7 deadly sins

How 7 Deadly Sins Began as 8 Evil Thoughts

Which of the 7 deadly sins do you find yourself succumbing to? And who determined what they are?

In the fourth century, a Christian monk named Evagrius Ponticus wrote down what’s known as the “eight evil thoughts”: gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, sloth, sadness, vainglory and pride.

Evagrius wasn’t writing for a general audience. As an ascetic monk in the Eastern Christian church, he was writing to other monks about how these eight thoughts could interfere with their spiritual practice. Evagrius’ student, John Cassian, brought these ideas to the Western church, where they were translated from Greek to Latin. In the sixth century, St. Gregory the Great—who would become Pope Gregory I—rearranged them in his commentary on the Book of Job, removing “sloth” and adding “envy.” Instead of giving “pride” its own place on the list, he described it as the ruler of the other seven vices, which became known as the seven deadly sins.

“They’re called ‘mortal’ or ‘deadly’ because they lead to the death of the soul,” says Richard G. Newhauser, an English professor at Arizona State University who has edited books about the seven deadly sins. “Committing one of these mortal sins and not confessing, not doing penance and so on, will result in the death of the soul. And then you’ll be in hell for eternity, or your soul will be in hell for eternity.”

Thomas Aquinas Revisits the List

Fast forward to the 13th century, when theologian Thomas Aquinas again revisited the list in Summa Theologica (“Summary of Theology”). In his list, he brought back “sloth” and eliminated “sadness.” Like Gregory, Aquinas described “pride” as the overarching ruler of the seven sins. The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s current capital sins are basically the same as Aquinas’, except that “pride” replaces “vainglory.”

The seven deadly sins were a popular motif in medieval art and literature, and this likely helped them persist as a concept through the centuries, eventually entering film and television. The movies Se7en (1995) and Shazam (2019) both deal with the seven deadly sins. Even on Gilligan’s Island, the American sitcom that aired from 1964-1967, each character was supposed to represent a different deadly sin, according to the show’s creator (Gilligan was “sloth”). Here, we take a look at the list that has fascinated people for so long.

1. Vainglory / Pride

Lists of the seven sins often use vainglory and pride interchangeably. But technically, they’re not the same thing, says Kevin M. Clarke, a professor of scripture and patristics at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University who has edited a book of historical writings on the seven deadly sins.

“Vainglory is kind of like that vice that makes us check our ‘like’ counts on social media,” he says. “Vainglory is where we seek human acclaim.” In contrast, “pride is a sin where I essentially take spiritual credit for what I’ve done,” instead of “ascribing one’s good deeds to God.”

There is an extensive array of things of which humans are proud- some understandable. others definitely not. You can find more @ Pride-the Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

2. Avarice

“Gregory the Great wrote that avarice is not just a desire for wealth but for honors [and] high positions,” Newhauser says. “So he was aware that things that we would consider as immaterial could also be the object of avarice.” While some of the sins may vary between lists, avarice or greed shows up on all of them.

Avarice / Greed makes a huge impact on our lives and our planet. This article discusses some and what we can do about them. 10 Ways to Save God’s Priceless Creation.

3. Envy

“Evagrius doesn’t have envy in his list,” Clarke says, but Evagrius did include sadness. “Sadness is closely related to envy because envy concerns really two things: One is joy at another’s misfortune and the other is sorrow at the fortune of someone else.”

Gregory articulated this when he added envy to his list of vices, writing that envy engendered “exultation at the misfortunes of a neighbor, and affliction at his prosperity.”

There are aspects of envy that we can control with the flip of a switch. See when to do it @ Advertising Creates Fear.

4. Wrath

Anger can be a normal reaction to injustice, but wrath is something more. The Catechism says that “If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin.” Medieval artists depicted wrath with scenes of people fighting as well as scenes of suicide.

Unjustified wrath continues today as can be seen in this article on prejudice and how to overcome it. Reversing the Little Known Causes of Prejudice.

5. Lust

Lust is so broad that it encompasses sex outside of heterosexual marriage as well as sex inside of heterosexual marriage. The Catechism defines lust as a “disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.”

Of all the sins, this is probably the one on which public opinion has changed the most. Although the Catholic church officially opposes birth control and same-sex marriage, polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center show that the majority of Catholics in the United States believe the church should permit birth control and that same-sex marriage should remain legal.

6. Gluttony

Early Christian theologians understood gluttony to include drinking too much alcohol and desiring too much fine food, in addition to overeating.

“If I just simply have to have the most delicate food, the most expensive food, that can be a form of gluttony,” Clarke says.

If Lust or Gluttony are your downfalls, this article includes a few suggestions on how to overcome them. 3 Ways to Conquer Temptation.

7. Sloth

Sloth has come to mean “laziness” today, but for early Christian theologians, it meant “a lack of care for performing spiritual duties,” Newhauser says. Although Gregory didn’t include sloth in his list of seven sins, he did mention it when talking about the sin of sadness or melancholy, writing that melancholy causes “slothfulness in fulfilling the commands.”

When Aquinas replaced sadness with sloth in his list of capital sins, he maintained a connecting between the two. “Sloth is a kind of sadness,” he wrote, “whereby a man becomes sluggish in spiritual exercises because they weary the body.” 

Some sources theorize that laziness is the original sin as discussed in this article Imprisoned in My Bones.

Reference

A substantial portion of this article was written by Becky Little, a journalist in Washington, D.C. and frequent contributor to the History Channel’s website. . Follow her on Twitter at @MsBeckyLittle.

Jesus healing bed ridden woman with observers

Christ’s Living Water Revives Cancer Victim / Spiritual Meditations

Many of us pray for healing every day.  Some of us are healed by the medical interventions developed from God’s original creation of molecules, radiation, gravity and more.  Some of us continue to suffer and pray, asking “How long must I wait, God“.  And a few of us receive miraculous healings of serious conditions or death. 

Just such an experience is recounted by my friend, Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich in his book The Long Road to Eternity available on Amazon.  The following is an excerpt.


In June of 1996 I attended the Annual Conference meeting of the Wyoming Annual Conference that was being held partially at the Elm Park United Methodist Church in Scranton and partly at the campus of the University of Scranton. Little did I know that a minister’s meeting would be the site of one of the greatest miracles of my life.

Pentecost had been several weeks before and the sermon I wrote for that Pentecost had inspired me to take up a new spiritual discipline: for the several weeks between Pentecost and Annual Conference I had been using a daily spiritual exercise aimed at helping me to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

In the opening session of the Annual Conference, it was tradition,  after a few preliminary remarks, to stand and sing together the old Methodist hymn that John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) supposedly used in opening his annual conference meetings: “And Are We Yet Alive.”  I was sitting near the back of the huge room which was the campus gymnasium. As I stood to sing, I was thinking how wonderful it was to be with my clergy brothers and sisters: the only ones who truly know how difficult it is to serve as a pastor.

As we began singing, I suddenly could see the Holy Spirit sweeping back and forth across the sea of heads in front of me. It looked like what I had seen it in my upper room at Fire Island – beautiful, golden, shimmering, and transparent except that now instead of a slow steady cloud descending and filling the room, it was washing back and forth just over everyone’s head about a foot high like a little wave. 

(The Fire Island experience can be read at Her Rejection Forced My Forgiveness)

I watched it for only a few seconds when suddenly, as everyone continued to sing, the Holy Spirit swept towards me and up over my head and then it came down on me with such power that it knocked me to my seat. I sat back in my chair as the Spirit washed over me; it was the same feeling of water that I experienced when God saved my sister. But now, instead of washing through me and lifting off again and drifting away, this time the Spirit did not leave. It felt like a heavy physical presence. If you have ever been in a swimming pool, lake, or ocean with all your clothes on, you remember how  your clothes sort of stick to you when you get out; that is how it felt.  But instead of wet clothing, it felt like an inch deep layer of water was sloshing over my whole body.

(You can read how God saved Pastor Tim’s sister at A Miraculous Intervention by Accident)

Though I had never experienced this before I sensed immediately that this was the living water of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was speaking about in John (7:36-39):

“On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said, “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him…)”

So, this was the physical presence of the living water of the Holy Spirit resting on me. But it was also a spiritual presence within  creating a sense of overflowing joy. I sat enraptured, amazed at the sense of water around my body. Then I became self-conscious – everyone around me was standing and singing.  Not wanting anyone to think I was ill; I stood and rejoined the singing; what else was I to do?

As the singing came to an end there was a message on the bottom of the big screen that the words to the music and the conference announcements were given on; “Tim Ehrlich go to the information table.” A call had come in for me: Annalee Bell, who I didn’t know, but whose daughter and her husband attended my Gouldsboro church, was dying from lung cancer. She was unconscious at Moses Taylor hospital. The doctors had just told the family that Annalee’s death was imminent, and they had all gathered in her room and were hoping I could come and pray with them and her before she died.

The hospital was a short distance from the Conference. Driving there, I was still within a layer of the living waters. Walked down the hall to her room, I felt a bit like a walking water balloon as the water sloshing back and forth around me with each step. Closer to the room, I started quieting laughing because I knew what was about to happen.

I entered the room and found over a dozen family members. Annalee was unconscious and her breathing was labored. She had what I have heard too many times – the “death rattle;” a sort of gurgling sound with each breath. It meant her lungs were filling with fluid and she was slowly suffocating. After making very quick customary greetings, we gathered around her bed forming a circle and held hands. I held someone’s hand with my right hand and with my left hand I held Annalee’s hand. As I began to pray, I could feel the living waters running down my arm into Annalee. I continued to hold her hand and pray until I felt the water had all emptied from me into her.

After a short time, I said goodbye to the family and left to get back to the Conference. Two hours later the conference broke for lunch and I went back to Annalee’s hospital room. Most of the crowd of family members was still there and Annalee’s breathing was much better. There was no more death rattle in her breathing, and she was stirring and appeared semi-conscious. I called her name, and she opened her eyes and looked at me.

I told her who I was and asked if she wanted me to pray for her. She nodded and again we circled up and prayed for her. There was no living water still in me, but I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in the room and within our circle of hands as we prayed. Again, I returned to Conference.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20)

After the last session of the Conference in the late afternoon I drove back to her hospital room once again. This time I found her fully conscious, sitting up in bed eating something off a tray table and watching TV; only two family members were still in her room and they were incredulous at her condition.

The next evening, I visited after the last conference session and this time I found her about to be discharged to go home. Annalee had lung cancer; I visited her at her home a few weeks later and she was back to smoking cigarettes. She lived several more years.

Conclusion

Annalee’s miracle presents a curious theological question: she never attended church before or even after her miraculous recovery; she resumed smoking immediately as if spurning God’s miraculous work in her; and in general, she seemed perpetually cross and negative. So, I often wondered – why her? As far as I can tell there was no special thing about her that would make her a likely recipient of a miracle. I believe that her daughter Pat was probably the one the miracle was intended for.

Pat was a wonderful Christian. The same year that her mom almost died her husband contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease and passed within a few months, so perhaps God provided that miracle to help Pat get through the death of her husband. In any case I have put this experience in the category of: God is sometimes mysterious in His actions, and we must trust that He knows what He is doing.

Other accounts of miraculous healings can be read at:

Family Astonished by Son’s Faith Healing

An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing

Walking Miracles When God Heals

A Thought-Provoking Question That You Might Face

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Relevant Scripture

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”(John 7:38)

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? (Matt 5:45-46)

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”  The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. (Luke 7:12-15)