This is part 2 in my blog series on the seven deadly sins. If you would like to read part 1 please click here. In this post I aim to show that the list of seven sins is legitimate and that it ultimately summarizes all other sin.
Are you the listing type? There is really no middle ground. We are either list-lovers or list-loathers. I am personally a list-guy (to a fault). I have shopping lists in the notes of my phone, lists of scriptures, goals, and processes plastered on my office bulletin board, list-making apps, cryptic stickynote lists stuck everywhere, and even lists written on my hands from time to time.
This is not a lesson on productivity-styles or how to madden yourself with to-do’s but have you ever thought about how many lists are in the Bible? There are the 10 Commandments (Ex. 20), the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12), the offices of ministry (Eph. 4), the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5), the characteristics of deacons and elders (1 Tim. 3) and numerous lists of sins (here are a few examples - Mk. 7:20-23, Rm. 1:29-31, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21, 1 Tim. 1:8-11, Rev. 21:8). A quick Google search indicates that the New Testament alone lists about 125 unique sins.
So why am I interested in this shorter list of seven? Because I believe it’s a helpful and memorable diagnostic tool, further, I believe the other 100+ sins that the New Testament mentions are encapsulated in one of the seven headings (pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, lust).
Check out this quote from the book Killjoys: The reason the church has so long liked to talk about these seven sins is because they represent the rest. More precisely, these seven sins have been considered the sources of species of sin - root level sins from which a host of other sins often spring. - pg. 2
Earlier in the book, the seven deadly sins are referred to as the most promiscuous and prevalent in history [which] have seduced the sinful in every culture on every continent through every generation. - pg. viii
The illustration of a tree helps explain how the seven effectively represent the rest. Pride is the taproot and primary nourishment for all sin. In so being, it has plunged it’s leading root deep into the soil of our hearts. Because of this, a secondary root system establishes (the other 6 deadly sins). Remember, this entire work of establishment is taking place below the soil line (your heart). Before you know it, there is observable growth above the ground. The parallel here is that sin is beginning to visibly manifest but may still be more or less indistinct and hard to define. This is what will eventually be called the trunk in an established tree. From the trunk come branches and limbs and eventually a more distinct form of growth, such as a flower or fruit. No one sees shimmering red apples growing on a tree and says “what a pretty pinecone!” At this point sin becomes a distinct species (ie. not just lust but adultery against your wife, not just anger but verbally abusing your children).
My hope is that with the list distilled down to seven root sins we can better study the nature and characteristics of our own struggles with sin. I dare all of us to labor in the work of not just picking fruit or identifying trees but to pray and invite counsel and to study in order to know the roots that are most entrenched in our lives. These roots are nothing less than little gods that want to ruthlessly reign over your life. Would you pray with psalmist, ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ - Psalm 139:23-24
Remember, we don’t enter this work hopeless and alone. We have the forgiveness and healing of Jesus, who has disarmed Satan (Col. 2:13-15), the aid of the Holy Spirit, who wants to put sin to death (Rom. 8:13) and the counsel of brothers and sisters in the faith, which spurs us on towards godliness (Heb. 10:24).
The great Puritan John Owen wrote, “Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of your sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and you will die a conqueror; yea, you will, through the good providence of God, live to see your lust dead at your feet.”