What Is the Sin of Sloth? [The 7 Deadly Sins]

Sloth has always been an especially notorious sin in the Christian church because it’s a behavior (or lack thereof) that is highlighted in the Bible as ungodly. Sloth is even one of the Seven Deadly Sins according to the Roman Catholic Church. What exactly is sloth and why is it sinful?

Sloth means laziness. It’s sinful because God designed people to work and serve others. Work is important because it’s how people provide and care for their families, help their neighbors and community, or use the gifts God gave them for his glory.

What does the Bible teach about sloth? Why is sloth considered one of the “seven deadly sins” in Roman Catholicism? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also, see Is Manifestation A Sin? to learn more about the Bible’s teachings.

sloth lazy
What Bible verses teach about sloth? See below

What Does the Bible Teach about Sloth?

In the 21st century, many people tend to use synonyms like “laziness” or “idleness” instead of the word sloth in common speech.

Part of the reason why people don’t use the word “sloth” in this way is that they associate the word with the animal that has the same name.

The sloth, a mammal found in Central and South America, is so named because of the slowness of its movement.

Nevertheless, understanding the Bible’s teaching on sloth is crucial for spiritual growth.

It helps us recognize and address apathy, fostering a deeper connection to our faith and moral responsibilities.

Old Testament
shiphluth: a sinking or slackness, i.e. negligence (e.g. Ecc. 10:18)
New Testament
oknéros: shrinking, timid, hence idle, lazy, troublesome (e.g. Matt. 25:26)
Modern EnglishOriginated in the 12th century; its meaning “indolence, sluggishness; formed from Middle English slou; replaced Old English slæwð “sloth, indolence”; sense of “slowness, tardiness” is from the 14th century

Scripture contains many warnings about the dangers of sloth. Older Bible translations tend to use the word “sloth” more than modern ones, which prefer terms like lazy, idle, and sluggard.

For example, Proverbs 13:4 reads, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”

Also, Proverbs 19:15 reads, “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.”

What Is the Nature of Sloth?

The nature of sloth is often misunderstood. While it’s commonly associated with laziness, sloth encompasses more than just physical inactivity.

It can manifest as apathy, a lack of spiritual discipline, or even a disdain for life itself.

In the context of the Seven Deadly Sins, sloth represents a failure to appreciate the world around us and to fulfill our spiritual and moral obligations.

It’s a sin that can take many forms, from neglecting prayer and church attendance to ignoring the needs of others.

Sloth and Spiritual Discipline

Sloth and spiritual discipline are closely intertwined. It often manifests as a lack of spiritual discipline, including neglecting prayer, church attendance, and service to others.

Spiritual discipline is essential for combating sloth, as it helps us connect with a higher power and find purpose in life.

By engaging in regular prayer and attending church, we can cultivate a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the world around us.

Serving others, too, helps us overcome apathy and find fulfillment in helping those in need. In essence, spiritual discipline is a powerful antidote to the sin of sloth.

Sloth and Social Involvement

Sloth extends beyond personal apathy to impact social involvement.

A slothful attitude can lead to a lack of engagement in societal issues, allowing injustices to persist unchallenged.

In contrast, active participation in social and political matters is a powerful antidote to sloth.

By fighting for the marginalized and expressing gratitude for the opportunities we have, we can counteract the apathy that characterizes sloth.

Involvement in social causes not only benefits society but also enriches our own lives, fostering a sense of purpose and connection to the world around us.

Overcoming Sloth

Overcoming sloth requires intentional effort and a commitment to spiritual discipline.

Engaging in regular prayer, attending church, and serving others can help counteract the apathy that characterizes sloth.

Additionally, taking time off from work to nurture a creative and spiritual life can be beneficial.

By cultivating gratitude and actively participating in social and political causes, we can find a deeper sense of purpose and connection to the world around us.

Ultimately, overcoming sloth is about embracing the richness of life, appreciating the opportunities we have, and fulfilling our spiritual and moral obligations.

Also, see Is It A Sin to Commit Suicide? to learn more about the Bible’s teachings.

laziness in the Bible
Why is sloth a “deadly” sin? See below

Why Is Sloth One of the Seven Deadly Sins?

The Seven Deadly Sins are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. These sins characterize fallen humanity, according to the Roman Catholic Church.

The so-called “seven deadly sins” are not found altogether in the same verse or passage in either the Old Testament or the New Testament.

However, many Catholics believe that they summarize the teachings of the Bible on the subject of sin.

How does the Catholic Church classify the seven sins?

The seven deadly sins are cardinal sins (i.e. mortal wrongdoing), as opposed to venial sins (i.e. minor wrongdoing). Protestant Christianity doesn’t make this distinction.

Do Protestant denominations and churches utilize the list?

Some Protestants do, but most don’t. Although the list of the seven deadly sins was established well before the Protestant Reformation, the teaching has been embedded into Roman Catholicism in a way that it has not been in most Protestant churches.

Protestant theology would agree that the seven vices on the list are sins, but it generally doesn’t make a distinction between mortal and venial sins in the same way Roman Catholicism does.

What is the purpose of the list?

The seven deadly sins have been used to summarize the condition of fallen humanity for the purposes of education and edification.

In other words, they teach people about what displeases God, and avoiding them enhances the believer’s efforts to live as a Christian.

Also, see Is It A Sin to Kiss? to learn more about the Bible’s teachings.

The Seven Deadly Sins in the Bible

The Bible includes lists of sins, though none align exactly with the traditional seven deadly sins (e.g. Prov. 6:16-19). Below are examples of Bible passages for each of the seven deadly sins.

lustGen. 3:6, Job 31:9, Pro. 6:24-25, Matt. 5:28, 1 Cor. 9:27, 1 Tim. 6:9
gluttonyEx. 16:20-21, Num. 11:32-33, Luke 12:19-20, Rom. 13:13-14
greedEx. 20:17, Neh. 5:7, Job 20:15, 31:24, Matt. 16:26, 1 Cor. 5:11
slothPro. 6:6, 10:4-5, Matt. 25:27, Rom. 12:11, 2 Thess. 3:10, Heb. 6:12
wrathPs. 37:8, Pro. 6:34, 14:17, Matt. 5:22, 2 Cor. 12:20, Eph. 4:26
envyPs. 37:1, 49:16, 73:3, Rom. 1:29, 1 Cor. 13:4, 1 Tim. 6:4-5
prideDeut. 8:17, 1 Sam. 2:3, Pro. 8:13, 11:2, Matt. 20:26, Luke 18:14

Who was Evagrius Ponticus?

The seven deadly sins can be traced back to the 4th century A.D., when a monk named Evagrius Ponticus generated his own sin list, likely stemming from problems he saw in his own day. His list included the following sins:

  • gluttony
  • fornication/prostitution
  • greed
  • pride
  • sadness (i.e. envy – sadness at another’s good fortune)
  • wrath
  • boasting (i.e. a verbal proclamation of inner pride)
  • dejection (i.e. gloominess, depression)

Evagrius’ list proved to have staying power in the Church and was translated from Greek into Latin and used for educational and devotional purposes.

What sins were on Pope Gregory I’s list?

In 590 Pope Gregory I revised Evagrius’ list, although the essence remained the same.

Gregory’s list included sloth (a combination of three of the sins on Evagrius’ list), greed, pride, lust, gluttony, wrath, and added envy.

Gregory also emphasized an order to the list: (1) lust, (2) gluttony, (3) greed, (4) sloth, (5) wrath, (6) envy, and (7) pride.

Gregory’s list, and its order, was cemented into Roman Catholic tradition for centuries to come when the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) used them in his epic tale, The Divine Comedy.

Also, see Is Cussing A Sin? to learn more about the Bible’s teachings.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does Sloth Relate to Spiritual Discipline?

Sloth is often manifested as a lack of spiritual discipline, including neglecting prayer and service to others.

By engaging in spiritual practices, we can combat the apathy of sloth and find a deeper sense of purpose and connection to the world around us.

Spiritual discipline is key to overcoming sloth.

Why did early Christians use the word acedia?

Acedia, a term used by early Christians, describes a state of spiritual apathy or lack of care.

It is closely related to sloth, representing a soul too weary to engage in spiritual practices.

Acedia embodies the indifference and neglect of spiritual and moral responsibilities that characterize sloth.

Is Sloth the Same as Depression?

Sloth and depression are distinct concepts. Sloth is a sin characterized by apathy and a lack of spiritual discipline, while depression is a mental health condition.

Both can manifest as disengagement from life, but their causes and solutions differ. It’s important to recognize and address them separately.

Also, see Is Jealousy A Sin? to learn more about the Bible’s teachings.

[1] The Seven Deadly Sins – Wikipedia
[2] Sloth – Britannica
[3] Sloth – Dictionary.com
[4] Biblehub.com

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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