Monday, September 17, 2012

Empty Promises

. . . your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5).

Say the word ‘sin’ and immediately our minds go to a list of bad behaviors. To sin is to break a rule, to do something harmful or dishonest, to lie or steal or gossip or injure someone violently.

Perhaps, having managed to tame or avoid those clearly prohibited behaviors, we sin in more subtle ways. We define ‘sin’ in terms of wrong attitudes and disordered emotions. We manage to hide these fairly well. The well behaved are generally well thought of, and that suits us just fine.

But beneath the outward disobedience and the inner deceptions something deeper is at work. Sin has to do with what we believe, what we trust to make us whole, what we look to for our sense of well being in this world.

Every sin makes a promise and to sin is to believe that promise.

Seven of those promises will hold our attention in the weeks ahead. To the extent that a promise has the power to lure and entice we may rightly speak of these as ‘Seven Deadly Seductions.’ You may be more familiar with the designation of ‘Seven Deadly Sins.’ But before there is a sin, there is a belief, a promise embraced, a seduction.

Pride promises you that the praise and adulation of others will make you whole and happy.

Sloth promises you that leisure and ease are the mark of success and the aim of life.

Lust promises you that the pleasure of someone’s body will cure your boredom.

Gluttony tells you you’re hungry when you aren’t and promises that the emptiness you live with can be fixed by food.

Envy promises to ease the pain of your resentments and tells you that if you can have someone else’s life, then life will be good.

Anger insists that you’ve been wronged or deprived and promises that hitting back is right and just, bringing satisfaction through venting.

Greed tells you that you deserve more, that more is possible and permissible. Greed promises you that getting more will prove you matter.

Each of these promises has one thing in common: they are all lies. And yet we are prone to believe them. In the weeks ahead we’ll be trying to expose the empty promises we’ve embraced. We’ll also look for the alternative promises that come to us from God and from the good news of God’s grace through Jesus.

For today: Which of the promises above are you most vulnerable to believing?

Far too often and far too easily, O God, we embrace empty promises. We place our trust in things that cannot save us and live our days restless and discontented. Help us to face hard truths about ourselves that we might embrace the blessed truth of your promises. As we go through this day remind us that where sin abounds, grace abounds even more, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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