Sin and Virtue

Sin: Mortal and Venial

Jesus told his followers:

Once, there was a rich man who was so selfish, he threw parties for himself everyday. He was so busy with himself, he didn't see Lazarus, the starving poor man who begged outside his door.

Soon, both men died. Lazarus went to heaven with Father Abraham. But the rich man was punished in hell. When the rich man looked up, he saw Father Abraham and Lazarus in the distance. "Father Abraham," the rich man called out, "send Lazarus here so he can give me a drink of water! These flames hurt me!"

"I'm sorry, but he can't," Abraham replied.

"Then, please, Father!" the rich man begged Abraham. "Send Lazarus to my five brothers. He can warn them so they won't come to this place of pain!"

"They have Moses and the prophets in the Bible," Abraham responded. "Your brothers should listen to their words."

"No, Father Abraham!" the rich man cried out. "If someone from the dead visits my brothers, they will turn back to God!"

"If they don't hear the words of Moses or the prophets," Abraham said, "how will they be convinced if someone rose from the dead?"

Based on Luke 16:19-31

In the story above, the rich man was so selfish, we wanted someone like the poor man to serve him even after he died. When Jesus told the story, he spoke of sin, something so selfish it can blind us to the acts of God and the needs of others. Sin is a word, action, or desire that disobeys God. It hurts others and ourselves because we begin to care less and less for others. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we are responsible for the evil we do. After all, we choose to be selfish, not God.

Some types sin are serious, others are not. The serious sin (called "mortal sin") destroys our relationship with God and others. For a sin to be mortal, first it must be a serious act with serious consequences. Next, the person acts in this way must know and fully understand how serious it is. Last, the person must really want to do it.

Of course, some sins aren't serious, or the person doesn't understand what he is doing, or the person really doesn't intend to go through with the action. These are called "venial" sins. But even these sins can become habits (called "vices"), these habits can lead to more serious sins.


The Twelve Apostles had an argument over who was the most important in the group. So, Jesus took a small child, stood the child in front of the Twelve, and hugged the child. "Whoever helps someone as small and unimportant as this child because of me, helps me. And, whoever helps me really helps my Father, the one who sent me."

Based on Mark 9:36-37

Jesus gave his followers the example. He wanted his followers to treat others, even children, with respect. Instead of selfishness, Jesus wanted his followers to exercise "virtue," a freely chosen habit to do good.

There are four virtues that help us respect God and others: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Prudence is the ability to choose the good action and to know the right way to do it. Justice is the ability to give God and others what belongs to them. Fortitude is the inner strength to do good, even when it is the most difficult. And, temperance is the wisdom to say "no" to ourselves when we are tempted.

God's Reward

Once, Jesus told a story about a businessman who hired people to work in his vineyard. Some he hired at dawn, some at noon, some at three o'clock, some at five o'clock. Everyone agreed to receive a full day's pay. At the end of the day, he gathered all the workers together and paid them all the same. When the men who were hired at dawn got their money, they began to grumble. "The men over there worked only one hour," they complained to the businessman. "But we worked hard all day long in the hot sun. Yet, you paid us the same!"

"Friend," the businessman said to one of them, "I didn't cheat you. Didn't you agree to be paid for a full day's work and no more? Take your money and go home. I want to give to those I hired last the same amount I paid you. Can't I spend my money the way I want? Or, do you hate me because I am generous?

"So," Jesus said, "least will be the most important, and the most important will be least in the Kingdom."

Based on Matthew 20:11-16

In the story above, God is the businessman. Even when he calls us at different times to do different jobs, he treats us all the same. After all, he loves each of us completely. He wants us to pass that love onto others. We can do that when we practice virtue and say "no" to sin.