relief from his distress. When God replies and asks him what he wants him to do, the peasant replies, "Kill the cow."
The joke illustrates an important point about human nature: The line between clamoring for justice and envy can be very thin.
The subject came to mind when I read a recent column by Ross Douthat in the New York Times about the issue of income inequality and the redistribution of wealth. Douthat noted that taxing Peter more will not solve Paul's problems. The most likely outcome of "soaking-the-rich," he wrote, would be to "buy a little more time for our failing public institutions," like public schools. A "public sector that has consistently done less with more" would simply have more to do less with. Listen to that. He's right.
Despite this, many people insist on soaking the well-off because, like the Russian peasant, what they want is to see their better-off neighbors knocked down a peg. That's how envy works.
Thomas Aquinas defined envy as "sorrow for another's good." It is the opposite of pity. And it is one of the defining sins of our times.
One of the most consistent findings of behavioral economics is that we gauge our own economic well-being by comparing ourselves with our neighbors. Studies have found that, given a choice between making 25 percent more than their neighbors or making 25 percent less, people will choose the former even when the latter amount is more money.
Not only is envy irrational, it's socially and personally corrosive. In his wonderful book, The Seven Deadly Sins, the late Henry Fairlie called envy the "nastiest, the most grim, the meanest" of the seven deadly sins. Sneering, sly, vicious. According to Fairlie, "the face of envy is never lovely. It is never even faintly pleasant."
It could hardly be otherwise. Loving your neighbor, or even working alongside him, is next to impossible when you regard his gains as a personal loss.
The most obvious scriptural injunction against envy is the Tenth Commandment. But Jesus also spoke on the subject. The parable of the laborers in the vineyard ends with a confrontation between the owner and those whom he hired first. After reminding them that he paid them what he had promised them, the owner adds, "Are you envious because I am generous?"
This is translated from the Greek, which refers to the "evil eye," the curse used by the envious to inflict harm on the fortunate.
Ultimately, the kind of envy on display and all the talk today about income redistribution will do nothing to help those in need or create a more just society, it just creates a bigger government. You can't promote a virtue like justice by encouraging people to indulge in a vice such as envy. Think of the Russian peasants: During the Russian Revolution many of them expressed their envy by looting the better-off. This didn't help: After the Revolution, many of them wound up worse off than they were before.
OK, our system is need of reform. And I intend to discuss Christian responses to our problems in future broadcasts, which I hope you will tune into.
But for now, let's be clear: Leave the cow alone.
I must needs consult the appropriate Russian joke authorities!
I had no idea the joke predates the commies. IF true, then it just goes to show once again that the Russkies were ALWAYS like this.
Great Post I could not agree more, it is kind of enlightening for the times we live in now.
Thanks for posting. Terrific column.
Outstanding reflection and completely applicable to the envy and yes, selfishness, of the OWS zombies. Chuck Colson is right on.
"One of the most important but little known concepts in psychoanalysis is that of envy. It is a term of art, not to be confused with the dictionary definition. ....
"If we could somehow eliminate envy from the human genome, there would be almost no reason for the left to exist. They would instantly lose that which animates them, for example, envy masquerading as justice or economic theory. ....
"In order to be happy, we must all keep our envy in check, because envy is the opposite of gratitude. Envy does not appreciate what one has, only what one doesnt have. And our capacity to imagine what we do not have--and that someone else is enjoying it--is literally infinite, as is envy. ...
"Envy ..is a key that unlocks many mysteries, particularly in politics. So strong and pervasive is envy, that you cannot have a political system that doesn't accommodate or find some way to manage envy.
"You might say that one party will generally represent the envied, the other the envious.
"Guess which ones.
"More generally, the international left does not attack the United States because they hate us. Rather, they hate the United States because they envy us. Precisely because they cannot tolerate our unparalleled goodness and success, they attack it and turn America into a uniquely bad, greedy and envious object. It is pure projection. In engaging in this projection of their own greed and envy, they damage what is good and conflate good and evil, but at least it helps to temporarily diminish the pain of their own envy. They do the same thing with Israel. .... when it comes to the projection of envy and greed, "the one who smelt it, dealt it." ...."
Well I am trying to fight envy here. Recognizing the problem and turning from them are two different things. IC forgive my foray into that vice and recognize it is all in fun.
of course it’s all in fun . there’s nothing to forgive, friend
AND the political party that "represents" them.
[Like Obama after him] "...Carter famously blamed the nation's ills on our own selfishness, on a moral problem afflicting Americans, lecturing us that we would just have to get used to the idea of a permanently lowered standard of living in the future (a classic case of Carter projecting his own envy and greed into Americans...). Carter is still venerated in liberal circles today, to such an extent that at their 2004 convention he was given an honored seat next to Michael Moore. ..."
Why is this not in the Religion forum where people can post how appalled they are that Colson would claim there are 7 deadly sins? Why 7 and not 6? or even 8?
Are what are the virtues?
1. Faith is belief in the right things (including the virtues!).
2. Hope is taking a positive future view, that good will prevail.
3. Charity (Love) is concern for, and active helping of, others.
4. Fortitude is never giving up.
5. Justice is being fair and equitable with others.
6. Prudence is care of and moderation with money.
7. Temperance is moderation of needed things and abstinence from things which are not needed.
IMHO, this is a thread that is appropriate in any and all forums. FReeregards.
you are welcome
The Left gives us Bearing False Witness in the service of Envy. Quite a combination...
You can arguably make that a threepeat, since they can never seem to get enough of it- A Gluttony of Bearing False Witness in the service of Envy.
Please ignore that post. What was i thinking?
Anger and the Anger of God (Quotes from Scripture)
Prayer to be Freed of the Seven Deadly Sins
The Seven Deadly Sins Revisited: Greed
"Care for an Entrée With Your Entrée?" Gluttony, the Forgotten Sin
Seven Deadly Sins: Sloth or 'Acedia'
Seven deadly sins alive and well today, says Jesuit journal
The Virtue-Driven Life
The Virtues (counteracting the REAL Seven Deadly Sins)
What are Capital Sins? [Seven Deadly Sins]
Satan's Arsenal: "The Seven Deadly Sins"
The Anatomy of Envy
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