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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.

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.


WICHITA, Kansas (Catholic Online) - Our letter box is usually full -- full of catalogs, that is. My husband threatens to tip the mail carrier to deliver them right to the dumpster. My mother and I used to jokingly call them lust-a-logs, because they excite what St. John called the lust of the eyes and the desire to possess (1Jn 2:16).

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.

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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.

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Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


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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.

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1 - 10 of 10 Comments

  1. Bruce Likes
    1 year ago

    Greed & Gluttony will be the downfall of the young people of our time. You can also add Sloth with that, or what I call a lazy person. I really enjoyed the Info. I Just read.

    Thank You Very Much!!
    Bruce From IDAHO

  2. Vincent Strollo
    4 years ago

    A very thoughtful and inspirational piece. I certainly believe that greed/gluttony could be the downfall or our society.

  3. Maxi Johnson
    5 years ago

    I Believe!
    In my 32 years of Christianity, I have not experience such, a wonderful comment, with great examples, Yes It's time for us to think, if we are following the Christian life Right? For most of us, Lent is just a time, to complete the days as soon as possible, ignor prayers, just to be pretenders to others, Lent is a time all Christians to remeber, how Our Lord Jesus Christ, dedicated him self to our sins, Have we ever, or will we dedicate our own likings to our Lord Jesus?
    I pray To God, and request all our christian Brothers & Sisters, and for the person who shared this wonderful message, May God Bless you all!
    Prase the Lord Alleluyah...Jusus is Living....Alleluyah.

  4. Tanya
    5 years ago

    A few years ago my husband & I were involved in drugs and consumed by the drugs, money & possessions. Of course we were arrested. We lost everything but each other. At the beginning i was so angry but i finally realized even though we did that to ourselves, the material things meant nothing. My husband is still in prison and its hard on us both. But because of this my husband who was raised in the catholic church, has started going to Mass again and i am planning on converting. Our faith is stronger and we are closer to God now because we lost everything. I thank God for opening our eyes.

  5. soc
    5 years ago

    Use the available resources to fulfill your necessities, for it is the providence of God that is available.
    -Saint Robert Joachim John Bronislaw

  6. Terrence
    5 years ago

    In my 30's, I decided to become an automatic millionaire. I began investing in the stock market and making fantastic returns. Soon, I was piling up the money. At the same time I began to develop an inner pride and self reliance. I felt self sufficient. Had I continued on this path, I would have become a millionaire.

    Fortunately, I had a financially broken down sister-in-law, unable to pay a large debt each month. The debt was the same amount I was tax sheltering each month. So there it was. Was I going to shelter the poor, or go on to becoming a millionaire.

    I got off the train to riches and started paying my sister-in-law's debt. I have never regretted my decision, because my 401 K was actually starting to trap and control my thinking. When Our Lord says you cannot serve both God and money, He means that literally.

    Avarice is a hidden sin in many cases, but it is a corrosive and destructive one.

    Terrence

  7. Christine
    5 years ago

    My husband and I are in the process of "downsizing" our "things , including our home, that we possess. Our desire is to simplify and to be able to focus on almsgiving.

    This article was a great encouragment to us that we are on the right track. Our consumer culture in this country is rampant. It must be recognized as avarice.

  8. erik
    5 years ago

    Jesus came to teach us the way to live our lives ,not now and then on special occassions , but everyday.! He taught us that no man can serve two masters, i.e you either follow his teachings and his Commandments as per the word of the bible or you follow some other path. The choice is yours , His laws are unequivocal in the Commandments and no legal evxceptions or so on are included. Erik

  9. J
    5 years ago

    "The love of money is the root to all evil". People try and give God competition with other gods. Money,race,power,state, women,men and the likes will never defeat an almighty God, but they keep trying to outsource our almighty God with creation. Keep us all in prayer!

  10. Dave
    5 years ago

    Something that hits home thanks for sharing the truth.


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