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The seven deadly sins refer to behaviors and habits that are considered among the most cardinal vices under Christian teachings. Ironically, the seven deadly sins do not appear explicitly in the Bible.
However, each of these vices gets ample mention throughout the Bible and other religious books, albeit individually. Also known as capital vices or cardinal sins, the seven deadly sins are believed to give birth to other forms of immoralities.
- Gluttony, and
The seven deadly sins often stand in contrast to the seven heavenly virtues, which include;
- Hope, and
History of the 7 Deadly Sins
As we’ve already mentioned, the seven deadly sins do not appear in the Bible listed side by side. But as you shall find, there are numerous scriptural references to each of the sins individually.
The history of the seven deadly sins goes back to the year 400 A.D. The first person to categorize the vices was a fourth-century monk named Evagrius Ponticus. However, Evagrius identified eight, and not seven, vilest sins to resist.
Two centuries later, the list was refined to seven by Pope Gregory 1. Besides playing a role in the compilation of the seven deadly sins, Pope Gregory 1 also came up with the seven heavenly virtues. The Bible validates both the seven deadly sins as well as the seven heavenly virtues.
Perhaps the earliest scriptural references to some of the seven deadly sins is in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, which lists the Ten Commandments.
1. You shall have no other Gods before me.
2. Don’t make an idol.
3. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
5. Honor your parents.
6. Don’t murder.
7. Don’t commit adultery.
8. Don’t steal.
9. Don’t lie.
10. Don’t covet.
If you casually skim through the list, you can immediately spot a correlation between some of the Ten Commandments and the seven deadly sins. For instance, the commandment “Don’t covet” resonates quite well with the sins of Greed and Envy, while the commandment “Don’t commit adultery” resonates with the sin of Lust.
It’s also important to note that the Ten Commandments predate the seven deadly sins, as they were issued around 1450 B.C. Apart from Exodus and Deuteronomy, Proverbs and Galatians are other notable books that extensively address the seven cardinal sins.
Proverbs 6:16-19 reads, “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
1. A proud look,
2. A lying tongue,
3. Hands that shed innocent blood,
4. A heart that devises wicked plans,
5. Feet that are swift in running to evil,
6. A false witness who speaks lies, and
7. One who sows discord among brethren.”
On its part, Galatians doesn’t just identify the capital vices, but it also adds a few more sins to the list. In Galatians 5:19 – 21, the sins are identified as;
• Sexual immorality,
• Drunkenness, and
The 7 Deadly Signs Unpacked
Lust refers to an intense desire, usually to engage in illegal or immoral sexual pleasure. Lust can lead to sexual immorality between two unmarried individuals (fornication) or between two people who’re not legally married to one another (adultery). Adultery also happens when a married person seeks out sexual pleasure with an unmarried person. If the lust for sexual pleasure isn’t tamed, it could lead to rape or even bestiality.
But lust doesn’t only manifest in sexual desire. It can also constitute a strong and unreasonable desire for wealth, fame, or power.
Lust Counterparts: Love, unselfishness, self-control, and chastity.
Scriptural References on Lust: 1 John 2:16, 1 Peter 2:11, 2 Timothy 2:22, James 1:14-15, Job 31:1, Matthew 5:28, and Philippians 4:8.
Gluttony refers to the overconsumption of food or anything to the point of waste. In the Christian context, gluttony is considered as the overindulgence in food when you should spare some for the needy.
There are numerous ways to commit gluttony, including;
• Eating too much,
• Eating too soon,
• Eating too daintily,
• Eating too expensively, and
• Eating too eagerly.
Gluttony Counterparts: Self-control, contentment, discernment, patience, and temperance.
Scriptural References on Gluttony: 1 Corinthians (3:16-17 and 10:31), Philippians 3:19-20, Proverbs (23:1-3 and 23:19 – 21), and Psalm 78:17-19.
Also known as avarice, covetousness, or cupidity, Greed is an intense desire and passionate love for material wealth. Much like lust and gluttony, greed results from an irrational longing for what you don’t need.
The sin of greed manifests in various ways, including;
• Hoarding of materials,
• Theft and robbery, and
• Bribery and corruption.
Numerous Biblical prophets condemned greed, ranging from Nehemiah to Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. Jesus himself covered the topic of greed extensively, constantly challenging the rich to give to the poor if they wish to inherit the kingdom of God.
Throughout the Bible, one thing comes out abundantly clear. That material possessions can draw a man away from God, and it’s better to have just enough to get by. Too little can make a man covet his neighbor’s possessions and too much can lead to pride.
Greed Counterparts: Kindness, generosity, and charity.
Scriptural References on Greed: 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Ecclesiastes 5:10, Philippians 4:6, and Proverbs (11.24 and 28:25).
Sloth, or acedia, is laziness as is manifested by the willful avoidance of work. Unlike the deadly sins we’ve highlighted so far, laziness isn’t inspired by immorality. Rather, it stems from the desire to avoid responsibility. One adage that aptly captures the sin of sloth is, “those who do not work should not eat.” Of course, it makes more sense when there’s more work to be done than the number of people willing to do it.
Sloth could also imply disinterest in spiritual growth. From a spiritual perspective, you’re considered slothful when you’re no longer practicing the fruits or utilizing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Bible condemns slothfulness, both in its physical and spiritual forms.
Sloth Counterparts: Diligence/zeal, perseverance, and servanthood.
Scriptural References on Sloth: Colossians 3:23, Romans 12:11-13, and Proverbs (6:6, 13:4, and 24:33-34).
Wrath is simply uncontrolled feelings of anger, rage, or hatred. Wrath feeds on a strong desire to exact vengeance and is often fueled by an irrational drive to harm others. As it’s inspired by feelings of vengeance, the sin of wrath can persist even when the person who triggered it is long dead. A classic case of wrath is long-running family feuds or business rivalry.
Wrath Counterparts: Gentleness, self-control, patience, and peace.
Scriptural References on Wrath: Colossians 3:8, Ephesians 4:26-27, James 1:19-20, Proverbs (14:29 and 15:1), Psalm 37:8, and Romans 12:19.
Envy is the desire for possessions, happiness, as well as the talents and abilities of others. Most envious people are sad and will go out of their way to get what other people have. According to them, the other person doesn’t deserve the wealth, talents, or status that they possess.
As you may already be aware, it’s through the devil’s envy for God’s throne that sin entered the world. It’s also because of envy that Cain murdered his brother, Abel.
Envy Counterparts: Love, joy, compassion, kindness, gratitude, and satisfaction.
Scriptural References on Envy: Ecclesiastes 4:4, Galatians 5:26, Job 5:2, Proverbs (14:30 and 24:19-20), and Psalm 37:1.
Pride is defined as an excessive love for oneself, belief in one’s abilities, the desire to excel everyone else. Pride is such a vile sin that it has often been considered as the root cause of the other six of the seven deadly sins.
It’s worth noting that pride, along with envy, are the reasons Satan was cast down from heaven. Since it’s an irrational feeling of self-worth, proud people never see their downfall coming.
Counterparts: humility, meekness, love for God and others, and appropriate self-worth.
Scriptural References on Pride: 1 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 6:3, Jeremiah 9:23-24, and Proverbs (8:13 and 16:18).
How Serious Are The Seven Deadly Sins?
In the eyes of God, all sins are equal. And according to Romans 6:23, God can forgive all sins if we humbly pray. However, certain sins bear more severe earthly consequences than others. For instance, a slothful employee may not be reprimanded as harshly as one who covets the company CEO’s position.
Still, the seven deadly sins not only stifle our spiritual but also our physical growth. The only way to overcome them is to continually seek the intervention of the Holy Spirit through prayer.