Guide to Goodness

Winning the Spiritual Battle of Greed with Generosity

Art by Melanie Boutiette Just Beloved

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.  There are no greater commandments than these.  As the Gospel of Mark 12:28 reminds us, when Jesus was asked about the first commandment, he answered by linking these two commandments together.  We learn to love God by loving our neighbor.  The sin we dive into today destroys our ability to love in this way.  If we are driven by the culture which tells us to always acquire more, we lose sight of how to love our neighbor.  The Church, comprised of people, has historically provided for our neighbors in need in living out these commandments.  But the tides are turning in our culture as we turn from God, and replace it with the expectation that government should provide the solution.

As we progress though our series on how sin and vice divert us from living the good life, we are learning how to win the spiritual battle by understanding the insidious nature of sin and how growing in virtue will help us prevail.  Today we will look at the fifth deadly sin, greed, and learn about the cure for this dis-ease which is generosity.  This strategy works because sin separates us and turns us away from God. Practicing virtue and choosing what is good reorients us to God and His goodness. 

A list of the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust, and the corresponding cures are here.

What is greed?

Greed in a nutshell is love of earthly goods.  It is a sin of desire.  Our lives can be filled with a yearning for material goods, desiring things to excess and placing too much importance on possessions.  Attachment to material objects can block our vision of Christ who told us to give to the poor.  This means not only do we give what we have in “excess” but we also surrender all our time, money, and spiritual gifts to those in need.  Greed is a corporal sin “of the body” which we can counter with the virtue of temperance.  Avarice, more formal than greed, suggests a desire to accumulate more and more wealth and hold on to what one has accumulated, suggesting miserliness . Cupiditas is desire for goods of any kind.  Also called covetousness or hardness of heart, greed can sometimes be identified by the excuses that we make to acquire or explain our desire for possessions.

What are some of the characteristics and effects of greed?

  • Greed is a lack of love for God and neighbor.
  • Greed is a lack of love for our own soul where we fail to seek spiritual treasures and focus on earthly ones instead.
  • Greed is a desire for excessive control.
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Greed is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.”
  • In Dante’s Purgatory, the penitents are bound and laid face down on the ground for having concentrated excessively on earthly thoughts. 
  • Contempt and narcissism can be an extension of greed.
  • Avarice is obsession with money or covetousness, wanting what other people have.

How can I identify greed within me?

  • Treachery – Am I being deceptive or not being truthful?
  • Fraud – Do I intend to deceive or commit a wrongful act?
  • Falsehood – Am I lying or committing an untruth?
  • Perjury – Would I be willing to tell a lie after taking an oath?
  • Restlessness – Anxiety can indicate I’m not living according to my values.
  • Violence – Would I use physical force to hurt, damage, or kill something or someone?
  • Insensibility for Mercy – Do I have lack of concern or compassion for the plight of others?
  • Am I hoarding things?  Do I steal or manipulate to acquire things?
  • Do I have a genetic predisposition?  Some research suggests there is a genetic basis for greed.  It is possible people who have a shorter version of the ruthlessness gene (AVPR1a) may behave more selfishly.

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

Ephesians 4:19

Generosity overcomes the sin of greed.

Generosity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit which is bigheartedness grounded in an abundance mentality.  It is unselfish and expresses itself in sharing.  It is extended to family and friends, strangers, and particularly those in need, and is offered not only as money, food, and clothing, but also as time shared and assistance provided.  We believe that if we have been blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, we benefit others by sharing those blessings.  It is a way of being.  Generosity includes how we view and treat others.  It includes mercy, justice, humility, and meekness as well.  Generosity is being kind.

  • Be generous.  Donate something you like but don’t need to the poor.
  • Give.  Giving of time, talents, and gifts freely, realizing that no material thing is more important than God.
  • Practice charity.  Being generous, kind, and merciful are great ways to avoid being greedy.
  • Spend less on yourself.  By spending more on others than yourself will help you distance yourself from attachment to material things.
  • Express your love for God through pious actions.
  • Avoid acting out of self-interest for your own personal satisfaction or enjoyment.

We are called to be generous, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48) If you have heard that line of wisdom, you know it means that we are held responsible for what we have. The world needs our generosity, for us to give our time, talents, and treasure to those who touch our hearts. I pray that we all be filled and be transformed with God’s Holy Spirit so that we can bear the spiritual fruit of total generosity in our lives so that it becomes a way of being our true nature.  After all, we learn to love God by loving our neighbor. 

May we be Smitten with Generosity,

Cynthia

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