This week I am trying to root out greed, also known as avarice. Though it cannot be overcome in a week, simply being aware that greed may still be a part of my life is a step in the right direction. After all, acknowledgement of our failings leads to repentance and forgiveness. Sin cannot be forgiven if one does not admit that he or she needs forgiveness. Admitting our faults is a basic requirement. I can go through my life seemingly unaware that I am affected by the seven deadly sins but this would be feigned ignorance on my part because with conversion comes the light to know oneself and this grace cannot be denied easily. If I look away each time the Lord taps me on the shoulder asking me to look more deeply into my heart I will pay a heavy price for that turning away some day. Better to search here than in Purgatory. It's a lot less painful to do it here on earth. Maybe not painless but certainly less painful.
Greed is the inordinate desire for money or earthly goods. We see manifestations of this capital sin everywhere we look in today's society, a good example being the avarice that gripped our large financial institutions a few years back to such an extent that they needed government bailouts to stay afloat. An article I read when this happened said the downfall of our financial institutions was "bad banking decisions" but the truth is that greed was the culprit here and many of the banks have continued basing their banking practices on greed rather than using money justly. Good old common sense tells us where this will land us once again.
A hunger for power may be one of the more dangerous manifestations of greed. We see the damage dictators have wrought in our century but ordinary people can be "little dictators" too. Some folks lord it over their families and run their household with an iron hand that brooks no disobedience. Right or wrong is not the issue here because a "little dictator" does not respect the free will of others. Greed and pride make a volatile mixture. If gluttony causes a narrowing of the spirit, the mixture of greed and pride bring about a deadly spiritual rigidity that is difficult to pierce. Pride believes it is always right and greed walks all over others to get what it wants. And after it gets what it wants... it wants more. They are very dangerous partners.
Greed is often fear based and uses the goods of the earth as a "physical" blockade of the heart. Greed does not trust God or others. Nor does it trust itself. It uses "stuff" as protection and "lording it over others" as proof that it is self-sufficient but once these things are taken away it becomes obvious that this is not the case. Greed is the refusal to entrust oneself into God's hands... which stems from fear. The problem is that we must learn to trust God totally. The more greedy we are, the more painful our separation from this earth at death will be because dying well requires an complete abandonment of ourselves into the hands of God. If we trust things more than God this poses a big problem, doesn't it?
Greed is unhappy because it confuses "having" with "being". Because it confuses these two it always seeks more because what it has is not enough to fill what can only be filled by God.
In my next post I'll write about some of the signs and symptoms of greed and about greed's opposing virtue.