Konrad Kluczniak

What is greed and what should we do not to yield to this desire or what should we do to get rid of it? Looking at some textbooks concerning Christian morality we can find a definition of greed: 'the disordered desire to possess things or riches'. The consequences of greed are: hardened heart, anxiety and inordinate care for earthly things, violence to amass goods, lie or deceit.

Avarice in the Bible

Reading the Old Testament we can see that it very clearly condemns those people who desire more and more riches, forsaking other people's lots. And it is God who protects the poor who cannot defend themselves. God does this through his prophets who used strong words and call the greedy to change their styles of lives.
The New Testament continues and develops this theme. Jesus of Nazareth himself says, 'watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man's life is not make secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs' (Luke 12:15). Then Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who prefers to build bigger barns than to think of his salvation.
We read in the First Letter to Timothy, 'The love of money is the root of all evils' (6:10). Precedes these words the Author of the Letter gives a picture of people who long to be rich and fall prey to 'all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction.'

The tradition and the present

The Tradition of the Church makes us strongly aware of that sin. It gives the very valuable vow of religious poverty as the remedy, which helps us not to think of much anxiety. Being convinced of that Evagrius Ponticus (d. 399 AD) noticed that the first demons that waged war against the ascetic people were the demons of gluttony, avarice and pride. In his guidelines directed to the monastic community he states that at first one must reject the desire for money because only poverty lets people do all things freely. Christianity was not the only religion that regarded greed as a grave sin. True wisdom is to discern noble desires in human nature and to support them. That's why the pagan thinker Cicero (died in 43 BC) wrote that 'avarice is the worst vice'. Other ancient great Greek-Roman thinkers were of similar opinion.
Contemporary man seems to pursue activities that would help him multiply his possessions. Sometimes the achievement of the desired things makes him tired and irritated and he builds an invisible wall of hatred and inaccessibility around him.
We smile when we see people pursuing riches. We say we do not do that. But greed has various forms. And these are not always material ones. Many people desire spiritual experiences. Everybody wants to be happy and secure without any anxiety. More and more people go to psychotherapists, take various pills to feel artificially free from anxiety.

Not yielding to greed

It seems that in order not to fall prey to avarice one should be satisfied with small things. Undoubtedly, reflection on futility and vanity of earthy things can help us reject temptations. Greed is not the desire to possess. Greed is the unquenchable desire to possess more. A greedy man, in spite of how many goods he has, will always need something. Jesus Christ gives us his remedy so that we could not yield the temptation of greed ('So do not worry', see Matthew 6:31), and calls us to 'store up treasures for yourselves in heaven' (see Matthew 6:20ff).
During Lent it is worth thinking how much we pursue things that are fleeting and unstable. Seneca the Younger (d. in 65 AD) says that we should know that both a thatched house and a house with a golden roof provide security and asks us to hold all things which make unnecessary effort some decoration and beautified appearance in utter contempt. He also tells us to remember that except the spirit nothing is worthy of admiration and compared with its greatness nothing is greater.

"Niedziela" 10/2007

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