Christianity, by tradition, has long affirmed the recognition of seven deadly sins. For those unfamiliar with them or the Christian tradition, they (as listed on wikipedia) are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. These seven deadly sins are considered unhealthy vices. Christian history has used these speculate what a healthy lifestyle would look like. Basically, take all of these things – make sure you don’t do any of them – and you are set.
While it may not be this simple, it is essentially the point. The truth is though, that the seven deadly sins is often ignored or forgotten. Despite learning about them from the financially successful Hollywood film ‘Seven’ by Andrew Walker, starring both Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, I would wager a bet that most people in my generation have not learned of the seven deadly sins. In fact, even as a Seminary student (who also grew up in a Christian family), I had to look up the seven. I new a few of them from memory, but there is no way I could name them all.
As a result of which, I thought it would be interesting to use the seven deadly sins as a structure for a financial article. What might these teach us about smart financial management and how might our lives be different if we did or did not follow them.
1. Wrath: Wrath is often used in the Christian tradition to refer to God’s anger. This the essence of what this deadly sin refers to. Falling victim to excessive amounts of anger can do terrible things for one’s financial state. Making decisions based on anger can lead one to ignore all signs of wisdom or advice. It is always important to try and reflect on your financial state with a sound mind.
2. Greed: Greed is the strong desire for wealth, money, goods, etc beyond a healthy limit. If you are interested in reading more about greed, be sure to check out my article What is Greed? Greed can also cause all sorts of unbalance with your finances. It can cause you to be disconnected from your family or gamble away your money. It’s always important to balance your desire for more wealth with things that truly matter.
3. Sloth: Other than the movie film’s character Sid the sloth from Ice Age, the word sloth is not often used in popular conversations. This may make it hard to understand, but refers (in this case) to apathy. Apathy or sloth can cause a huge financial disaster. Not caring about monitoring your finances or even budgeting can lead to financial ruin. Before you know it, you can overspend and find yourself wondering how you are going to pay off debt. Financial management is an on-going activity that requires action and attention.
4. Pride: I am sure everyone has felt proud of an accomplishment. There are certain degrees of pride that are healthy – such as celebrating an achievement. However, there are also forms of pride that take control of your life. Before you know it, you can feel unstoppable and take risks that are unnecessary and unprecedented. It’s always important to critically question your actions when managing your finances. Can I afford to take this risk? Would I lose to much? Is my reasoning for doing so justified? These are all important questions to ask.
5. Lust: Lust, the cheap version of love, is often understood as some sort of sexual fantasy. While it doesn’t have to be limited to this definition, even this understanding helps us understand something about finances. Ignoring lust teaches us to place value on something long-term – something more than just an momentary feeling of satisfaction. The inherent message of resisting temptation and holding on to previous commitments also parallels advice given for retirement – that is, buy and hold. Thinking long-term for financial investments is a great strategy.
6. Envy: When was the last time you were envious of your neighbors new car or nicer house? Is is this effort to keep up with the Joneses that puts a lot of American families in consumer debt. Envy, or wanting to have what other people have, can lead to unnecessary spending. Take extra care not to place value in possessions – for you will never be satisfied and always wanting more.
7. Gluttony: Gluttony or the over-indulgence is a theme that I think Americans know all too well. Traditionally, Americans are known for their big houses, big cars, and many possessions. It’s unfortunate but true to a certain degree. I know that I personally have realized how much stuff I can accumulate over time. It is a struggle at times not to satisfy that urge to buy more or even eat more, but it is a healthy practice to avoid doing so. This reminds you that giving should be an important aspect of your life as well as keeps you from completely buying into the consumerism myth that possessions will make you happy.
I didn’t realize it when I started writing this post, but it’s remarkable how well the old, Christian traditions still speak to the experience of contemporary American culture. Managing your finances is never black and white, but full of shades of gray. It means weighing options and deciding which is the best one. Hopefully these deadly sins will give you an idea of what not to do.