What Does the Bible Say about the Seven Deadly Sins?
- Candice Lucey Contributing Writer
- Updated Dec 10, 2023
Horror movies like Seven and Theater of Blood were inspired by the theme of the seven deadly sins. So where did the "Seven Deadly Sins" come from, and what does the Bible say about each one?
“Sin is defined as ‘an offense against the religious or moral law’ and a ‘transgression of the law of God,’” according to Lori Wildenberg in her article on the seven deadly sins. But are there really seven sins that are particularly bad and that could possibly separate someone from the love of God forever?
What Are the Seven Deadly Sins?
Lust, sloth, greed, gluttony, wrath, envy, and pride are considered to be the worst sins and most deadly for our souls. “The early Roman Catholic Church taught that these sins could not be forgiven,” according to Roger Barrier.
Although they still represent human depravity, “according to the Bible, these seven deadly sins are completely forgivable by God,” writes Barrier. They will not separate an authentic believer from the love of God.
We are all guilty of committing at least some of them some of the time: overeating at Christmas (gluttony), ignoring God’s direction for our lives (pride), being jealous of our friend’s new boat (envy), losing our temper (wrath), procrastinating (laziness), or fantasizing about being with someone we find attractive (lust). “Personally, I would [...] say that pride is the root of all sins,” added Barrier. But if they were deadly sins, no one would ever be saved for eternity with Christ.
Are the Seven Deadly Sins in the Bible?
The Bible does not categorize pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth as the 'seven deadly sins.' They are mentioned by different names in all kinds of places.
The Psalmist was right to counsel his readers to “refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” (37:8, emphasis added) The murder of Abel by his brother Cain was an example of how anger can grow into murderous malice. But we also see that envy and lust can lead to murder, as when David sent Uriah to the front lines because he had gotten Bathsheba pregnant and wanted to hide his sin.
The writer of Ecclesiastes observed: “I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4, emphasis added)
Greed and deceit led to the deaths of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5. They lied about their wealth, so God struck them down. In the Old Testament, Solomon had accumulated tremendous wealth, and although he was still considered wise, he was starting to turn away from the Lord and become prideful. 1 Kings 11 describes how “his wives turned away his heart after other gods.” (v.4). This is another example of the ways in which sins interact. Lust, greed, and pride overlap in Solomon’s case.
Proverbs and the rest of Scripture say a lot about the Seven Deadly Sins:
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace.” (Prov. 11:2, emphasis added);
One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. (Proverbs 29:23)
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)
“Put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite” or gluttony (Prov. 22:2)
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags. (Proverbs 23:21)
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:19)
“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor” (Prov. 12:24)
Proverbs 13:4 describes a slothful person as a “sluggard.”
1 Thessalonians 5:14 also tells us to “admonish the idle.”
Proverbs 5 counsels against adultery (lust) and the whiles of “a forbidden woman,” for “she is bitter as wormwood,” and “her feet go down to death.” (vv.3-5)
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. (Psalm 37:8)
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. (Proverbs 14:30)
“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy (envy)?” (Prov. 27:4, emphasis added)
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (1 Corinthians 13:4)
A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched. (Proverbs 28:25)
Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live. (Proverbs 15:27)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10)
Are These Sins Different from Any Other Sins?
Roger Barrier clarified that “the only sin which cannot be forgiven is the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.” Blaspheming means to reject the grace of God; to tune out his calling in your heart.
Jesus told his followers, “People can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” (Mark 3:28-29)
In the article “What is Blasphemy,” we learn that the Pharisees were accused of blasphemy because they rejected Christ when they should have recognized him for who he was.
Blasphemy is also identified as “Idolatry,” “Arrogance,” and “False Teaching.” These are summed up by Barrier as examples of “pride.” The arrogant idolator worships himself or herself and happily leads others astray, but as we learned above, these sins can be forgiven if a person realizes his sin, confesses it to God, and repents. Truly repent to the one true God, and you are not a blasphemer - you are saved.
What Is the Big Takeaway about Sin in the Bible?
James 4:2 says, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”
Sin is deadly because, when we sin, we turn our backs on God. We need to keep looking to our Father for direction and provision. There is nothing we really need that God will not provide. If we’re not asking God for what we want, that could be an indication that our desires aren’t holy, and we know it. They don’t line up with God’s teaching.
The Holy Spirit is moving in us to say, “Don’t do it,” or “that’s not good for you.” We want what God doesn’t want for us, and although it might seem as though we’ll die if we don’t get it, the Lord knows better. Pridefully thinking we know what’s best for us kills our faith life and our walk with him, and it destroys peace, but it won’t separate us from the love of God.
What’s the Solution to Sin?
Firstly, take a look at those seven sins, or examine one of the other lists such as the Ten Commandments, or 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which says that “neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” This is just another way of describing the sins already listed and remember: they are all forgivable. Ask yourself if you are committing any of the sins listed here.
For a model of how to avoid falling into the sin trap, read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, which describe people whose hearts reflect God’s heart. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (v.6). That is, learn to desire what the Lord desires, for this is the antidote to envy and gluttony. “The meek,” “peacemakers,” and the “merciful” are also blessed (vv.5, 7, 9).
Such people actively seek restored relationships. Their humility is an answer to pride. The pure at heart isn’t full of lust (v.8): they long for the Kingdom to come, they respect other people, and their ultimate goal is to know God better and to spread the gospel to all people who are lost. Those are their greatest desires. No one can always exemplify the Beatitudes all the time but remember that our Father in Heaven is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15). We can confess our sins without fear of rejection; we can also expect him to help us become more like his Son.
Sin is a fact of life, but God is working in every believer’s heart to root out those sins and to cleanse us. This isn’t a work we can accomplish on our own. If you feel as though one of the seven so-called “deadly” sins has a hold on your life, ask God to renew your heart today. Talk to a biblical counselor if you “lust” after drugs or alcohol to the point of addiction or if anger is controlling you and ruining your relationships. Whatever your battle is, for the one who calls on Jesus’ name for salvation, that battle has already been won in Christ’s precious name.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Javier_Art_Photography
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.
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