Once sin has taken hold of us it often leads to other, and greater, sins. In today’s story about Joseph, the envy of his brothers grew into hatred and eventually to a desire to destroy him and to profit by selling him into slavery. In the Gospel parable, greed leads to murder as the tenants first kill the servants and then the vineyard owner’s son. In our own context, greed and envy lead to corruption, conflict and often eventually to the destruction of life.
At the root of greed and envy are the beliefs that we do not have enough or that we are not enough. The opposite virtues are gratitude and a belief in our own value. If we truly had a sense of God’s abundant generosity and our preciousness, we would not need to attack others.
We do choose to act in sinful ways, but often the obvious sin is underpinned by another root sin. When we think about our lives and see the sins are we are struggling with, it helps to ask a deeper question. If I watch too much TV or waste hours on social media, perhaps it is about more than just being lazy. Perhaps there is something I am trying not to feel. Perhaps I am distracting myself from sadness or boredom.
It’s not about excusing sin. It is about seeing that God’s grace is needed to penetrate to the deepest parts of us. In this way we experience the forgiveness we need but also the healing that may prevent that spiral into the bad choices that so often come from unhealed pain. What is the pain or hurt that is at the root of my sinful choices that also needs to be brought to God?
We also need to unravel the pattern or trajectory of what happened so that we have better chance of stopping it in the future. For each of us there are often early warning signs. If we notice and act on the early warning signs, they may just become moments of grace, pointing to something which needs attention.