What The 7 Deadly Sins Can Teach Us About Money

Today post is a guest post by Paula Pant, the author of AffordAnything.org. If you’re interested in writing a guest post for Faith and Finance, just drop me a note!

Almost everyone in North America, whether Christian or not, has heard of the Seven Cardinal Sins –- a list of seven core ways you should avoid behaving, acting or thinking.

These Seven Sins are often referred to in pop culture as the “Seven Deadly Sins,” and were the subject of a top-grossing horror movie (no pun intended) starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman.

The Biblical reference to these Seven Deadly Sins comes from the Book of Proverbs, which lists “six things the Lord hateth” plus a seventh thing He “detesteth”:

• Pride

• Lying

• Violence

• Wicked plots

• Mischief

• Lying again (“deceitful witness”)

• Sowing discord

The Book of Galatians also has its own list of mortal sins, though they number much more then seven.

Fast-forward 400 years: a 4th-century Greek monk used these Biblical passages as the basis to write his own list of seven mortal sins. Two more centuries later, Pope Gregory I tweaked the monk’s list, and voila – the Seven Deadly Sins, as we know them today, were finalized.

Below is a list of these Seven Deadly Sins … and what each sin can teach us about money.

Lust

I’m going to sidestep the – er – popular connotation of lust. Lust in the broad sense is the overwhelming urge for worldly pleasure. In lust, your desire for something is so strong that you ignore the consequences.

Some people lust for objects, such as a gleaming sports car or mega-house. Others lust for a “lifestyle” and spend all their money chasing the illusion they’re living this lifestyle.

Desire is not a bad thing: it can motivate us to become better people. The desire for a smaller waistline motivates us to go to the gym.

But lust morphs healthy desire into an out-of-control obsession. Instead of simply going to the gym, you’re abusing your body with steroids. Instead of simply buying a car or home, you’re abusing your finances.

Have you ever bought a house bigger than you could afford, or financed a beautiful car when a safe, reliable used car would suffice? You may have succumbed to that cardinal sin of lust.

Gluttony

We conceptualize gluttony as over-eating, and if America’s average waistline is to be considered, many of us are guilty of it.

But gluttony also refers to any over-indulgence, such as spending too much of your paycheck on discretionary items without first putting aside money for retirement, emergency savings, and giving to charity. Regularly depriving your future (i.e. retirement) to indulge in the moment is like over-eating at a buffet every single night.

It’s fine to enjoy life – and eat from the buffet. Just remember to save adequately first.

Greed

Hmm, how does greed relate to money …?

I’ll quickly summarize greed by highlighting the difference, as I see it, between “frugal” and “cheap.” A frugal person cuts back on expenses for him or herself – like clipping coupons or waiting for sales. A “cheap” person cuts back on generosity to others, like skimping on grandma’s birthday present.

Sloth

Let’s say you’ve achieved Financial Freedom and you never have to work for money again. Congratulations! This means you can play golf and watch cartoons all day, right?

Wrong. As any retirement-planning magazine will tell you, those who don’t have any productive way to fill their time quickly become bored and depressed. We have talents, personality, interests, and we’re meant to share that with the world and engage with the world.

So even if you don’t need to work for money, do something – whether its pursuing a hobby or interest with gusto, or venturing into a new field. Avoid sloth – you’ll feel happier when you have purpose in your life.

Wrath

Wrath – or anger – has a myriad of subtle forms: frustration, impatience, wanting revenge. Not only is wrath bad for your blood pressure (doctor’s bills, anyone?), it also can lead you off-track with your investments. Here’s how:

You’re frustrated with your portfolio returns. You’ve done everything right – asset allocation, rebalancing – and yet the economy is in a slump (which irritates you) and your portfolio is at the same level it was 2 years ago (which frustrates you). So you decide to take big risks in your portfolio, in hopes of making big returns.

I’ll let you guess how this story ends.

Envy

This one closely ties into lust. When we’re envious of others, we want what they have, whether its their expensive possessions or their shiny brunette hair (if only I got a great haircut and styled it with nicer products …. )

Not only does envy push us into spending more, it also robs us of joy and gratitude for the things we already have.

Pride

Ah, pride: where would we be without it? We often see people who have achieved great wealth become arrogant and boastful, as if they’re suddenly more special than all of us regular middle-class Joes. That’s often because their self-identity has gotten entangled in their money. Take away that money – in a market crash, in a business failure, in a real estate bubble – and they’ve not only lost their portfolio, they’ve lost themselves. This is the destructive power of pride.

Alternatively, pride can take the form of over-identifying with your working-class roots – to the point to which you begin to resent those born with privilege. It’s fine to be “proud” of your background, class or country (in the sense that you’re not ashamed of it.) But pride crosses a line when you disregard the successes of people who grew up with more advantages than you did. Just because someone inherited their wealth does not mean that your self-made success makes you a better person. The “better” person, ultimately, is judged not on success but on values and compassion – and on not getting too prideful about piety, either.

This guest post was written by Paula Pant, the “Yes you can!” blogger at AffordAnything.org . If you enjoyed it, please Tweet it, Like it on Facebook, and share it with others.

Thanks for giving us something to think about today Paula!  Be sure to stop by her blog and say hello :)

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  • http://www.freemoneywisdom.com Jon | Free Money Wisdom

    I think envy is the most dangerous of the sins in terms of personal finances. I see this all the time. Just the other day a co-worker of mine bought a 2009 Ford truck and he saw a 2010 Ford truck and now wants to upgrade. I just shook my head speechless…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithandfinance Tim

      The upgrade syndrome…happens to the best of them :) That’s a surefire way to keep from getting ahead with your savings.

  • http://www.freemoneywisdom.com Jon | Free Money Wisdom

    I think envy is the most dangerous of the sins in terms of personal finances. I see this all the time. Just the other day a co-worker of mine bought a 2009 Ford truck and he saw a 2010 Ford truck and now wants to upgrade. I just shook my head speechless…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithandfinance Tim

      The upgrade syndrome…happens to the best of them :) That’s a surefire way to keep from getting ahead with your savings.