Sunday, September 15, 2013

Need or Greed?

Sin prevents us from knowing God as much as we should.The more we are purged of sin the more we come to know God and ourselves. We are always being purged and healed, each and every day, provided that we cooperate with God's graces. However, this cooperation is key. Without it, our souls stagnate and eventually backslide. A person cannot stay in one place spiritually, we either move forward or backward. Responding to the graces God gives us is crucial. He knows the condition of our souls far better than we do and guides us in the areas where we need to progress. And what constitutes progress? Simply this...growth in virtues. If we see this growth we know we are progressing.

Sins often "ride upon the back" of other sins so it's useful to understand which deadly sin is the "kingpin" in your life and tackle it in a powerful way because when you overcome one that's a  troublemaker for you it makes it easier to overcome other sins.  Sort of like knocking the front pin down in bowling - if you hit it just right it will take down others with it.

One of the deadly sins that seems to be a particular problem for many people these days is greed.
Most of us live in a time and place where it's difficult 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?

What might we be hiding behind the sin of greed?

Greed is the inordinate desire for money or earthly goods. We see manifestations of this capital sin everywhere we look today, 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 can 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.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of greed:
~ lack of trust in God
~ fear
~ a distrust of others
~ a dissatisfaction 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

When tackling greed it's helpful to ask the Holy Spirit to root out and heal the fear, the lack of trust in God and others, and the feeling of being unworthy and unlovable that may be lingering beneath this deadly sin. It's interesting to note that when a person feels a lack of self worth they may surround themselves with things of worth to offset these feelings of unworthiness within themselves. The things they surround themselves with become the standard by which they measure both themselves and others. A yardstick  of this sort is doomed from the start. We need to understand that our worth is not in what we have or what we do but in who we are as children of God created in His image and likeness. Greed's opposing virtue is easier to practice when it flows from the certain knowledge of our own innate worth as children of God. The understanding of our dignity as His sons and daughters helps remove the physical blockade of "stuff" we have constructed as a barricade to the heart.

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 also find praying the Rosary and reading Scripture very helpful when it comes to greed as it helps combat the spirit of worldliness that we carry.  Focusing on Scripture passages (such as Luke 12:22-34, John 3:16)  that speak of God's love and trustworthiness will help heal the inner wounds that have allowed greed to gain a foothold in your life.

(Isn't it great to have archives to steal posts from? This post is a combination of three different posts from my series on the Seven Deadly Sins. You can find more by clicking on Nov. and Dec. 2011 in my archives.)


  1. This is very thought-provoking, Mary. I find that prayer changes my thinking, too. It puts me back into the spiritual reality.

    I wonder how greed affects less materialistic societies than ours. I guess it's not such a plague but I wonder if they sometimes struggle to accept, too, or whether their simple lifestyles protect them against our excesses.

    Great post, Mary! I hope everything is well with you and your family.
    God bless xx

  2. Ouch ouch ouch... but I am so glad to be reminded of my sins because it makes me want to atone for it by the virtue of generosity. Great thought provoking post Mary. I'm praying to be purged of all those symptoms.

  3. Hi Vicky,
    I don't know about less materialistic societies but I'm guessing it's not as bad when it comes to greed. I guess every society has its own struggles with the deadly sins. Right now I'm watching the news - another major shooting here. Seems to happen more and more often lately and it breaks my heart.

    We are doing well here and I hope you and your family are well too :)

    God bless you too!

  4. Hi Anabelle,
    Ouch from me, too :) What say you? Should I return the brown shoes I bought or the black? Or just the purse?

    Kidding! Well, a bit. (Ahh! I know, I shouldn't joke around about this stuff! How God puts up with me I'll never know...)

    Okay, the brown it is.

  5. Hi Mary! How fun to find your blog today :)

    What a great and complete study on greed! So many people do think that it's just about money. But it can be about anything that pulls me away from making progress in the Spiritual life, as you pointed out.

    Yes, if I'm not going forward, I'm going backward. Yuk. Don't want to go backwards!

    Happy to meet you!

  6. What a wonderful and much needed post! I feel that God has used you to speak to me! I am in the middle of a complete Spending Fast to try and rid myself of the desire to have more stuff. I love this post because it reminds me that God wants all of me, not the leftover parts and not the parts that are clinging to this world. This opens up so many other issues also for me such as my fear of death. I can't thank Our Lord enough for this post. My husband and I were Protestant and are currently going thru RCIA. We are glad to be home! Thank you again for this post!

  7. Hi Ceil,
    I'm happy to meet you too :) And thank you for your feedback! I'm with you on the YUK factor about going backwards...your comment made me smile!

  8. Hi Tabitha,
    Thanks for visiting - I'm glad you liked the post! We are trying to simplify here at my home too. Let me know how the spending fast goes! It's such a great idea and one I'm interested in too!

    Most of all:
    WELCOME HOME :) My husband was Protestant too and converted in 2000!

  9. Thank you Mary for this thought provoking and thorough meditation on greed. I keep hearing "our hearts are restless until they rest in thee." by Augustine. Detach, detach, detach. And on I struggle. These things of the world are nothing compared to Him, enjoyable but dust in the end. God Bless you and your wonderful blog!!!

  10. Hi Cynthia,
    I love that quote from St. Augustine! It fits in well with this post and I wish I had thought of it when I was writing the post! Thanks for commenting and God bless you, too :)