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Anybody who has been in or even around Christian culture has likely heard of something called the seven deadly sins. The term is thrown around a lot, but what are they actually? And why are they considered particularly deadly?
The 7 Deadly Sins
First, let’s understand sin. The definition of sin, in the most simple terms, is anything the Lord hates and, therefore, anything that separates us from Him.
The seven deadly sins are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth, all of which contradict the Ten Commandments. Also called cardinal sins or capital sins, these 7 transgressions were first listed in the sixth century by Pope Gregory I, also known as St. Gregory, and were then adopted into the catechism of the catholic church. Although these cardinal sins originated in Catholicism, they are a good thing to understand across all Christian denominations.
These particular sins earn the title of deadly sins, cardinal sins, or capital sins because they are a gateway or stepping-stone to other sins and are, therefore, harmful to our spiritual progress as we undergo the sanctification process. In the Catechism of the catholic church, it is said that they lead to spiritual death and eternal damnation. Of course, it is sin without repentance that leads us to eternal damnation, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus, committing these sins as a born-again believer does not result in complete spiritual death. You can still repent from these sins and continue in your spiritual growth.
Now, let’s break down each of the seven deadly sins one by one with applicable scripture.
Pride is simply defined as an excessive love for self-excellence, particularly one that exceeds a person’s love for others, as laid out in the Ten Commandments. Pride is considered a mortal sin because prioritizing one’s self-excellence above that of others so easily leads the way to more sin, such as a lying tongue, excessive desire for material goods (which is greed), and every other sin on this list.
As it was just mentioned, greed is the excessive desire for material goods and material wealth. The presence of greed in a Christian life means that there is a lack of the contentment we are called to in Christ Jesus. We are called to build up spiritual riches in heaven through our good works in this life. This strife for material goods and material wealth means nothing in the eyes of eternity and indicates a lack of trust in the Lord as the great provider.
Lust is defined as a strong desire of a sexual nature, and well, it’s obvious why this is one of the seven deadly sins. As followers of Jesus, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and should be treated as such. It is human nature to experience sexual desires, but that does not give an excuse to give into it, foster it, or even just let it stay in our bodies/minds/hearts/etc. Lust, of course, is a gateway to sexual immorality, which we are warned against numerous times by the word of the Heavenly Father.
To envy is to covet over, want, or be jealous of somebody else, whether it be their appearance, possessions, lifestyle, or quite literally anything under the sun. This particular one of the seven deadly sins or capital sins ties into greed as both are characterized by discontentment with one’s own life.
In the modern world of technology, specifically social media, that we live in today, overcoming envy can be especially difficult. The material goods and happy faces of others are constantly thrown at us, even if it’s completely fake, and we’re left wondering why we don’t have it as good as them. But God ensures us that He will never leave us without our needs, and that being rich on this earth means absolutely nothing to Him, the only one who’s opinion matters.
Gluttony is synonymous with overconsumption and typically applies to food and drink in the context of the seven deadly sins. This is not saying that getting super full at that buffet that one time was a mortal sin, but rather eating to that point on a regular basis. The mortal sin of gluttony also relates to the idea of treating our bodies as the temple that they are. Over-eating and drinking leads to unhealthy weight that harms our bodies from the inside out and can prevent us from being able to perform every task that may be set out for us as witnesses’ of Jesus’ love to the world.
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Although wrath and anger can be a holy, spiritual work, the wrath among the capital sins is of course not a good thing. This wrath directly contradicts the love we are called to have for others and leads to sinful mistreatment of them when left uncontrolled. Righteous anger stems from love and is of the Holy Spirit, while sinful anger stems from evil and is of the flesh of human nature.
Sloth, also referred to as laziness, is a direct neglect of the spiritual matters to which we are called in this life. There is a spiritual sloth, which is the neglect of the great commission, and physical laziness, which is the neglect of the work given to us to provide for our families. We are called to provide for our families and make disciples of great nations, and that can not be done on any scale without physical and mental effort. No matter how far out of your comfort zone it is, neglecting God’s calling is a grave sin.
Again, the seven deadly sins are thrown around all the time in and around Christian culture, whether they are understood or not. Labeled as the seven deadly sins, cardinal sins, or capital sins, as they are found in the catechism of the catholic church or left unlabeled, it is important to understand what can so easily creep into your life and cause a chain reaction of sin and stunt spiritual growth.
You may enjoy this series by Joyce Meyer on the 7 deadly sins.
Or one of these highly recommended resources on the 7 deadly sins:
Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”