Understanding the 7 Deadly Sins: A Guide for Catholics - Lay Cistercians (2024)

Published July 27, 2023

There are different kinds of sins in the Bible. But in the Roman Catholic and Christian tradition, seven sins stand out from the rest. We know them as the 7 deadly sins.

As per Christian theology, sin is an immoral act that transgresses against divine law. The concept of labeling some sins as “deadly” started in the fourth century when the monk and theologian Evagrius Ponticus made a list of “eight evil thoughts” that can interfere with one’s spiritual practice. The list includes sadness, pride, vainglory, gluttony, lust, anger, avarice, and sloth.

Throughout the years and several translations later, the seven deadly sins were born.

What Are The 7 Deadly Sins?

From their name, you may think of the seven deadly sins as really despicable and unthinkable acts. Though they’re despicable, they’re far from unthinkable. In fact, these offenses are some of the most common sins committed by men.

Here are the seven deadly sins according to the Christian tradition:

1. Pride

Definition:

  • disinclination to action or labor;
  • spiritual apathy and inactivity;
  • facetiousness of the mind which neglects to being good (Summa Theologica)

Why is sloth a deadly sin?

Most of us think that sloth is the same as laziness. But sloth is more than just the reluctance to work or make an effort. It’s about your reluctance to leave your comfort zone.

But what makes wanting to stay in your comfort zone a deadly sin?

You see, all of us are on borrowed time. Not everyone is given the chance or has the talents and skills that we have. Thus, we should try to make the most out of our lives and our talents. If we continue to hide in our comfort zones and refuse to make an effort to make our lives better, it’s a disservice to God. It’s like taking everything that He has given us for granted.

The moment we stop thanking Him for everything we have, we start to drift away from Him. We begin to lose our sense of purpose and veer away from His commandments. This is what makes slothfulness such a deadly sin.

What the Bible Says About Sloth

Here are some of the Bible verses about sloth and indolence:

  • Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. (Ecclesiastes 10:18)
  • The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (Proverbs 13:4)
  • Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger. (Proverbs 19:15)
  • A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. (Proverbs 10:4)

Why Are They Called “Deadly Sins”?

Also known as capital or cardinal sins, the seven deadly sins are considered the root of all other sins. They are the sins that are fatal to our spiritual progress. Committing these transgressions can lead to committing various other kinds of immoral acts, which, in turn, can lead to the death of the soul.

To put it simply, deadly sins are called such because it causes spiritual death. As Evagrius Ponticus pointed out in his work Gnostic Centuries, our essential function as spiritual beings is to experience union with God. But committing these gross transgressions severs that union. As a result, we lose the capacity to experience God’s divine grace.

The origin of the word also gives us an idea of the severity of these acts. “Capital” comes from the Latin word “caput,” which means head. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his 13th-century book, Summa Theologica, explained that the head leads the body when committing a sin.

In the English language, “capital” also means “deadly.” For instance, a capital crime usually involves a loss of life and merits severe punishments. Thus, a “deadly sin” is a grave act that kills our souls and separates us from God.

How Can We Avoid the Seven Deadly Sins?

Yes, the seven deadly sins are some of the most common sins committed by men, but that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to avoid.

In the Christian tradition, the seven deadly sins can be avoided with the help of seven cardinal virtues such as:

  • Chastity
  • Charity
  • Diligence
  • Temperance
  • Kindness
  • Patience
  • Humility

If you notice, these seven virtues are the opposite of the seven deadly sins. Chastity can help temper lust, humility conquers pride, practicing charity can help you avoid greed, exercising temperance helps you tone down gluttony, kindness represses envy, patience can help you manage your anger, and making diligence a hobby can help you get rid of sloth and indolence. In short, practicing these cardinal virtues can take you out of spiritual death and back into God’s grace.

At the end of the day, we are all sinners. There’s no escaping it, it’s in human nature to sin. Even some of our most revered saints have committed sins in their lifetime. But what separates a true Christian from the rest is the humility to admit they’ve sinned and the willingness to repent and accept God’s grace once again.

Understanding the 7 Deadly Sins: A Guide for Catholics - Lay Cistercians (2024)
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