Friday, December 12, 2008

Seven deadlies: Sloth

I’ve spent the past few weeks, and will be spending a few more, writing about the seven deadly sins, and their applications in the modern world by those who give lip service to being Christian, and those who declare that sin doesn’t exist. The seven deadly, or serious, sins are wrath, greed, envy, sloth, lust, gluttony, and pride. So far, over the past three weeks, I’ve written about Wrath, Greed, and Envy. This week’s sin is Sloth.

So, what precisely is sloth? In medieval times, it was despair, or a lack of joy—a refusal of one of God’s major gifts. It’s come to mean something different in modern times, however. Today, sloth is apathy of the spirit, or laziness.

How is laziness a sin? We can see this through the parable of the talents in Matthew and Luke. In the story, a man gives three servants money—one gets five talents, one gets two talents, and one gets one. The first and second servants both invest the money, and double it before returning it to their master. The third servant buries the single talent he’s given, claiming he only wanted to keep his master’s money safe from thieves.

Many read this as an endorsement of free enterprise. In some ways, it is: the master is pleased with, praises, and rewards the servants who use the money he left with them to make more, and rebukes and punishes the one who simply hid the money. However, there is another lesson to be learned here: that laziness, or sloth, not only leaves the individual where they started, but can open the door to other sins.

We can see the same sin today illustrated in the same way: with individuals who do not want to work. However, we can also see the same sin illustrated in a more insidious, more damaging instance in the way some parents interact with their children.

Many argue that today’s world requires both spouses to work to make ends meet, that today’s parents are more industrious than ever. That may be true in some parts of their lives; however, it couldn’t be farther from the truth when it comes to raising their children.

Children are investments into the future, yes; they are also a lot of work, and take a lot of time and patience to raise. Many parents, especially when one parent is missing or when both work, simply do not choose to put in the effort required. They bury their one talent by parking their children in front of the television rather than playing with them, by placing them in Head Start rather than teaching them, by depending on public schools to parent their children instead of instilling the moral values that the children will need as adults.

As with the parable of the talents, the parents who don’t parent get back exactly the investment they put in: the child, lacking a strong guiding hand acts out in many ways, some sexual (with some active very early), some violent, some merely rebellious. The parents that refuse to raise their own children are the ones that wind up medicating their children into zombies, that turn their children over to state custody because they can’t control their behavior, that abandon their children in Nebraska because they simply don’t want to be bothered anymore.

The sloth of these parents lead to children that do not care about others, that do not see others as individuals, that cannot empathize with another’s pain. The sloth of these parents open the door to the children’s wrath, greed, envy—is creating a generation of psychologically damaged children that will become psychologically damaged adults.

I don’t understand this sin any more than I do greed or envy. I admit that raising a child is much harder than I thought it would be—and mine is only two months old. I know that the job will get harder, that the investment will take more time and energy in the future. However, I also know that the hard work is well worth it, and the penalties of being slothful in raising my child are far too harsh to risk.

I wish others would consider the penalties of their own laziness before they started ignoring their child’s needs and letting them raise themselves.


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