The Geography Of Sin

Researchers at Kansas State University created a map of the prevalence of the seven deadly sins (envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath) across the USA through statistical analysis.1 I initially examined “wrath” simply because of the apparent (assuming the validity of the analysis) contrast between the so-called rust belt states around the Great Lakes (where it is often cold) and the Sunbelt states where it is often hot.

I am not suggesting that people are intrinsically or really less sinful in the cold than in the heat (that puts one in mind of Leonard Jeffries), but one does wonder about the effect of circumstances upon external behavior (which is all the researchers can measure).2 Certainly I thought the “sloth” map was telling and it resonates with my limited experience. The culture of work in Southern California is rather different from where I was raised. On the other hand, judging by what I have seen when I am back home, I think they missed the mark on the “gluttony” measure. I do not think that west Texas has that all locked up, frankly.

More fundamentally, however, the truth is that the real geography of sin cannot be measured by scientists. They can measure some of the social effects of sin, but the real geography of sin is not external. That is exactly the mistake made by the Pharisees. They thought that the great thing is to look good. And they did. They were great ones for hand washing and for not doing the “wrong” things (as they considered them) on the Sabbath. But Jesus had his own study of the geography of sin, and he called them “whitewashed tombs” (Matt 23:27). They might have been ceremonially clean externally, but they were dirty as hell (literally) on the inside. So it is with all of us. The prophet Jeremiah (17:9) wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

God understands it and so must we if we are to be saved from our sins. Humans have always been reluctant to get to grips with the reality of the fall and its consequences. This is the first reason God gave the law: to teach us the greatness of our sin and misery. Unlike our own shifting consciousness of sin (sometimes present, now denied), the law is relentless like a flashing neon sign: “Do this and live. Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law. Love God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself.” Gulp. The geography of sin in the USA is interesting and, according to the researchers, entertaining; but the geography of the human heart, outside of the grace of Christ, is nothing of the sort. It tells a terrible story of defiance before God and of the cost of that defiance in the ongoing consequences of sin. There is nothing light or amusing about sin and death, but there is great joy in the good news that there is a Savior for sinners and his name is Jesus. Knowing the gravity of our condition and the greatness of our need, knowing fully what it would cost him, God the Son came to be the Redeemer of sinners, and he did it. By his own obedience for us—he was good when we would not and could not be—he made a way back to God and it was through his own body, through his own blood shed for us sinners. God loves sinners that much.

There are more than seven deadly sins. Indeed, they are all deadly. Be honest with God and with yourself. Know yourself for the sinner you are and turn to Jesus who came and conquered sin for all who trust him. Will you not trust him today?

Notes

  1. Maps of the Seven Deadly Sins,” FlowingData, May 12, 2009. HT: John Bales. See an account of the project from Abigail Goldman, “One nation, seven sins,” Las Vegas Sun, March 26, 2009.
  2. Lance Morrow, “Controversies: The Provocative Professor,” Time, June 24, 2001.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on the Heidelblog in 2009.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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5 comments

  1. Huh. Envy, lust, pride and wrath characterize the “transformer belt.” So much for personal transformation being the substitute to social transformation. Perhaps that is one irony of fabricating the stop-over category of “transformation” between “sanctification” and “glorification.”

  2. I lived in SoCal long enough to immediately recognize that this map is ridiculously inaccurate. I’ve also lived just long enough in Indiana to verify the inaccuracy. Silly. Wonder what their various sources actually were.

    Driving should be a deadly sin. It kills a lot of people.

    • Agreed! After being born and raised in Indiana, living there most of my first 29 years, and now living in BOTH NorCal (40years) and SoCal the past 2 years…I find this map rather silly also!✝️

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