Monday, August 2, 2010

When Is Greed Really Greed?

Greed is one of those things that everyone knows is bad (it’s a deadly sin, after all) but few can put a finger on why it’s bad. I suppose it causes a person to focus on themselves and naturally stifles charity and empathy for others. It’s not that we don’t really care about others; it’s just that we care about them less than whatever we greedily seek.

Why is that bad, though? After all, don’t I have a right to seek what I want to seek and to place a value on the things/relationships in my life as I see fit? Why is it better to be charitable than to buy a nicer home for my family? Why are some self-preserving actions “greedy” and others aren’t?

I think this argument would have a lot of merit if not for belief in God. The definition of greed isn’t “wanting more than is reasonable” or “wanting stuff so much that it negatively impacts my relationships” it’s simply “idolatry”.

Consider this line from yesterday’s second reading: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry” (Col 3:5). St. Paul sees greed as nothing more, or less, than idolatry; giving something more honor than God.

While it’s fair to ask why I have to give to other people when I want to keep my resources to myself; it’s makes less sense to ask why I have to give to God when I want to keep my resources to myself. Isn’t it odd to tell our creator—and the creator of all the things we enjoy—that we don’t owe him anything? Wouldn’t refusing to give something mean we honor that thing more in our lives than the one we refuse to give it to?

When I just “don’t find time” to pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy each day (which I committed to a long time ago) what am I saying? I find plenty of time in my day to eat, sleep, entertain myself, work, and do all sorts of other things. No one looking on from the outside would call my actions “greedy” or “idolatry” but aren’t they actually both? Aren’t I being greedy with my time to the point of idolatry by giving the other things in life so much time that I can’t give God five minutes (that’s how long it takes me to pray a Chaplet)? The same could be said of how I spend my money, my time, and my talent.

I guess the point is that I bet God judges the sin of greed on a very different scale than we do and I, for one, need to adjust my scale to more closely fit his. Otherwise I may be very surprised one day..

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