Gluttony? Laziness? Really Sins?
Q. I've often heard about the "seven deadly sins." Is this idea from the Bible? They aren't exactly the same as the sins found in the Ten Commandments. Are these things (like gluttony, vanity) really sins? How do you know when something like eating or vanity becomes sinful?
A. The Bible never lists them as a group of sins, but it certainly warns against each of them separately: pride, lust, anger, envy, greed, gluttony and sloth (laziness).
The concept of "seven deadly sins" came from Pope Gregory the Great around A.D. 600. He used the list to help people examine their lives for the basic sins that he felt led to all others. For instance, the sin of adultery (which is in the Ten Commandments), would probably have its roots in lust, although adultery could also be motivated by anger, envy, or one of the other seven deadlies, too.
How do you know when something like enjoying food becomes gluttony? Or when healthy self–image becomes pride? Or admiration becomes envy? There's no easy answer. But I'd suggest a brief self–test to help show you whether or not something natural and good is becoming sinful:
- Is it interfering with your ability to serve and love God?
- Does it affect your ability to relate to others?
- Is it producing love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self–control? Or is it producing something else—something more self–centered?
- Can you abstain from it without becoming resentful? One reason the Bible tells us to fast, to refrain from something for a while, is to demonstrate that it doesn't have a hold on our soul. (By the way, fasting is not just about food, but anything we might become obsessed with or addicted to, such as TV, music, text messaging and sleeping in.)
Think of the seven deadlies as they were originally designed—as an indicator of your spiritual health, similar to the way your doctor uses heart rate and blood pressure as indicators of physical health. Ask yourself: In what ways am I facing each of the seven deadlies today? How am I resisting these temptations and coming back to Christ for my spiritual vitality?
Marshall, a former pastor, is now editor of Leadership Journal, a magazine for pastors.
Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today/Ignite Your Faith magazine.
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