Seven Deadly Sins: Greed or Avarice
Our culture worships “success”, often defined in avaricious terms. If gluttony is a socially acceptable sin, greed or avarice seems to be socially required.
Like all the deadly sins, greed or avarice is a temptation for every person, not just the wealthy. It is possible for the poor to be slaves of avarice, if they are filled with a grasping desire for money or if they store up possessions (however inexpensive) beyond their actual need.
Greed or Avarice brings to mind many portraits from literature: Silas Marner hiding his beloved gold coins in the floor of his cottage or Ebenezer Scrooge whose business occupied him constantly. Avarice, however, fuels not only the miser’s stinginess, but prodigal spending as well.
Magazines make us discontent with what we have and entice us to want more than we can afford. Driven by advertising, we are anxious to possess and to hold onto our possessions once we have them. Anyone in the grip of avarice becomes a slave to the maintenance, organization, storage, care and keeping of the quantities of things they own.
Our culture worships “success,” often defined in avaricious terms. If gluttony is a socially acceptable sin, avarice seems to be socially required. It is the engine of our consumptive society. We work long hours, sacrificing family and friends, in order to achieve the level of salary and ownership we believe will satisfy this idol, but the rat race distracts us from the most important things in life, leaving us alone and empty. When the economy collapses and our rewards are not forthcoming, we are outraged.
Possessions give the illusion of self-sufficiency, but the more we reach for security, the further off it slips. In fact, we are absolutely dependent on God for our very being and for everything we have. Jesus gave us a stark choice. We can love either God or Mammon, but not both (Mt 7:24). Indeed, he said, it is “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” (Mt 19.24).
Is Jesus saying that everyone should be dirt poor, not knowing if they will be able to feed their children the next day? No. The problem is not with the possessions per se, but with the preoccupation with those possessions, with trusting our bank accounts instead of trusting God. Avarice is the inordinate love of temporal things, not things themselves. The proper response to avarice is a balanced use of the good things God has given us.
Like all the deadly sins, avarice is a temptation for every person, not just the wealthy. It is possible for the poor to be slaves of avarice, if they are filled with a grasping desire for money or if they store up possessions (however inexpensive) beyond their actual need.
Jesus offers liberation from this vice. The Good News is that our worth is conferred by God, not by our achievements or possessions. This is a balm to the hearts of all who are riddled with anxiety about their place in the world. Jesus specifically tells us not to be anxious about our lives, because God knows and will provide what we need (perhaps less than we want) for ourselves and our family (Mt 7:25-33).
These blessings come with a responsibility to share with those who are in need. The avaricious heart is often hardened against the needs of the poor, even the poor in their own family.
I recently read in the Wall Street Journal a story about the elderly thrust back into the work place at 80 or 90 years old, including mothers who had raised large families. I couldn’t help but wonder – where are their children? Why are these women left to fend for themselves? What selfishness could allow this? If families won’t help each other, who will they help?
There are ways to soften this hard heartedness and break the power of avarice. Almsgiving, which should be a regular practice, is given greater emphasis during Lent. We are asked not only to eat less (fasting) but to consume less in general and then to share the extra with those in need. Like the rich man, we are called to share with Lazarus, wherever we find him.
A second practice, one we might not think of immediately, is to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Keeping this day as a day apart, reminds us on a weekly basis that, like the manna in the desert, all that we are and all that we have comes from God. As a day of rest from the business of gathering what we need to live, we step off the merry-go-round and remember that “In vain is your earlier rising and going later to your sleep, when He showers down his blessings on his beloved while he sleeps” (Ps 127, Grail).
The Lord’s Day, properly observed, breaks the hold of avarice as we turn our minds from preoccupation with material things, to the Lord who is the author of our being, and as we gratefully share ourselves, our love, our time and our blessings with others.
Jeri Holladay writes from Wichita, Kansas, where she has been Director of Adult Education at the Spiritual Life Center of the Diocese of Wichita, Associate Professor of Theology, Chairman of the Theology Department and founding Director of the Bishop Eugene Gerber Institute of Catholic Studies at Newman University. She teaches moral theology and church history and is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled: That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
- 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
- Good Friday Reflection on the Nature of Sin
- Lent is almost over, but have YOU kept this Commandment?
- 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
- Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.
- Holy Thursday: He Loves to the End
- 2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package. It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning ...Continue Reading
Michael Terheyden - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
The Passion of Christ represents the most atrocious miscarriage of justice in all of human history. So when we come face to face with the crucified Christ on Good Friday, it is only natural for us to ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »