BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (199): What about envy, gluttony, anger and sloth?

Rev José Mario O Mandía

Let us study the last four of the seven capital sins.


We are envious when we become sad upon seeing the goods or talents possessed by another. The reason for the sadness of the envious person is that he thinks that the goods or talents of another person diminishes his own excellence. Envy is the very opposite of what Saint Paul advises in his Letter to the Romans (12:15): “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

Envy makes us happy at the misfortune of others (we rejoice when they weep); and unhappy at their good fortune (we weep when they rejoice). It gives rise to hatred, murmuring, speaking badly about others. It may even lead to murder, as in the case of Cain (cf Genesis 4:8).

One of the cures for envy is learning to discover and acknowledge the gifts that we receive. Each day, God blesses us with many gifts, but we are sometimes too blind to discover them. This is why we have to beg God for the supernatural virtue of faith. When we acquire the habit of discovering God’s blessings and thanking Him for them, we prepare ourselves to thank God for blessing others as well, and invoke His grace upon them.


Gluttony is a disorderly desire for food and drink. We need to eat and to drink to sustain ourselves. This is the orderly desire for food and drink. But when our desire goes out of the bounds of reason, then it becomes sinful.

The cure for gluttony is temperance. The book of Sirach (also called Ecclesiasticus – 23:6; cf. 37:27-31) prays: “Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me.” Saint Josemaría wrote in The Way (n 126): “Gluttony is the forerunner of impurity.”


Anger is the disorderly desire for revenge. There is such a thing as righteous or just anger, when this is provoked by an injustice. Such righteous anger moves one to restore justice using reasonable means which do not violate charity. Saint Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians (4:26-27, 29, 31, 32): “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil…. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear…. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

The cure for this vice is the virtue of meekness, which is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:23). We often get frustrated or angry or upset when our plans do not materialize. Many times, anger can be avoided by always reminding ourselves of the words of Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est (no 35): “It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with the strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: ‘The love of Christ urges us on’ (2 Corinthians 5:14).”

Some people take training courses on anger management. In contrast, Christianity offers a course on anger prevention. When we work with the knowledge that God sees everything, knows everything, plans everything out of His infinite wisdom, goodness and mercy, there is no need to be annoyed or upset if our plans do not materialize, because his plans are infinitely better and are always fulfilled. “The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth” (Psalm 97:5).

Furthermore, we should remember that God is infinitely just. Even if we are not able to restore justice because of our limitations, in the end, He will mete out the reward or punishment that each man deserves. Saint Paul teaches: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’ (Deuteronomy 32:35)” (Romans 12:21; cf. Hebrews 10:30-31).


Sloth may be defined as a lack of care for or indifference to spiritual goods. It may sometimes seem like laziness, but a slothful person may occupy himself with numerous activities that benefit his earthly needs while neglecting his soul.

Sloth is a result of the absence of the theological virtue of hope. The absence of hope leads one of two extremes: presumption on one hand, and despair on the other. Both presumption and despair lead a person (1) to give up the interior struggle, (2) to abandon the supernatural means that lead to holiness and (3) to take the easy path to perdition.

The struggle against sloth calls for the cardinal virtue of fortitude, and the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).