Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Jeri Holladay

3/11/2009 (7 years ago)

Catholic Online (

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.


By Jeri Holladay

Catholic Online (

3/11/2009 (7 years ago)

Published in Lent / Easter

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.

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.


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'

Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for DECEMBER 2016
End to Child-Soldiers: That the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over.
Evangelization: Europe: That the peoples of Europe may rediscover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Gospel which gives joy and hope to life.


More Lent / Easter

Did you know the Catholic Church has a birthday? Watch

Image of Pentecost is widely considered the birthday of the Catholic Church.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Happy birthday to the Catholic Church! Happy birthday to you, who are the body of the Church! LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - We're all familiar with our own birthdays, and we celebrate them because they mark the day of the year in which we entered into this life. ... continue reading

8 thought-provoking Easter quotes to inspire Watch

Image of Easter is more than eggs and bunnies.


We all love to celebrate Easter with brightly colored hard boiled eggs, candy, cute pictures of bunnies and chicks and we all love to gather together to party! Regardless of how you celebrate Easter, don't forget the real reason for the holiday. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

The surprising origins of the Easter Bunny -- it's not what you think! Watch

Image of Rejoice! The beloved Easter Bunny has very Christian origins.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Easter Bunny is a symbol of Easter that is popular in western culture, especially with children. According to folklore, the Easter Bunny hides Easter eggs for children to find on Easter morning. However, the association between a rabbit and the resurrection of ... continue reading

'The Easter message of the risen Christ': Listen to Pope Francis' Easter Mass Watch

Image of Pope Francis celebrated the Easter Mass and focused on Christ and refugees (Reuters).


On Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, Pope Francis stood before pilgrims gathered at St. Peter's Square for the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Vatican Radio, the pontiff stood before the packed square to speak of Jesus ... continue reading

Missing The Point of Easter Watch

Image of Alex Basile [not pictured] is the Religion Department chair at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, NY. He has written nine books for Saint Pauls/Alba House.

By Alex Basile

Author Alex Basile reflects of the true meaning of the Resurrection of Christ and how many Christians overlook the real joy of Easter. In the haziness of the first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene made her way to tomb of her friend and teacher. Fighting back tears and ... continue reading

He Has Truly Risen, We Are Free From Fear Watch

Image of The Tomb is empty!

By Fr. James Farfaglia

With the resurrection of Jesus, the physical is exalted.  When we truly believe in Jesus, we are resurrected in this life because we are freed from the fear and worry that are characteristic of a godless life; we are freed from the unhappiness of a life filled ... continue reading

HOLY SATURDAY: The Whole Earth Keeps Silence Watch

Image of The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all ... continue reading

Holy Saturday: 'Make Sure He's Dead' Watch

Image of God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear

By Fr. Randy Sly

Just as the Chief Priests and Pharisees gathered with Pilate to plan on keeping the tomb sealed and guarded with Christ inside, many today want to place a stone in the entrance of the Church, to keep him inside again. On Holy Saturday we remember that no matter how ... continue reading

Good Friday Reflection on the Logic of the Cross Watch

Image of Benedict says,

By Michael Terheyden

Pope Francis said something during his first general audience that inspired me to reflect on the suffering Jesus endured during his Passion for the sake of our redemption. He said, "Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God's logic, the logic of the Cross. ... continue reading

Good Friday: The Church Born From the Wounded Side of Christ Pauses at the Cross Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Christ has flooded the universe with divine and sanctifying waves. For the thirsty, he sends a spring of living water from the wound, which the spear opened in His Side. From the wound in Christ's side has come forth the Church, and He has made her His Bride. ... continue reading

All Lent / Easter News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 5:1-10
1 Every high priest is taken from among human beings and is appointed to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
1 [Of David Psalm] Yahweh declared to my Lord, 'Take your seat at my ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 2:18-22
18 John's disciples and the Pharisees were keeping a fast, when some ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 16th, 2017 Image

St. Fursey
January 16: Irish monastic founder, the brother of Sts. ... Read More