What about Chain Letters?

By Marta



The reason I write this article is that I received a couple of chain letters in a week
 which lead me to think that many people are not aware that what they are doing is wrong.
Why do people write chain letters?  Why do they promise rewards and threaten harm to the recipient
 if he does not do what is told?  Is it right? No.  Is it sinful? Yes.  Why?
An attempt will be made to answer these questions
with the background of the Scriptures and the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Why do people write chain letters?  Reasons may vary, but people who write or send chain letters with promises of rewards and threats of harm are sinning against the first commandment.  No one but God knows the future and can tell the future.  Anyone who makes a statement like:  “This will happen if you do not do what I say” is expressing powers that he doesn’t possess.  To create or pass on a chain letter violates the first commandment as stated in Exodus 20:2-6:

"I, the LORD, am your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
You shall not have other gods besides me.
You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above
or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;
you shall not bow down before them or worship them.
For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness
on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation;
but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation,
on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.

It is not right to send a chain letter such as that.  A human action like that, has the effect of creating anxiety in the person who receives the letter, and promulgates the wrong when that person sends it on. A chain letter tells “the future event” that will happen if the directions are not followed, and to foretell the future is a sin; it has always been condemned by the law of God.  In Deuteronomy 18:9-14 we read:

"When you come into the land which the LORD your God gives you,
you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.
There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering,
any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer,
or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
For whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD;
and because of these abominable practices the LORD your God is driving them out before you.
You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.
For these nations, which you are about to dispossess,
give heed to soothsayers and to diviners;
but as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you so to do”

Some people do not see any wrong in sending a chain letter.  They may do it for “fun”- but is it right?  It is not. It is a sin.

Never lower your guard doing things without thinking.  Like Pope John Paul II said in a homily, on February 24, 1993:

We are immersed in a spiritual struggle: good is contending with evil. This fact cannot be hidden. Never lower your guard! It is necessary to live in the truth. Believers are called to live in the truth and therefore cannot hide the reality of such a radical contrast.  And the whole truth is this: "For our sakes God made him who did not know sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness of God" (2 Cor 5:21).


We are to be role models to others of what a Christian is, and when we send chain letters we sin and lead others to sins.  As we find Christ and proclaim Him as Lord of our lives, we need to search for the truth and what He wants of us.  We need to listen to the words of St. Paul addressed in Ephesians 4:22-25:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and
speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
Eph 4:22-25  (NIV)


We follow the law of God.  The idea that we can make our own rule is a false one.  Only the truth gives us freedom as Pope John Paul II said in a general audience on July 13, 1983:

At first glance it would seem that the sinner's freedom is true freedom, inasmuch as it is no longer subordinated to the truth.  In reality, however, it is only the truth that can make us free.  Man is free when he submits to the truth.  After all, is it not our very experience of every day that testifies to this? Saint Augustine observes, "The love of truth is such that those who love something different pretend that the object of their love is truth. And since they hate to be deceived, they hate being convinced that they are deceived. They therefore hate the truth through their love of what they believe to be the truth. They love it when it shines, they hate it when it reproves. They don't want to be deceived and they want to deceive, loving it, therefore, when it is revealed, but hating it when it reveals them… Yet, even in this unhappy situation, (man) prefers the enjoyment of truth over the enjoyment of falsehood. He will therefore be happy when he enjoys without obstacles or anxiety the only Truth, thanks to which all things are true" (St. Augustine, Confessions 10, 23, 34).


The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an excellent resource for learning the Catholic faith.  It studies in depth the Bible and the traditions of the Catholic Church.  The English translation is easy to understand.

The occult is an area forbidden to Catholics- It attracts people with false promises and we risk loosing our souls when we get involved in it.  Stay close to Jesus- and ask yourself, “Would Jesus approve what I am doing?”  Live in the light and praise the Lord in everything you do- your reading, your games, the movies you see, etc.  When someone looks at you, may they be lead to Christ.

Below is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about divination and magic in paragraphs 2115-2117.   


God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.


All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.


All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others—even if this were for the sake of restoring their health—are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.


Let us remember that God is the BOSS- we are not. Obey the commandments.  God makes a promise to those who keep His commandments, in Exodus 20:5-6:

For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness
on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation;
but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation,
on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.


In today’s society as a Catholic, do what St. Paul tells the Thessalonians in 1 Thess 5:21: “Test everything, hold fast to what is good.” And follow his teaching in 1 Tim 4:7-12: 

Avoid profane and silly myths. Train yourself for devotion,
 for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect,
since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future.
This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.
For this we toil and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God,
who is the savior of all, especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things.
Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe,
in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.


Let us pray the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


To the young I say as St. Paul said in 1 Tim 4:12: Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.”   Make prayer a priority in your life and never assume yourself to be above temptation.  Follow the Ten Commandments and learn them well.

To the King of ages, the immortal, the invisible,
the only God,
be honor and glory forever and ever.
1 Tim 1:17


The Ten Commandments of God


1. I am the Lord your God, you shall not have strange gods before Me. CCC 2083-2141

2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. CCC  2142-2167

3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s  day. CCC  2168-2822

4. Honor your father and your mother. CCC  2197-2257

5. You shall not kill. CCC  2258-2330

6. You shall not commit adultery. CCC  2331-2400

7. You shall not steal. CCC  2401-2463

8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. CCC  2464-2513

9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. CCC  2514-2533

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. CCC  2534-2557




Research Resources    Contents  New Items   Prayerline  E-mail     Search

Leap of Faith       Catholic Site© 1996-2019