Life in Christ
It is not a violation of this commandment to desire to
obtain things that belong to one’s neighbor, provided this is done
by just means. Traditional catechesis realistically mentions “those
who have a harder struggle against their criminal desires” and so
who “must be urged the more to keep this commandment”:
. . . merchants who desire scarcity and rising prices, who
cannot bear not to be the only ones buying and selling so that
they themselves can sell more dearly and buy more cheaply;
those who hope that their peers will be impoverished, in
order to realize a profit either by selling to them or buying
from them . . . physicians who wish disease to spread;
lawyers who are eager for many important cases and tri
The tenth commandment requires that
from the human heart. When the prophet Nathan wanted to spur
King David to repentance, he told him the story about the poor man
who had only one ewe lamb that he treated like his own daughter
and the rich man who, despite the great number of his flocks,
envied the poor man and ended by stealing his lamb.
lead to the worst crimes.
“Through the devil’s envy death en
tered the world”:
We fight one another, and envy arms us against one an
other. . . . If everyone strives to unsettle the Body of Christ,
where shall we end up? We are engaged in making Christ’s
Body a corpse. . . . We declare ourselves members of one
and the same organism, yet we devour one another like
Envy is a capital sin. It refers to the sadness at the sight of
another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for
oneself, even unjustly. When it wishes grave harm to a neighbor it
is a mortal sin:
St. Augustine saw envy as “
envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the
misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his
326 St. John Chrysostom,
Hom. in 2 Cor.
27, 3-4: PG 61, 588.
327 Cf. St. Augustine,
De catechizandis rudibus
4, 8: PL 40, 315-316.
328 St. Gregory the Great,
Moralia in Job
31, 45: PL 76, 621.