eing filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
This verse and the next two verses show the the end results of the “death spiral”. This is what it looks like when an individual or a community or a nation completely rejects God and His ways and His personality. They have started with rejecting God’s glory and not being grateful to Him and ended up with a personality and a society that is utterly broken down. Sin is like a montrous weed: you think you can plant a couple of seeds and enjoy life a little bit, but the pleasure is just for a season and then the consequences bring pain.
God is not a killjoy! He is the source of joy, and His joy is our strength. He outlines in the Word what brings joy and what does not. Following His will is not about a grey and sterile life, it is about a life of joy and wonder. A life of adventure!
Paul gives us a long list about what a society or individual that consistently and constantly rejects and ignores God ends up like. I am going to simply go through this long list and describe each of these qualities so you can see what a society that rejects God looks like.
adikia – unrighteousness – in this context, the word means unjust or unfair. A society that rejects God becomes unjust. People are penalized for things that they did not do, people who commit genuine sins against society are rewarded. A society hits the bottom of the death spiral when it fails to reward just behaviour and punish unjust behaviour. Both the US and the UK recently have seen high profile court cases where justice was simply not done.
In addition, adikia also means that the innocent are not looked after. Children are not cared for, orphans are not looked after and the elderly are ignored.
porneia – This is defined by Strong’s as:
1) illicit sexual intercourse
a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12
Another hallmark of a society at the bottom of the death spiral is an “anything goes” attitude to sexuality.
ponēria – This word means “wicked”, but in the sense of rotten, like an apple that has spoiled. As you know a bad apple can make a dozen good apples bad, but a dozen good apples cannot make a bad apple good.
Any individual at the bottom of the “death spiral” will infect others with his ideas, his speech and his attitudes unless they are aware of what is going on and deal with it appropriately.
Many of us know people like this: they have gone bad. Beware – bad company corrupts good character.
pleonexia – this is the desire to continually have more. The KJV translates this as covetousness, but the NIV and NLT both use the word “greed”. We have made the word “greedy” in our generation a humorous term – a jokey kind of insult when someone takes the second doughnut, or steals someone’s client in the office, or even when someone is cheating on their partner. However, greed is a serious sin that has huge social consequences. Out of control greed is one of the main causes of human suffering in the world.
Greed is actually one of the truest expressions of unbelief. If you feel you have to get all you can, then that is because you do not believe that God will supply your needs. The Christian has no place for greed: seek ye first the kingdom, and all these things will be added to you. Remember the words of Jesus: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke 12.15, NIV)
kakia – this is the word for malice. It means that you do things to deliberately hurt other people and you do not even care or feel ashamed that you do. It is one of the symptoms and one of the signs of a nation that is at the bottom of the death spiral is that people feel no shame at hurting others. They rejoice when they get one up on people, they are happy when people are hurt. They boast of how they put people in their place. There is no fear of the Lord, there is no humility. There is something so alien to Christ about taking pleasure in the pain of others and in causing pain to others.
phthonos – This is envy. A lot of people get confused with envy and jealousy. Jealousy can be sinful, but does not have to be – Deut. 4.24 tells us that God is jealous so we can know for a fact that not all jealousy is evil.
The difference is simple: jealousy is an intense desire for something. So if your neighbour gets a brand new car and you intensely desire a car like it, that is jealousy. This is why God calls Himself a jealous God – He intensely desires our attention. There is nothing wrong with having intense desires. If your desires take us away from God, then there is a problem. That is when jealousy becomes a sin.
Envy is always a sin. In the situation with the neighbour’s car, envy would lead you not to want the same car but to want your neighbour to lose his car, maybe to crash it or for it to be scratched. Envy and malice are linked: malice is where you want to hurt someone, envy is where you want their possessions or their reputation in life or their relationships to be destroyed because you want them for yourself.
phonos – Translated murder by the KJV and the NIV, phonos means to deliberately take an innocent life. If you think that is not part of our society, then what do you define abortion as?
eris – This word means strife or contention. This was the sin of the Corinthian church:
For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions (Greek eris) among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. (1 Cor 1.11-12, KJV)
The eris in Corinth was expressed by them forming gangs: the Paul gang, the Apollos gang, the Cephas gang, and the Christ gang. One of the signs of a nation or community hitting the bottom of the “death spiral” is a gang culture. This could be gangs on ethnic grounds, or the east end postcode gangs (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6304345.stm). Football violence comes from eris as does most racism.
It is dividing yourself up into the “we’s” and the “not-we’s” and deciding that the not-we’s deserve to be treated differenrly. In Corinth there were all sorts of problems, but thankfully they had not reached the end of this cycle – though they did have huge problems. At its worst, eris is probably responsible for more violence, wars and death than any other sin on this list.
dolos – This word means “deceit” and comes from a root word meaning “bait”. It is not just lying, but lying and deceiving people in a way to trap them and entrap them. 1 Peter 2.22 says that dolos is not found in Christ. Isn’t it wonderful for us as Christians to know that our God and Lord will never do anything to trap us or entrap us? He is always honest, always true, always genuine. His goal is never to catch us out!
kakoētheia – This is a really simple compound word. Kako means bad in the sense of not fit for purpose, in the sense that a bad knife is one that will not cut your vegetables or a bad jacket has holes in it and will not keep you warm. Etheia is the word in which we get our English word ethics, and means “appropriate customs”. Kakoetheia means that your customs are not fit for the purpose. Your whole community, your whole set traditions are just without use – they do not build community, they destroy it. They do not bring a sense of family, they deny it.
Many people in society have bad ethics – unfit traditions. They are corrupt by habit – they are used to being selfish, hateful and unfair.
psithyristēs – this word means whispering, in the sense of whispering rumours and slandering people. Whispering is when you never know who is about to backstab you, when people will lie about you to get ahead, when you cannot trust people with your heart. When you have a problem, there is no-one you can trust to help.
Whispering destroys community, destroys churches and destroys families. If you have something to say to someone, say it to their face or say it to the Lord (and I do not mean phone up the church and give them a “prayer” request!) – they are your only two options. Do not ever become a whisperer, you will be destroying your life and your community.
Glory and freedom,