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What are the seven deadly sins? What is right and wrong with this list?

The seven deadly sins are a collection of moral vices grouped together by some early church fathers. It was thought humans indulged excessively in earthly passions.  They also called these temptations cardinal sins. But who came up with this list of sins? Is this list from the Bible? How deadly are these sins compared to other sins? These are a few questions we will briefly address in this article.

Seven deadly sins showing an obese glutton

What are the seven deadly sins?

I have listed the seven sins that make it to this list below. I have also used Bible Dictionaries to provide a Bible-based definition of these sins with their appropriate references.

  1. Pride:

“Improper and excessive self-esteem known as conceit or arrogance” (Elwell, 1752). Pride makes us see ourselves better than others.

  1. Envy

“Sin of jealousy over the blessings and achievements of others” (Karlberg, 1996). Envy makes a person desire to have what another person has. You can imagine what might follow such a feeling.

  1. Greed or avarice

Excessive or reprehensible desire to acquire; covetousness (Brand, 2003). Greed makes someone engage in the extreme pursuit of wealth, riches or material possessions.

  1. Anger

A strong emotional reaction of displeasure, often leading to plans for revenge or punishment (Shogren, 1996). Anger is an intense feeling of displeasure with dislike and often hate towards another person.

  1. Lust

An intense craving or desire, often of a sexual nature (Akin, 1996). Lust is that feeling, often with a seemingly uncontrollable passion or desire often for sinful things. This is the mother of all sins and most specifically sexual sin.

  1. Gluttony

Greedy and voracious eating (Brand, 2003). The glutton just keeps eating, and after a meal, he or she wants to eat again.

  1. Sloth or idleness

“Laziness or unproductiveness. As work is hallowed by God’s working, idleness is regarded as a sin against oneself and society” (Manser, 2009). The slothful person is reluctant to work, hesitant to do anything and does not want to put in any effort to accomplish something.

Who came up with these seven deadly sins?

The origin of the seven cardinal sins dates back to Evagrius Ponticus who lived in 345-399 AD. Ponticus states that the nature of the sins included in this list is a reflection of his lifestyle. He was a Christian monk and practiced asceticism which is abstinence from every form of sensual pleasure and can be extreme to include abstinence from food. He is the one who first published a list of eight evil thoughts that served as the foundation for the seven deadly sins as we know today. These eight evil thoughts were -including gluttony, fornication, avarice, pride, sadness, wrath, boasting and dejection.

The Great Pope Gregory I modified this list to produce what is now the standard list of seven deadly sins. He added envy to the list and merged two other pairs. The Church later changed the sin of “sadness” into “sloth” in the seventeenth century.

But why did the Church adopt this list of cardinal sins? The intent was to form a doctrine that could easily be used to help the Christians easily remember these sins and thereby stop any of such practices. Please note that there were no printing presses with Bibles every where as we have today. Only the Clergy in those days had access to the Bible.

What is right and wrong about the 7 deadly sins doctrine?

The seven deadly mentions are not directly mentioned as such in a group in the Bible. However, every one of them is mentioned in the scripture as clearly sinful. This is similar to the word “Trinity” which does not appear in the Bible, but it is clearly evident in the scriptures. Let us look at a few things that are right about this classification and those that are wrong.

What they got right

  1. All of those vices are clearly portrayed in scripture as sin. Yes, the seven deadly sins are all sins indeed!
  2. Those sins are deadly! Since all of those vices are sins, they are therefore all deadly, so the early fathers were right in calling them deadly sins.

But that is all about what is of value in this classification and doctrine. So what is wrong or the limitation of his classification?

1. The early Church presented these sins as unpardonable, and so God will not forgive them. The intent of instilling fear in the people by the early Church can therefore be clearly seen. However, this was non-scripture and untrue. God will forgive every single one of these sins. The only sin that Christ told us is unpardonable in the New Testament is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (Matt. 12:31 KJV)

2. All sin is deadly, not just the seven they choose

Dead came into the world through the sin of disobedience, and the scripture clearly teaches us that the wages of sin is death.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 6:23 KJV)

All a moral attribute needs is for it to fit the category of sin and that will qualify it for death, whether the sin is “big or small”.

3. There is no special treatment in the scriptures for these seven sins

God did not specify these seven cardinal sins, the early Christian fathers did, based on the inclinations of a Christian monk who practiced asceticism. It comes as no doubt then that the focus of this list is on sins that have to do with sensual pleasures. The Bible however lists a group of sins in Proverbs 16 below. It is a sort of God’s version of the seven sins, but what He lists is different from what is in the seven deadly sins.

There are six things that the LORD hates and seven that are an abomination to him. These seven are haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Prov. 6:16-19 ESV)

What is deadly about sin in the first place?

 

7 deadly sins showing a skeleton in the desert

If there is one lesson from the seven deadly sins doctrine, it is that sin is deadly. But what does this mean? Many of you might be wondering what is deadly in sin in the first place given that we have all sinned but are still here! The issue is that when many of us hear of death, we think of the cessation of life here on the earth. This thought process dramatically hinders our understanding of what God says about death.

When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, he died immediately. Yet, he still walked around as if nothing had happened. His spirit died inside of him. Spiritual death is not a cessation of existence, but a realm or manner of existence. A dead spirit is not a non-existent spirit. It is instead a spirit existing in a realm without God. Every human being still has a spirit inside of them; the difference is whether the spirit is living or dead.

The death in the spirit eventually spills over into the soul, as spiritual death. The soul is the center of our life. The seven deadly sins above are just a handful of manifestations of death in the soul. Fear is a manifestation of death, as well as envy or lust. There are people walking around with a dead soul, full of bitterness, hate, pride, jealousy, or depression and fear. When God sees an unsaved person, He says they are dead though they might be “looking just fine” and going about their usual business. They may be living, but are dead.

Death in the spirit and soul ultimately shows up in the body. Adam died in his spirit and finally died physically about 900 years later. Death slowly worked its way into his body as it ages and possibly became weaker and weaker and even sickly at his end. A disease is the voice of death operating in the body of man to ultimately bring it to physical death.

When the life of a man is over who is unsaved, he is ultimately transferred to the fullness of death which is the absence of God in totality in hell and the lake of fire. Even though there is so much evil in the world today, God is still tangibly present. The joy you feel here and there or the peace and goodness you see around are all attributes of God. There is no peace, joy, love, hope or any such life virtues in hell and death. Those who say they do not want anything to do with God truly do not understand what they are saying. That is why we must pray for the unsaved, so that their eyes will be open to seeing the realities of death and the gift of salvation by Jesus. Sin is deadly. It starts killing a person here on earth and ultimately continues in hell and the lake of fire. God has made a way of escape for every man. We now have the option of escaping sin and death through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

Escaping the sting of the seven deadly sins

Sin kills, whether small or big. The only way out is to receive the forgiveness of sins and the new life that comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has decided to give man freedom from sin by grace because there it was impossible for us to save ourselves from the entanglement of sin. The scripture quoted above says;

 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 6:23 KJV)

It is so easy to receive salvation as noted below.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Rom. 10:9-10 ESV)

To learn more about salvation, please read  “What must I do to be saved? 

REFERENCES

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Pride. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1752). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Karlberg, M. W. (1996). Envy. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., p. 204). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Greed. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 688). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Shogren, G. S. (1996). Anger. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., p. 23). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Akin, D. L. (1996). Lust. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., p. 500). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Glutton. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 656). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

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