Thursday, November 24, 2011

Need or greed?

A few years back I wouldn't have written these posts on the seven deadly sins one right after the other. I think I probably would have become a bit discouraged at what I found and probably would have made a million excuses for my behavior. I'm good at that. As a matter of fact, I had to ask the Lord for the grace to take a good look at myself without getting upset because I really wanted the truth...but not truth without the mercy that is necessary for examining oneself. The point is to recognize where I need to
improve but to do it without anxiety, trusting that the Lord will provide the grace for an honest examination of my heart. I have learned the hard way that trying to push before it's time to push just stops all progress and sometimes causes despair. I have had to learn (and am still learning) to be gentle but firm with myself. To not be so spiritually greedy, wanting it all at once, but to slow down a bit and learn what the Lord is trying to teach me about both myself and Him.

Thinking about greed this week, I have realized that most of us live in a time and place where it's hard NOT to be greedy. We live in a society that breeds discontent. Companies promote a "must have" mentality through their advertising and sales tactics. What used to be "wants" have become "needs" and people are often judged today by what they have rather than who they are.  While there is nothing wrong with having a few extras, do we really improve the quality of our lives when we add the "latest, greatest, thing" to our households? Or are we trying to distract ourselves in some way? Are we happier today than our grandparents were in the past?

The day after Thanksgiving has been termed "Black Friday" and when I consider this name I can't help but think how fitting it is. The fact that it comes right after Thanksgiving just seems to add to the day's darkness. There's something very ugly about Black Friday and something very sad too. Over the years, many stores have started opening up earlier and earlier and, now, some even open up their doors on Thanksgiving Day itself. Where does this frantic consumerism end?

I wonder what God thinks about Black Friday? I was wondering about that today after reading a post by another blogger. Food for thought. Instead of being thankful for what we have, we want more. Sounds like a good definition of greed, doesn't it?

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of greed:
~ lack of trust in God
~ fear
~ a distrust of others
~ being dissatisfied with one's life
~ a pessimistic outlook on things
~ hoarding
~ being manipulative
~ a worldly outlook and a spiritual dullness
~ stinginess (tightfisted with money and goods)
~ boredom
~ ingratitude

Greed's opposing virtue is liberality (generosity).  The generous giving of one's time, money, or goods to those in need is the way to overcome greed. Praying for an increase in the virtue of charity is key when tackling this vice.  I find praying the Rosary and reading Scripture very helpful when it comes to greed. It helps combat the spirit of worldliness that we carry.


  1. I'll never look at Black Friday again the same way....

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    God Bless.

  2. These are such great posts to read, Mary. I'm glad you put the antidote in the last paragraph - that's something positive to work on!

    It made me think of the current affairs programs, that we have over here, where they regularly encourage people to feel like victims. This manipulative thinking contains a lot of the signs on your list. It, also, explains why I have felt God gradually leading us away from the tv, over the years. We have taken to often watching DVDs of shows which were made before the early 80's, instead - it seems that life was simpler and less greedy, in those days.

    Thank you for sharing, Mary:)

  3. Mary,

    From the list of signs and symptoms you outline the most important is the first one. Over the past 20 or so years, as society progressed and modernised people have become less reliant on God, (or so they think). Their trust in God has deminished and they turned their focus on materialism instead. Whether it's wealth, status, fame, material things like houses, cars, gadgets and so on, it seems to me that the focus has shifted to things people can see and touch rather than enriching their spirituality. The world has distanced itself from God, and in doing so people have lost old-fashioned qualities like caring, empathy, pity, and love.

    People have become selfish to the extent that they look after themselves first and foremost to the exclusion of others. Here in the UK the gap between the rich and poor is forever widening in that we'll soon have an underclass for whom no one really cares.

    It reminds me of when the Jews escaped from Egypt. As time went by they turned their focus from God to worshiping a statue made of gold. Materialism took over from spirituality.

    God bless.

  4. Mary,

    Can you explain more about Black Friday, please? I wonder if I have just missed something. Generally over here, if a Friday falls on the 13th of the month it is termed a Black Friday (bad things happen on a Black Friday or could!). It's a superstition. Anyway your Black Friday is on the 25th of the month so it can't be the same thing.

    Great post! Now I am thinking about greed...

  5. Michael,
    Neither will I :) We snuck by the grocery store early this week so that we wouldn't have to go anywhere Friday. It's crazy around here!

  6. Hi Vicky,
    I think it would be nice to live without a TV. My husband would probably shoot me if I even suggested such a thing though! He's a big sports fan :)

    I read your posts about blogging, Vicky. I hope you continue! Like you, I wonder if it's worth it sometimes though. I guess it has its pros and cons.

    Thanks for commenting!

  7. Hi Victor,
    Great comment! A materialistic society doesn't have much room for God, does it? Things are the same in the US. Years ago, stores were not even opened on Sundays because it was a day put aside for the Lord. Now, many stores around here are open even on holidays. What kind of values are we instilling in our children? It's sad.

    I especially liked your words "The world has distanced itself from God, and in doing so people have lost old-fashioned qualities like caring, empathy, pity, and love." I see this too.

  8. Hi Sue,
    Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year for retailers in the US. They vie for customers by running sales, promotions, and opening early. I know this doesn't sound awful but it has become crazy. Some of the stores even open up at midnight or the middle of the night with extreme sales to draw in customers. We can't even get around our town on this day because of the traffic. This happens all over the country and sometimes people get trampled when they open the door to the stores. A few years back a Walmart employee was killed in a Black Friday stampede and other people have been injured over the years. Sick? You bet. Black Friday is greed taken to the nth degree. I'm glad it's not like that in Australia.

  9. This really is a great series.

    In terms of greed: I wonder if, when we make ourselves the centre of our world view (our needs, our desires etc), then the result isn't a mindset that tries to surround that 'self' with everything it could possibly need.

    Thus we have to have the latest things. We have to have more than we need in case we need it.

    Also, in that mindset, anything that might threaten our ability to satisfy our 'self' instantly is seen as a threat - hence distrust of others and even anger as people are frustrating our efforts to get what we want - 'Trolly Rage' whilst shopping etc.

    Hm.. Just a thought.

  10. What a great reminder Mary! I love the title, 'Need or Greed' - the lines are blurred these days! It's kind of connected with God giving us what we need not what we want. Great thoughts!

  11. LF,
    Your thoughts are right on the money (sorry, couldn't resist) in my eyes. Like little gods we create false worlds for ourselves that have little to no basis in reality, though we might like to think otherwise. In many ways purification is the breaking down of the false world we have created. If God is not the center of our lives we end up way off kilter. So what happens when an entire society throws God to the side? We are seeing the results of it today and it's not a pretty sight.

    The saddest thing is that some people PREFER the false world they have created and this is the most basic definition of hell, right? Choosing their false world (their own reality) over heaven (God's reality).

    I think you have just given me a great idea for a post, LF ;)

  12. Andie,
    The lines are definitely blurred today and have you noticed that as we give in to the consumer mentality of the day the lines are getting blurrier and blurrier? It's crazy! The "must have" list just gets longer and longer!

  13. Since I've become a lector for daily mass, I'm paying more attention to the readings. I know, I should have been otherwise, but while I am standing in front of congregation reading aloud, it somehow sticks in my memory better.

    I went on about that because of your last comment of reading scripture as being helpful to combat greed. This week's readings are from the book of Daniel and today was his vision of the beasts. And these beasts were incredibly greedy in their destructive pursuit of man. It was scary to ponder the beasts at work in our time.

    I hang on to the end of his vision "One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven..." we do have hope to combat the greed we encounter in our society, our families and ourselves! Our hope is Our Lord Jesus Christ!

  14. Hey, glad to help :p

    Looking forward to seeing the post.


  15. I always love to go away on retreat where one is given a simple room with no TV or radio, basic food, a schedule to follow, and lots of peace and quiet. When I return home, it's always such an adjustment...back to the "stuff" and the complexities of modern life.

    I am trying to get rid of stuff, because it drains your time trying to clean or care for all of it.

    I buy too many clothes, or rather the wrong clothes, because with a packed closet, I still take so long to find something to wear. My goal is to have a few good quality things that work well together so that it will be easy to dress for any occasion.

    I yearn for simplicity, but am not good at creating it...I love our modern conveniences, like a/c and computers, but I sometimes envy those whose lives revolved around just the basics.

    Great post as always, Mary!


  16. Hi Noreen,
    Sorry it took so long to moderate the comments here - we were looking at houses this weekend in another town.

    It's interesting that you mention how much more Scripture sticks in your head now that you're a lector because there's something very powerful about reading Scripture out loud. Sometimes I read it out loud to myself when I'm alone.

    I'm guessing you'd rather they don't ask you to sing again though ;) Lol! You're brave!

  17. Patricia,
    I had to laugh when I read your comment! You have no idea how alike we are! I try so hard to simplify but it doesn't always work out very well and I have the same problem with finding clothes to wear. My goals are similar to yours :)

  18. Mary, I love these posts! Thank you. They are such a wonderful help in self-examination. I think I fall into the "Business as usual" trap. So often I give myself a quick check; not a well thought out check. I fall into the, "Well last time I checked I was doing this wrong. I fixed that, so I guess I'm doing better." But I over look other parts of my life, that have just turned into bad habits. Thanks for shaking up reality, I needed that!
    God Bless.

  19. Hi Jennifer,
    You and me both! I figured it was a good time to take a deeper look and I'm realizing that I still have a problem with the seven deadly sins. I'm thinking that if I hadn't written these posts I would not have known this to be the case. I examine my conscience regularly but not this deeply.

    PS (The new blog looks wonderful!)

  20. The rosary and scripture-perfect antidotes to greed and to all sin! I love Noreen's comment about the four headed beast in Daniel's scripture passage-it makes much sense!

    Thanks for writing these, Mary! I'm so glad that you haven't caved to despair over the difficulty of trying to root out the seven deadliest sins from your life so that you can share your words of wisdom with so many here!

    You are wonderful!

  21. I agree with Victor that lack of trust in God is behind a lot of greed. After all, isn't greed the reason for abortion and euthanasia?

    The people in my life who have the least are the closest to God and read the Bible every day. They're not Catholic either. God seems to look after them and meets their needs. It's a big lesson to me.

    It seems to me that when God denies us the things we seem to desire intensely, He is saving us from greed. If He granted our desires would we draw closer to Him or would we become so attached to the things we would start putting Him on the margin?

    I had to laugh about the clothes. My resolution is to continually clear my closet. I ask myself, why am I so attached to that outfit when I haven't worn it in years? But it's still hard to get rid of stuff.

    I think in addition to liberality, detachment is very important. Detachment is more than from things, too. It's from everything - favorite foods, feelings, people, and life itself. It's doggone hard to accomplish without grace.

    Thanks so much for this series.

  22. Amazing with most sin, "fear" plays a big part in them. Blessings to you Mary.

  23. Great post. Black Friday drives me nuts. The consumerism is out of control. Thanks Mary!