“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7)
DESPITE its relevance to the lives of every one of us, a book on the seven deadly sins (traditionally listed as pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth) would not make any bestseller list.
In fact, it might have the sales potential of waterproof teabags.
These sins are “deadly” in the sense that they impede one’s authentic growth as a person and run counter to the human project as expressed in the text of the Catechism we learnt as children – “ to know, love and serve God here on earth and to be happy with God forever in heaven’.
The sin which concerns me in these musings is greed – a word I take to be synonymous with avarice and cupidity.
Inasmuch as it relates to the acquisition and hoarding of wealth and property, greed is ubiquitous in our day.
Indeed, it lies at the heart of much of the immorality and injustice in today’s world.
It was ever thus.
In his pastoral letter to the youthful Timothy, St Paul offered this warning: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains”(1 Tim 6:10).
Centuries before, the wise writer of Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) had written in similar vein: “The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity” (Eccl 5:10).
With each of the seven deadly sins we can identify a contrasting virtue, defined in Ladislaus Boros’ words as “an essential human quality realised through personal effort and lived as testimony”.
The opposite of greed is generosity, a disposition to share our resources, limited though they might be, with those in need.
In doing so we should keep in mind that such sharing is not limited to material assistance.
In the case of people who are lonely, marginalised by societal prejudices, afflicted by infirmity or in jail, their most pressing need may be met only if we are prepared to share with them that precious commodity – our time.
I mention in passing a sobering fact that the results of reputable studies, carried out in different countries over several decades, have consistently revealed.
Regardless of age, class or beliefs, the least well-off give a higher proportion of their income to charity than the wealthy.
If there is any text in Scripture that should give us pause for thought in this connection, it is Matthew’s presentation of the Last Judgment (25:31-46).
Only to those who, like the Good Samaritan in the Lucan parable, have heard the cry of the poor and have responded appropriately, will the Risen Christ say: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Examples of greed are plentiful in our daily news media; and, sad to relate, are sometimes held up to us for our admiration and imitation.
Let us thank God for the many people who, from our childhood, have been shining exemplars of what generosity in practice involves.
Doubtless, the reader can recall such people in his or her experience.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 Jn 3:17)
Br Brian Grenier is a Christian Brother in Brisbane.