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.
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.
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?