The Three Root Sins

February 17, 2013: 1st Sunday of Lent

Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Psalms 91:1-2, 10-14
Romans 10:8-13
Luke 4:1-13

Let’s ask ourselves some tough questions today: Am I a better Christian now than I was a year ago? Am I holier? Am I more like Christ? Am I really becoming the saint that God created me to be?

If it’s uncomfortable to ask questions like that, then that’s good. Lent is a time for us to feel uncomfortable. Jesus loves us too much to let us be lazy. He is like a good coach, always encouraging us to grow, to improve.

Unfortunately, many of us aren’t growing as quickly or as constantly as we should. Professionally we are moving up, maybe. Academically, athletically we are making progress, but as Christians? Not really. We’re still stuck where we have always been. On a plateau. The same temptations, the same falls, the same sins. We’re still mediocre Christians.

One of the reasons for this is that we don’t go to the real roots of our selfishness.

We try to follow Christ more faithfully, but we don’t do so intelligently.

I planted a Crepe Myrtle in my backyard about six years ago. My spouse did not like to color and so she insisted that I cut it down. I did as I was told. I have been cutting down that Crepe Myrtle ever since. It just keeps coming back. It will continue to come back until I finally dig out the roots.

In a similar way, we keep trying to cut off the branches of impatience, or greed, or lust, or dishonesty, but the roots are still intact, so the branches just keep growing back.

In Jesus’ temptation in the desert, the devil makes the error of exposing the three roots of all our sins. In each one of us, one of these roots is bigger and stronger than the others (though we all have all three).

If we can identify which is our main root sin, we can direct our spiritual work more intelligently, and really start making progress as Christians.

One way of understanding the three root sins is by asking the question; Where am I looking for fulfillment?

The Gospel tells us that we should be looking for it in our friendship with Christ, in being faithful to God’s will in our lives, because we were made to find lasting happiness in Him.

However, ever since Original Sin, we have a tendency to look for it in three other places, three idols. These are the three temptations the devil throws at Jesus.

First, we can look for it in pleasure and comfort: “command this stone to become bread.” This is the idol of sensuality. Life’s pleasures and comforts are good things. God created them. However, they don’t last; they don’t satisfy the heart. This is one of the reasons why there are more suicides among the rich than there are among the poor. As Jesus said, we “do not live on bread alone.”

Second, we can look for our fulfillment in power, in being able to do whatever we want, without limitations. This is the idol of arrogance, of diabolical pride. Thus the devil’s second temptation: “I shall give to you all this power and glory…” However, this is a lie. Only God is self-sufficient; the rest of us depend on Him. When we reject that dependence, we end up becoming slaves of selfishness, worshippers of the devil. This is what happened to Darth Vadar in the Star Wars movies: he wanted control over life and death, and he ended up becoming a slave of evil. Therefore, Jesus answers, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him alone shall you serve.”

Third, we can look for our fulfillment in popularity or praise. This is the idol of vanity. Thus the third temptation: a miraculous swan dive off the Temple roof would impress everyone and win Jesus instant fame. However, people’s opinions are fickle; fashions change all the time; whereas God’s friendship is firm and dependable. Risking that friendship for the sake of passing popularity is bad business. Thus, Jesus says, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Sensuality, arrogance, and vanity; seeking fulfillment in pleasure, power, or popularity; these are the three root sins, which Jesus unmasks.

Getting to know our root sin and its most frequent expressions arms us for spiritual battle. The better we know where we are weak, the better we will be able to resist temptation.

We are all tempted. Every day we are invited to rebel against God in little things and big things. The patterns of behavior around us, our own self-centered tendencies, and the devil himself are always inviting us to trust more in our own flawed judgment than in God’s wisdom.

However, temptation is not sin. In fact, every temptation is a chance to exercise our trust in God, to reclaim territory for Christ’s Kingdom, just as Jesus did when He was tempted. Because Jesus was tempted, He redeemed temptation. With His grace, His victory over sin can become our victory. That’s why He came to earth in the first place!

The message Christ has for us today is a message of hope. We can conquer sin, in our lives and in the world around us. We just need to stay united to Christ. That’s what the Eucharist is for — that’s why God gave the Eucharist to us. Moreover, that’s also what the Bible is for. Jesus deflected the Devil’s attacks by quoting from the Scriptures, the inspired Word of God.

Today, let’s renew our confidence in Christ and our determination to fight for the advance of His Kingdom, to cut back our root sin and make more room for His grace to grow in our lives.

When we receive Him in Holy Communion, let’s promise to do our part to stay united to Him, to trust in Him and to seek our happiness in our friendship with Him, and let’s ask Him which tactic He wants us to use this Lent: whether to spend more time with Him in the Eucharist, more time with Him in the Scriptures, or a little more of both.

2 Responses to “The Three Root Sins”


    I enjoyed your sermon so much I’ve used it for my sermon at Church.

    Received a great response. Thank you!

  2. Deacon Klaus Says:

    You ae most welcome. Feel free to use them any time. KMA

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