Sin is deadly. As Romans 6:23 tells us, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." But why are particular sins known as the "Seven Deadly Sins"? Let's look at the historical and biblical context of this well-known phrase.
Definition of Sin
Sin is defined as "an offense against the religious or moral law" and a "transgression of the law of God." The biblical terminology of sin suggests that sin has three aspects: disobedience to or breach of the law, violation of relationships with people, and rebellion against God, which is the most basic concept.
What are the 7 Deadly Sins?
The seven deadly sins, as identified by Pope Gregory 1 in the late sixth century, are considered categories of sin:
- and Greed.
Many think the deadly seven are recorded in the Bible. Surprisingly, even though each of the seven is a sin, this list is not contained in Scripture. The history of this sin categorization began in the year 400.
Evagrius Ponticus a fourth-century monk, described eight evils to resist. Two centuries later Pope Gregory 1, refined the inventory to seven. Almost every sin can be placed in one of these seven categories. Isaiah 14:13-14 tells us pride and selfishness are related to each of the seven and are viewed as the root causes of all sin.
The Seven Deadly Sins in the Bible
Throughout the sweep of the Scripture, these seven specific sins are addressed. Perhaps Exodus, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and Galatians are some places where the deadly sins were identified.
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.
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him, 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.” (ESV)
This passage adds a few more sins to be aware of: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (ESV)
Sin is a serious, deadly business.
Can Deadly Sins be Forgiven?
Yes, God can forgive all sins. No sin is greater or more deadly than another (Romans 6:23). There are some sins that bear more earthly consequences than others. For instance, murder has larger consequences than sinful anger. No matter the sin, the eternal consequences are the same — separation from a holy God. But no sin is too big or too bad that God cannot forgive.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." ~ 1 John 1:9
"And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." ~ Mark 11:25
7 Deadly Sins: Their Meanings and What the Bible Says
By living out godly characteristics and growing in the fruit of the Spirit, Christians can combat the seven deadly sins in their lives.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
1. Pride. Definition: the quality or state of being proud: such as inordinate self-esteem, conceit
Counterpart: Humility, meekness, love God, love others, appropriate self-worth
2. Envy. Definition: painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage
Counterpart: love, joy, thankfulness, compassion, satisfaction
3. Wrath. Definition: strong vengeful anger or indignation
Counterpart: peace, gentleness, self-control
4. Gluttony. Definition: excessive indulgence (typically food or drink)
Counterpart: self-control, contentment, patience, discernment
5. Lust. Definition: intense or unbridled (sexual) desire, lasciviousness
Counterpart: love, unselfishness
6. Sloth. Definition: disinclination to action or labor, spiritual apathy, and inactivity
Counterpart: perseverance, diligence, servanthood
7. Greed. Definition: a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed (material goods)
Counterpart: Generosity, kindness
How to Deal with Guilt of Sin
In reading over the sin descriptions, we realize we are guilty of committing all of these at one time or another. All sin, according to Romans 6:23, results in death. Paul perfectly captures the human condition in Romans 7:21-25 (NIV):
“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Jesus shows, tells, and empowers us to raise our standards from fleshly to spiritual. He commands us to love others as we love ourselves and love God with our heart, mind, body, and soul (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12: 30-31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9). When we fix our eyes on Jesus and choose to look more like him, we will be more aware of our own areas of weakness.
We can choose to adjust our thinking and actions by replacing our thoughts with things that are good and honorable with prayer while looking to Jesus as our teacher and savior. The Lord accepts us as we are, yet he doesn’t leave us there. He wants us to resemble Him, our Heavenly Father. To combat our sinful nature, prayer is our weapon. We can pray what I call a replacement prayer.
Lord, replace my pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, sloth, and greed with love for others and love for you. Give me eyes see others as you see them. Help me view myself in the proper perspective. Change my heart of stone to reflect your heart so I am content and satisfied with the skills, talents, and gifts you have given to me. When I feel hurt, offended, or angry show me how to positively deal with my pain in a way that glorifies you and honors others. I want to look more like you, Lord, and less like me. Amen
Sin isn’t just bad or immoral behavior. It is an issue of the heart. We all sin, and that sin separates us from the Lord and others. But praise God for the great good news that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8). Salvation cannot be earned. It is God’s gift of grace so no one can boast. We can be forgiven of all sin, even the big seven, by His grace through faith in Christ (Acts 10:23).
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
AllAboutGod.com, “What Are the Seven Deadly Sins.”; BibleAsk.org, “What is the root of sin? Is it human will, and if so, why does God not intervene?”; BibleInfo.com, “What are the seven deadly sins?”; BibleGateway.com, Hebrews 11:6; GotQuestions.org, “What are the seven deadly sins?”; Merriam-Webster.com, “pride,” “envy,” “wrath,” “gluttony,” “lust,” “sloth,” and “greed.”
Lori Wildenberg, speaker, parent coach, and author of 5 parenting books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home and Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connection. For more information go to www.loriwildenberg.com.
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