Nutsedge, often referred to as “nutgrass,” looks like ordinary grass. Thin blades. Grass-like roots. But nutsedge is anything but ordinary grass. Its roots? They’re connected to a tub deep under the soil. Pulling out a blade of nutsedge may feel good, but the tub, with more outgrowths than a mole’s burrow, will sprout hundreds more shoots. The only way to purge nutsedge is to kill the tub.
Without understanding how daily attitudes and behaviors grow from deeper sin issues in our lives, we’ll sprout new habits just as deadly as the old. The primary tub from which all sin grows is pride. Pride wants to take God’s place. When we desire control over our lives, we are serving our pride. Saint Augustine said, “In this lay my sin, that not in him was I seeking pleasures, distinctions and truth, but in myself and the rest of his creatures, and so I fell headlong into pains, confusions and errors.”1 All sin stems from pride because all sin in some way claims to know a better path for our lives than God’s. When we don’t trust God in some fundamental way, we respond out of our own skewed desires and our need to set things right in our way.
The ancient church named the seven deadly sins to help us get at the underpinnings of our sinful responses.
Anger seethes at personal slights and offenses, and we end up taking matters into our own hands rather than pursuing God’s ways of justice. Sloth chooses apathy rather than the hard work of loving our neighbor as ourselves. It may hide under the covers or in busyness, but it slouches from obeying God’s commands. Envy seeks to bring others down when we aren’t the best, when we feel like we’re missing out, or when others have it better. If we’re not successful, we don’t want them to be either. Lust doesn’t want to give up the pleasures of this world, like Saint Augustine when he said, “Grant me chastity and self-control, but please not yet.”2 While God has given us good gifts to enjoy, lust seeks these gifts over the giver. Greed wants to have it all. It seeks security in the things of this world, even if that means hoarding it from others. Conceit protects its image above all else, finding significance in how we are perceived. Gluttony indulges in the things of this world, not for joy but to forget the hard things and feel better. Think Templeton in Charlotte’s Web when he confesses, “I am a glutton but not a merrymaker.”3
In all of these sins, we find our identity, belonging, dignity, comfort, and significance outside of God. When these things are threatened, we react not in God’s love but out of our fear.
1 Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1997), 32.
2 Saint Augustine, Confessions, Ibid., Bk VIII, 7, p. 149.
3 E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web (New York: HarperCollins, 1952), 29–30.