Envy is a sin. It's so bad that it's considered one of the "seven deadly sins."
Theologians and historians (and, I suppose, theological historians), note that there first were eight deadly sins. In the late 6th Century, Pope Gregory reduced the list to seven, combining a couple of the sins and adding envy. ("Apathy" was removed because, well, no one really cared.)
So while envy may have been present in original sin -- it basically boils down to a failure to be content with what you have, and wanting what someone else has -- it wasn't among the original "deadly sins."
That rationalization maybe makes me feel better about being jealous of James and Margaret Jones of Washington, winners this past week of $77.7 million in the Mega Millions lottery. (After taxes, they'll receive $28.50 plus two scratch-off tickets.)
Actually, jealously isn't quite as bad as all-consuming envy. I keep telling myself that, evan as I lust (oh, heck; another of the seven deadlies) after all that loot.
At the same time, you've gotta love the simple, unsophisticated way in which the Joneses received their bounty. James says he'll keep operating his auto-repair shop; Margaret says she'll still drive her mail route. They've told their kids not to worry about making ends meet. They'll buy a vacation place in Daytona, and he'll get a new truck.
How nice. But the question people keep asking: Do these folks have even the slightest clue about how much money they just got? For crying out loud, Mr. Jones could buy a new pickup for every man in Wilkes County, and still have enough left to add spray-on bed liners (his in gold, of course).
And since Mrs. Jones said she wanted a place in Daytona, I've wondered how many time-share salesmen have tried to offer a great deal on a condo. Surely she understands that she can now afford to buy just about anything in Daytona -- an entire hotel if they want it.
Sadly, if the Joneses are as clueless as they sound about handling all that money, there's bound to be a financial and personal train wreck ahead. The jealous and envious folks in the media will greedily (uh-oh; is that another sin?) sit back and wait for all that money to corrupt the Jones family.
Oh, we've gleefully followed poor old Jack Whittaker up in West Virginia. Since he won $315 million a couple of years ago, his family has been thrown into turmoil, vast amounts of his cash has been stolen because he insists on toting it around in bags, and he's been arrested repeatedly for drunken driving and for carrying a concealed pistol (though I can imagine the judge going easy on a man for wanting to protect all that money).
Rest assured: The same reporters who laughed along with the unassuming Joneses when they collected their oversized check in Atlanta this past week are already writing the rough drafts of stories telling us how the money has ruined the family.
In fact, I can't remember a single story that says something like, "Ten years later, the big lottery winners are still living happily in their little community, enjoying a secure, care-free lifestyle." We're envious when we hear the initial stories about how great it is for those who've hit it big, and then a few weeks or months or years later, we almost inevitably read about how the winners' lives have been destroyed by all that money.
That may ease our envy, but don't we all then say, "Yeah, but I would do it better if I had the chance"? All of us think we can handle it, and from the looks of it, few of us can.
I really hope the Joneses can handle it. They seem like good folks, and it would be a sin for money to mess that up.
If it does, there won't be much left to envy -- until the next winner hits it big.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.