2013-03-27

Consider the Lilies

Lake Chalice resumes our review of the seven deadly sins. Having looked at gluttony, we turn now to sloth (naturally).

Sloth is a sin with which I personally resonate. There is a system of personality categories called the Enneagram. In this system there are nine different personality types – none of them is better or worse than the other. Rather, there are spiritually healthy and spiritually unhealthy versions of each type, depending on how they relate to their core sin. The nine personality types are based on nine core sins: the standard seven deadly sins, plus two more: truth-disguising or deceit, and generalized fearfulness toward life.

On the Enneagram, I am a type nine, which means that sloth is my core sin. Under stress, I don’t tend to respond with anger, like a type 1, or with arrogance, like a type 2. I don’t retreat into envy or avarice like a type 4 or 5. I am not even tempted, for the most part. The temptation I do wrestle with under stress is just to disconnect, withdraw into sloth.

According to the Enneagram, the gift of a type 9 is peacefulness, and the ability to be peacemakers in conflict situations. Nines at their best and healthiest become
“self-possessed, autonomous and fulfilled, have great equanimity and contentment, are independent, at one with self, and thus able to form profound relationships, are alive, awake, alert to self and others, truly accepting while profoundly involved with life."
At their worst, they indulge their inherent temptation toward sloth and avoid dealing with problems, dissociate from conflict, are passive and disengaged. My spiritual path will always be toward that vision of the healthiest type 9, not repressing my temptation, but able to befriend it and not indulge it either.

"Consider the lilies." As a type 9, I love considering lilies. The word in the Gospel of Luke translated as "lilies" refers generally to wild flowers, flowers of the field. So consider the flowers. Here in Florida, with the arrival of spring, we have many flowers bursting forth. What do flowers and sloth have to do with each other?
“Consider the lilies, how they grow. They toil not, they spin not.”
Those flowers sound pretty slothful. Indeed, it sounds like Jesus was an advocate of sloth. Here's the full passage:
"He said to his disciples, 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear, for life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest. Consider the lilies, how they grow: They neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.'" (Luke 12: 22-31)
We are surrounded by beauty. The springtime flowers shine forth the beauty of creation. They don’t get it by working. They are beautiful just by being what they are.

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This is part 6 of "The Seven Deadlies" (part 1 on Sloth)
Next: Part 7: "Flowers and Birds are the Smart Ones"
Previous: Part 5: "Desire Isn't the Enemy"
Beginning: Part 1: "Seven and Sin"