A Guide to the 7 Deadly Sins that Every Christian Needs to Know
- Crosswalk Editorial Staff
- 2021 6 Jan
We’ve heard about the seven deadly sins, whether in pop culture or from the pulpit. But what exactly are these sins? Are they really deadly? And how do we define each of them? We’ll dive into these questions and more in this comprehensive guide of the seven deadly sins.
What Are the 7 Deadly Sins? History and Overview
First, we need to establish a list of the seven deadly sins and then dissect each one and what it means and looks like.
“The most famous faces of sin are the Seven Deadly Sins. They are pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. The list is centuries old, found as frequently in literature and pop culture as in manuals of theology and devotion. Dante surveyed these sins in his tours through hell and purgatory in The Divine Comedy, Chaucer moralized about them in “The Parson’s Tale,” and Brad Pitt investigated a series of grisly murders based on the list in Se7en.
The first person to give us a list was a monk in the Eastern tradition named Evagrius of Pontus. In his treatise On the Eight Thoughts, Evagrius listed eight evil thoughts or “demons” that hound and harass the desert hermit. Evagrius’s work is basically a catalog of problems and temptations faced by the monk, each followed by a lengthy list of biblical passages to use in resistance.” —Brian Hedges
An Analysis of All 7 Deadly Sins
Although Scripture doesn’t outright list these seven sins (see below), let’s take a look at all seven of them and why these particular vices are sinister.
Pride: Augustine called pride the first of all sins. It is the sin that caused Satan to rebel in eternity past and to be kicked out of heaven, taking with him his fellow prideful angelic beings. There are several words in the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek that are translated into English as “pride," "haughty," and prideful.” For the sake of this article, we will summarize: when pride is attributed to God it is good. When pride is attributed to man, it is sin." A caveat to consider: In the English language, we often attribute what we might call the “godly pride” to a state of mind, or human response that is more properly intended to convey: “gratitude: e.g., when a parent sees her child obey her command, or when we stand for the national anthem. Of course, these and other forms of “godly pride,” i.e., “a sense of gratitude, fulfillment, or admiration,” can be, like other emotions, malevolently armed to become sinful weapons to boast, best, or belittle. —Dr. Michael A. Milton
Envy: Envy is feeling negatively towards another person because they are what you want to be or they got what you wanted to have. It arises from a scarcity mentality that involves believing that there are not enough blessings to go around and that God is stingy and withholding from you. Envy is different from jealousy. While envy’s eyes are glaring at the person who has received the blessing that it wishes to have, jealousy’s eyes are lasered in on what it currently has, feeling fearful that precious things will be taken away. Both can be going on in the same person at the same time, but the focus is different. A vivid example of envy in the Bible comes from 1 Kings 3. Two women who lived in the same house both had babies, and one of the babies died in the night with no one to witness it. Both women claimed that the living baby was hers, and they came to Solomon to settle the dispute. In order to force the truth into the open, Solomon acted as if he would cut the baby in two with a sword and give half to each woman. The woman who was truly the baby’s mother was horrified and said, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the lying woman brazenly said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” (1 Kings 3:26). The lying woman’s reaction is a perfect illustration of how envy is a life killer. —Jessica Udall
Wrath: Wrath transcends anger. It’s possible to be angry and keep our feelings and emotions in line so that we may respond properly. On the other hand, when anger degenerates to wrath our intentions turn to hurt and bringing pain to those who hurt us. While anger itself isn’t a sin, out of control anger and hate often lead to wrath which is a sin. When wrath begins to take over, we forget about forgiveness. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, ...for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord’”. (Romans 12:19). —Dr. Roger Barrier
Sloth: The short definition of “slothful” is simply laziness. Imagine a mom describing a sleep-deprived teenager (read this in your best mom voice; it’s more fun): “Oh, he’s slow-moving, takes no initiative, and lives in a mess. He acts like he can’t hear me. I have to ask him to do something 10 times before he reacts, and then you’d think I was inflicting pain on him. He’s just part of the couch, somehow blind to everything piling up around him.” This is certainly one aspect of laziness. Sleep deprivation, raging hormones, malnutrition, and stress can have an obvious impact on our energy. But there is another side to laziness that somehow slips under the radar. This is the darker side of it. I’ll spare you reading the next section in a Darth Vader voice, but you are welcome to if you’d like. The dark side is a lack of motivation from the inner man. One possible reason for being caught in sloth is fear. —Kyle Blevins
Greed: In Luke 12:15, Jesus warned us to be wary of every form of greed. So that must mean it can come in a variety of flavors. “Then He [Jesus] said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’” The Greek for this word Jesus used is pleonexia (Strong’s 4124), meaning covetousness, aggression, or desire for advantage. We can desire an advantage or covet just about anything! We can be greedy of someone’s talents, friends, or family. Maybe we covet the way someone just seems to have that golden touch of success when we work hard but seem to get little fruit. We can also be greedy about something that doesn’t belong to a particular person but is something more nebulous. For example, when we get excessively focused on reaching a goal: weight loss, personal organization, or acknowledgment in a career path. —April Motl
Gluttony: Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, a collection of seven sins that people identify as some of the biggest stumbling blocks in people’s lives. The seven sins are called deadly, in part, because of their consuming and destructive potential. Gluttony, is the sin associated with an unhealthy indulgence in material delights, usually food. However, it is not just eating to excess, but it can include drinking, screen time, lustful thoughts and behaviors, and similar types of obsessive love of material pleasure. It is creating an idol out of something material, often consumable. —Bethany Verrett
Lust: According to Baker's Biblical Dictionary, Lust is "a strong craving or desire, often of a sexual nature. Though used relatively infrequently (twenty-nine times) in Scripture, a common theme can be seen running through its occurrences. The word is never used in a positive context; rather, it is always seen in a negative light, relating primarily either to a strong desire for sexual immorality or idolatrous worship." Furthermore, Baker states "It is obvious from John's writings that our lusts do not come from God but from the world. However, we are reminded by John that the world and its desires (lusts) pass away, whereas "the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:16-17). Here we see that our lusts are in direct violation of God's perfect will, because they usually are misdirected, moving and leading us away from God to our own selfish desires. Our lusts have a very powerful influence on our actions if they are not caught and corrected immediately. We must remember that lust occurs in the mind and is not a physical action in and of itself. It does, however, have great potential of becoming an action — indeed a very damaging action. That is why we must heed the admonition of Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:5: "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." —Brittany Rust
Are the 7 Deadly Sins Unforgivable?
Christians can often place the seven deadly sins on a pedestal and claim they are worse than the other sins. Historically, the Roman Catholic church came up with the list after the canonicity of the Bible closed. Dr. Roger Barrier covers the historical implications of the seven deadly sins in Are These 7 Sins Really Deadly?
“The idea of the seven deadly sins isn’t new. The seven deadly sins have been around since early Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church came up with the list and declared that every possible sin was spawned from these seven. Personally, I would narrow it down and say that pride is the root of all sins.
These seven are often tied to Proverbs 6:16-19 where we find a list of the six things that God hates.
The only sin which cannot be forgiven is the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. This occurs when the Holy Spirit tells an individual that he/she needs to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. When that person says, “No, I don’t need him to forgive my sins,” he/she has called the Holy Spirit a liar which is the meaning of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. This is the unforgivable sin. God can forgive every sin except saying “no” to Jesus and his forgiveness of sin.” —Dr. Roger Barrier
Although God does forgive us of the seven deadly sins, we should make an effort to move away from incorporating any of them into our lifestyle. As Christians, we need to put to death our sinful nature and pursue the paths of righteousness. We may find ourselves more tempted by one of the sins in the list of seven more than others. No matter what the case, ask God to help provide a way to endure or escape the temptation of the seven deadly sins.
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This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.
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"Pray Without Ceasing"
"Fearfully and Wonderfully Made"
"All Things Work Together for Good"
"Do Not Fear"