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Sloth is one of the seven capital sins. It is the most difficult sin to define, and to credit as sin, since it refers to a peculiar jumble of notions, dating from antiquity and including mental, spiritual, pathological, and physical states.[1] One definition is: a habitual disinclination to exertion.[2]

Views concerning the virtue of work to support society and further God's plan suggest that on the contrary, through inactivity, one invites sin. "For Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do." ("Against Idleness and Mischief" by Isaac Watts).



The word "sloth" is a translation of the Latin term acedia (Middle English, accidie) and means "without care". Spiritually, acedia first referred to an affliction attending religious persons, especially monks, wherein they became indifferent to their duties and obligations to God. Mentally, acedia, has a number of distinctive components of which the most important is affectlessness, a lack of any feeling about self or other, a mind-state that gives rise to boredom, rancor, apathy, and a passive inert or sluggish mentation. Physically, acedia is fundamentally with a cessation of motion and an indifference to work; it finds expression in laziness, idleness, and indolence.[1] Two commentators consider the most accurate translation of acedia to be "self-pity," for it "conveys both the melancholy of the condition and self-centeredness upon which it is founded."[3]


In his Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas Aquinas defined sloth as "sorrow about spiritual good" and as "sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good... [it] is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds."[4] According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness."[5]

Sloth includes ignoring the seven gifts of grace given by the Holy Ghost (wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord); such disregard may lead to the slowing of spiritual progress towards eternal life, to the neglect of manifold duties of charity towards the neighbour, and to animosity towards those who love God.[6]

Unlike the other capital sins,[citation needed] in which the sinner commits immoral acts,[citation needed] sloth is a sin of omission of desire and/or performance. It may arise from any of the other capital vices; for example, a son may omit his duty to his father through anger. While the state and habit of sloth is a mortal sin, the habit of the soul tending towards the last mortal state of sloth is not mortal in and of itself except under certain circumstances.[6]


In the Philokalia, the word dejection is used instead of sloth, for the person who falls into dejection will lose interest in life.


It is also one of the five hindrances in Buddhism.


Sloth has also been defined as a failure to do things that one should do, though the understanding of the sin in antiquity was that this laziness or lack of work was simply a symptom of the vice of apathy or indifference, particularly an apathy or boredom with God.[7][better source needed] Edmund Burke (1729-1797) wrote in Present Discontents (II. 78) "No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united Cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."[further explanation needed]

Emotionally and cognitively, the evil of acedia finds expression in a lack of any feeling for the world, for the people in it, or for the self. Acedia takes form as an alienation of the sentient self first from the world and then from itself. Although the most profound versions of this condition are found in a withdrawal from all forms of participation in or care for others or oneself, a lesser but more noisome element was also noted by theologians. From tristitia, asserted Gregory the Great, "there arise malice, rancour, cowardice, [and] despair..." Geoffrey Chaucer, too, dealt with this attribute of acedia, counting the characteristics of the sin to include despair, somnolence, idleness, tardiness, negligence, indolence, and wrawnesse, the last variously translated as "anger" or better as "peevishness". For Chaucer, human's sin consists of languishing and holding back, refusing to undertake works of goodness because, he/she tells him/her self, the circumstances surrounding the establishment of good are too grievous and too difficult to suffer. Acedia in Chaucer's view is thus the enemy of every source and motive for work.[8]

Sloth not only subverts the livelihood of the body, taking no care for its day-to-day provisions, but also slows down the mind, halting its attention to matters of great importance. Sloth hinders man in his righteous undertakings and becomes a path to ruin.[8]

According to Peter Binsfeld's Binsfeld's Classification of Demons, Belphegor is the chief demon of the sin Sloth.[9]

Laziness in the BibleEdit

Although, as defined above, sloth is more akin to apathy and inactivity, many English speakers narrow it to mean simple laziness,(Proverbs 10:4, Proverbs 12:27, Proverbs 15:19, Matthew 25:25-30) about which the Bible makes many comments. (Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Romans 12:11; Lazy people consider themselves smarter than seven wise counselors. Proverbs 26:16; Lazy people irritate their employers, like vinegar to the teeth or smoke in the eyes. Proverbs 10:26)

Lazy person falls prey to poverty

Ridiculously indolent[10] and a lover of sleep,[11] the lazy person sees lions all over the street[12] his desires ″kill″ him[13] because ″his hands refuse whatever to labour″,[14] and his path becomes a ″hedge of thorns″...[15] while he is wiser than seven sensible men in his own eyes....[16] His household becomes a real ruin[17] and he falls prey to his ″want″ (scarcity) coming like an armed person and in the end to poverty, coming upon him like a robber.[18] The sluggard (lazy person) will share this fate with the talkative person, with dreamers that ″watch the wind″ or ″regard the clouds″[19] and with those who ″chase fantasies″ (follow worthless pursuits).[20]

The employed lazy person and the rich lazy person

If, however, this lazy person is the type that, eventually, ″takes his food to mouth″[21] (because there is a type of lazy person who doesn’t even take his food to mouth[22]) and has a job, he is like ″vinegar to the teeth″ and ″smoke to the eyes″ for those who send him with any task.[23] If the sluggard is rich, he should avoid getting that lazy insensitiveness of the chief people of Zion, that delight themselves in every way possible, and whom the prophet Amos predicted would become slaves.[24]

The lazy person leaves God's gifts unused

The wicked,[25][26] worthless servant,[27] that buries his talent in the ground, instead of investing the money with the banker, i.e. one who disregards God's gift[citation needed], leaving it unused, is also lazy.[26] His talent will be taken from him and will be given to the one who has 10 talents and the worthless servant is thrown into the darkness of hell, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.[28] (See the parable of the talents.)[29]

The lazy person breaks again the commandments of God

Whoever is lazy (slack) in his work becomes brother to one who destroys[30] (meaning The Evil-One, the devil because the devil is murderer[31]) for the second time[32] He breaks again the command of God, Who sent him to work this time, for not obeying God, Who forbids them to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.[33]

The growth of the virtues is the enemy of laziness

The Christian must not become sluggish (lazy), but be a zealous follower of those who ″inherit the promises″[34] because the growth of the virtues makes the laziness go away.[35]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Lyman, Stanford. The Seven Deadly Sins: Society and Evil. p. 5. ISBN 0-930390-81-4. 
  2. ^ "the definition of sloth". Retrieved 2016-05-03. 
  3. ^ Kurtz, Ernest; Ketcham, Katherine. Experiencing Spirituality: Finding Meaning Through Storytelling. Tarcher Perigee. p. 220. 
  4. ^ Thomas Aquinas. "The Summa Theologica II-II.Q35.A1 (Sloth)" (1920, Second and Revised ed.). New Advent. 
  5. ^ "Paragraph 2094". Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Manning, Henry Edward (1874). Sin and Its Consequences. London: Burns and Oates. pp. 40,103–117. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Lyman, Stanford (1989). The Seven Deadly Sins: Society and Evil. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 6–7. ISBN 9780930390815. 
  9. ^ Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology, By Rosemary Guiley, p. 28-29, Facts on File, 2009.
  10. ^ Proverbs 19.24, 26.15, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,,%2026.15&version=ESV;NIVUK;ASV
  11. ^ Proverbs6.9-11,19.15,26.14, 24.33-34, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,,19.15,26.14,%2024.33-34&version=ESV;NIVUK;ASV
  12. ^ Proverbs22.13, 26.13, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,,%2026.13&version=ESV;NIVUK;ASV
  13. ^ Proverbs21.25-26, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  14. ^ Proverbs21.25-26,1 Thessalonians 4.11, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,,1%20Thessalonians%204.11&version=ESV;NIVUK;ASV
  15. ^ Proverbs15.19, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  16. ^ Proverbs26.16, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  17. ^ Ecclesiastes10.18, Proverbs24.30-32, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,,%20Proverbs24.30-32&version=ESV;NIVUK;ASV
  18. ^ Proverbs6.9-11, 10.4, 13.4,19.15,12.24, 20.4, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,,%2010.4,%2013.4,19.15,12.24,%2020.4&version=ESV;NIVUK;ASV
  19. ^ Ecclesiastes 11.4, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  20. ^ Proverbs 28.19, 12.11, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,,%2012.11&version=ESV;NIVUK;ASV
  21. ^ Proverbs26.15, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  22. ^ Proverbs19.24, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  23. ^ Proverbs10.26, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  24. ^ Amos 6.1-7, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  25. ^ Luke19.22, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  26. ^ a b "Matthew25.26 ESV;NIVUK;ASV - But his master answered him, 'You - Bible Gateway". 
  27. ^ Matthew25.30, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  28. ^ Matthew25.14-30. Luke19.11-27, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,,%20Luke19.26-27&version=ESV;NIVUK;ASV
  29. ^ Matthew25.13-30, Luke19.11-27,,%20Luke19.11-27&version=ESV;NIVUK;ASV
  30. ^ Proverbs18.9, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  31. ^ John 8.44, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  32. ^ Proverbs18.9, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  33. ^ Genesis, chapter 3, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  34. ^ Hebrews 6.11-12, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV
  35. ^ 2Peter1.5-9, Bible, English Standard Version Revised, 1971,,;NIVUK;ASV


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