Book Review: DeYoung’s “Glittering Vices”

I first read about Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung’s Glittering Vices on Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed, about four years ago. Intrigued, I ordered a copy, which I promptly placed in a stack of books I was meaning to read.

A couple false starts later, I began to make real progress through Glittering Vices about a year ago, and finally turned the last page this afternoon. It’s not a long book, but it was a crazy year, and since each chapter can almost stand alone, it was an easy title to pick up and put down as time allowed.

Having spent most of my life firmly within the Evangelical camp, I had only the most rudimentary understanding of the seven deadly sins prior to reading DeYoung. For this reason, I especially appreciated how thorough and accessible her treatment of the vices is throughout her book. She references both church fathers and popular movies, linking historic wisdom with recognizable examples. I have been recommending Glittering Vices to friends and family, and I have no doubt that I will return to its pages again and again. After all, are not these the temptations common to man?

When we are afraid we won’t get what we need, or worry that we won’t have enough, it makes sense to spend our energy on constant acquisition, pursuing abundance to achieve self-sufficiency — this is the vice of avarice. When we are afraid that justice will not be done or that we won’t get our just deserts unless we personally take charge of doling out vengeance in the way we see fit — then the vice of wrath takes hold. When we are afraid that we will not be accepted by others, that we won’t fit in or live up to others’ expectations, and thus do our best to hid behind a falsely inflated reputation — this is vainglory. When we are afraid we are not worth anything unless we are better than others, and we are afraid we can’t compete with them, so we engineer their downfall — this is envy. When we are afraid we will always feel empty and needy, so we overfill ourselves with pleasures we can supply for ourselves — this is gluttony. When we are afraid we are unlovable, so we use people to gratify ourselves without ever giving ourselves in return — this is lust. When we are afraid of the effort loving others will cost us, so we hold everyone, even God, at arm’s length in indifference — this is sloth. (184)

DeYoung helps us name the evil in our lives, and she directs us to tools useful in rooting them out. As she quotes, “To flee vice is the beginning of virtue” (184). Let us begin.

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