March 20, 2013

Greed

We had a speaker at church a few weeks ago who asked the question - what would life be like if everyone stopped thinking about success in terms of what society sees as successful?  He challenged us to live our lives counter-culturally.  To put our trust in God.  To go where he wants us to go rather than where we want to go.  Not to focus on making money, but to focus on serving God and serving others.

Thomas and I have been spending A LOT of time over the past few months discussing where we see things going and what we want life will be like in the next few years.  If you had asked us a few years ago, we would probably have said that we wanted a big house, nice cars, nice clothes, important jobs, etc.  We wanted success.  Our attitudes have definitely shifted, which I suppose is partly due to not having much money while I'm in school, partly due to living in a less materialistic area, partly due to our involvement at church, and partly due to growing closer to God.  Now we realize we just want a simple lifestyle, a family, a supportive church community, and lives that glorify God in all that we do.  We still want success, just in a different way.  A way that is successful in God's eyes. 

However, every now and then greed rears it's ugly head.  One of the sins we learned about in our Bible study was avarice, which is defined by St. Thomas Aquinas as "unreasonable or immoderate desire for riches."  Father Barron said it is not bad to make a profit or to own material things, but that it is a sin to start loving money more than you love God and to not share your riches (which are from him) with others. 

I think that greed can creep into everyone's lives in a couple of ways, including looking around and seeing what other people have that you do not have.  It's pretty interesting to see how the seven deadly sins all link together, as we can see how pride could lead to envy, and how envy could then lead to greed.  

Our society tells us that we have to have more, more, and more.  Bigger and better.  People are considered successful when they have a prominent or high paying job, make a lot of money, and have a lot of nice things.  Worrying about their success causes people to compare themselves with their neighbors.  You know what I'm talking about - that whole keeping up with the Joneses thing.  

Sloth also seems to lead to greed.  I think there are so many people in our world who are just deeply missing God.  Thirsting for something more.  They aren't spending time with him every day, they aren't going to church, and they don't have a close relationship with him.  I know I write about this quote all the time, but St. Augustine said “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” I often think that people are trying to fulfill that need for God in their lives by focusing on material things.  Filling their time with shopping.  Spending too much time thinking about material goods rather than spending that time talking to God.  Like I said, I can fall into this sometimes.  I am definitely guilty of going shopping when I get bored, even though I feel like I should be reading my Bible instead! 

I think sometimes even Pinterest can lead to avarice. 

Now, don't get me wrong, you all know I enjoy using Pinterest!  I find all kinds of great craft ideas and recipes on there!  However, there's also that part of Pinterest.  The houses, and the clothes, and the material things.  
Dream House Design
You start looking at all of these cool things, and you get excited and wrapped into it, but then it makes you start wanting all of these things that you don't even really need.  You start wishing that you had more. 

outfits


So what can you do to deal with greed?  Father Barron said that the antidote to avarice is generosity, and he gave some very challenging practical tips for cultivating it.  These tips really made me think hard about whether or not I am really that detached from my personal possessions.
1.  Regularly give away your goods and money on a regular basis.  However, rather than just giving away old clothes or toys or anything else, pick something you really like and give it away.  The fact that my initial reaction to hearing that was that I really don't want to give away the clothes I like probably says something about me and an attachment to possessions... 

2. When you are looking to buy something, find something you want and that you can afford.  Then buy the one that's the next level down and give the difference to the poor. 

3. Set up a poor box at your door.  Every time you leave, put some amount of money in it, whether it's a penny or $20.  To be honest, I think this one would be kind of tough just because I rarely have cash on me, but I think it's a really good idea in theory. 

4. Think about the common good when you make financial decisions.  Where are you spending your money?  How much are you giving to the church? To those in need? 

I think it's also important to have constant gratitude.  Be grateful for all of the gifts God has given you.  Most importantly, focus on all of the non-material gifts he has given you.  They are such a huge blessing, and the people in your life will bring you so much more satisfaction and joy than any amount of material goods ever could.  

Father Barron said there are several questions to ask yourself to see where you stand in terms of money.  Does money play a great role in your life?  Do you spend a lot of time worrying or thinking about money?  Do you compare your financial situation to that of others?  Is it difficult or painful for you to let go of your money?  How are you spending your money? 

I want to hear from all of you!  Our booklet says "Pope Leo XIII teaches us that once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest of our wealth belongs to the poor."  Do you live like that?  How do you determine when you have enough?  Have your perceptions of what is important changed?  How do you handle feelings of greed?  

Love,
Caitlin 


17 comments:

  1. Wow I wish I could post this on my Facebook wall!! Great post

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  2. I heard a Peter Kreeft talk once where he said that we should always be generous to God with our tithing and having children. You should always give a little more than you think you can. He said it a lot more eloquently than that. But it's true. We always try to be generous in tithing and with our fertility and trust God can make up for whatever we lack, and He always has! We can never outdo God's generosity! I do struggle with wanting a nice big house but I also know that if/when we do get one, we will appreciate it so much more after all the years of living simply and within our means :)

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  3. Love love love this post! The year before my wedding I did a year of volunteer service with the Dominicans and made $100/month. It was a huge eye-opener in terms of what we actually NEED to survive and I forced myself (and learned) to simply trust that God will provide. Surprisingly, I had already fostered a strong spirit of detachment and did not struggle too much throughout the year in terms of wishing I had more - but the hard part came AFTER. Once I finished and came back into the "real" world and got married, all of a sudden my husband has a steady "real" job and we could afford things I absolutely would have considered "luxuries" and "wants" when I was a poor volunteer.

    While I think my husband and I do a pretty good job of donating and striving to live well below our means, it is still a balance struggle in my heart sometimes when I think back to that volunteer year and what I have now. I was able to survive in an extreme situation, but I think in some ways it's MORE difficult to live so simply when you actually have an income. In my experience it's far more tempting to spend money on things you don't need when you can afford to once in awhile (as opposed to simply not having the money to spend when you're in college, volunteering, etc.).

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    1. Wow! That experience would definitely change someone's perspective!

      I think we'll probably experience something similar once I graduate and we have a double income!

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  4. I needed this today. I have been struggling with comparing my financial situation to others and I always feel like I am wanting more, more, more. What I need is to spend time with God. I have been reminding myself of this quote (and I can't think of what said it, I'll have to look it up), "Comparison is the thief of Joy".

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  5. Love this! What a wonderful reminder.

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  6. I gave up Pinterest for link for this very reason. I saw my self becoming more and more greedy over wanting clothes, the abilities to make those yummy meals and crafts, and other possessions. The break has been good for me and has made me appreciate the simplicity of what I already have.

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    1. That is a good thing to give up for Lent! I have had to cut back on my time on there for the same reason! I don't pin clothes or houses since I think it would cause me to get greedy.

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    2. I meant to say "I gave up Pinterest for lent" not "link" haha

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  7. Ok I loved and found your post a few posts ago about Protestants converting interesting bc I am a Protestant married to a Jesuit Catholic and promised to raise our son Catholic. We are parishioners at the church and he will be going to grammar school there next year. I just have to say I have SO many questions, confusion, and yes sometimes moral conflict when it comes to Catholicism (Eucharist and adoration mostly) and your posts actually explain and are more informative than me going to mass! I am part of a bible study and motherhood ministry and still get so much more out of you . Sounds like yiur church has maby fun opportunities. Just wanted to let you know:)

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    1. Maryann, I am SO glad you came across my blog! :) Please let me know what questions you have. I'd love to answer them or even write a post about it! I know it's hard to understand why Catholics do what they do from the outside looking in.

      And yes, we are so fortunate to have so many great opportunities at our church!

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  8. All very good tips.

    One thing I learned years ago is that poor people don't want stained or ripped clothes. If you wouldn't wear it dont donate it.

    Also, food banks-- don't donate food that's expired. If you are going to give canned goods or food to a food bank make it something you would actually eat yourself. I speak from experience when I say all the food at our local pantry is expired or dented cans.

    Just because people are poor doesn't mean they don't. Deserve nice clothes and healthy good food.

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  9. This is a great post!! I´ve been guilty of greed :( It is so hard not to want what others have but now I often think of the blessings that I do have such as three healthy kids, my husband, his job, time together, health. Some people who have all the material stuff don´t have health, or don´t have kids or just don´t have time. There are also those who have money and all the blessings I mentioned, and I have learned to be happy for them.

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