Seven Capital Sins – Envy, pt.1

This Tuesday we are going to be studying Envy as discussed in Chapter Two of ++Sheen’s book. (Attached) There ++Sheen contrasts the sin of envy with the virtue of the pity that the righteous thief on the cross had for Christ. In the theological sense, envy is not a type of jealousy or covetousness where we desire something that someone else has; rather envy is a sadness at another’s good (Aquinas), a love for the misfortune of a neighbor (Dante), or pain at the sight of good fortune (Aristotle).   

Thomas Aquinas reasons that envy is the only one of the seven capital sins that is devoid of any good. Anger can be righteous. Pride is good when it spurs us to excellence. Sloth is merely insufficient love for the good. And greed, gluttony, and lust are simply excessive desires for the goods of material sustenance, food, and sex.  But envy is evil. Paul writes that the spirit of the law is summarized in the statement “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal. 5:14, Rom. 13:9). He goes on to state that “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;  it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). The sin of Envy stands in contradiction to this love we should have of our neighbor – for it is jealous, arrogant, irritable, resentful, rejoicing in wrongs, and grieving in the right for envy is the hatred of your neighbor.  If you want to read further on Envy, here are links to Aquinas’s “Summa” and Aristotle’s “Rhetoric”. These readings are not required, and we will not be discussing them directly on Tuesday but they provide a good insight into this sin.

Dinner on Tuesday is at 6. The discussion will begin about 6:45. To point out the pervasiveness of envy in our life and society, think about the standard model for cable television news:

I make my living off the Evening News
Just give me something-something I can use
People love it when you lose,
They love dirty laundry

Well, I coulda been an actor, but I wound up here
I just have to look good, I don’t have to be clear
Come and whisper in my ear
Give us dirty laundry

Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em when they’re down
Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em all around

We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five,
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye,
It’s interesting when people die –
Give us dirty laundry

Can we film the operation? Is the head dead yet?
You know, the boys in the newsroom got a Running bet
Get the widow on the set!
We need dirty laundry

You don’t really need to find out what’s going on
You don’t really want to know just how far it’s gone
Just leave well enough alone
Eat your dirty laundry

Kick ’em when they’re up
Kick ’em when they’re down
Kick ’em when they’re stiff
Kick ’em all around

Dirty little secrets, Dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie
We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry

–          Don Henley 

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