#4–Greed as a Cardinal Sin and its Counterpart Virtue

Well, GREED definitely has some synonyms.  One that many of us are familiar with is “avarice.”  Most of the people we know, when asked which is the number one Cardinal Sin, will say GREED.  Let’s face it, Greed does not have even a slightly favorable connotation among all us sinners.  We have to wonder if it is because it is so very bad or because we are jealous and envious of those that are greedy and seem to have so much while the rest of us have so little in comparison?  In the days we currently live in, we think it is probably about 50/50 since the economic divide is so great.  This is sad, but is truly a byproduct and result of the Cardinal Sin of GREED.  Do you think it is possible that rich and poor alike can be and are greedy?  This is a hard one.

We see the effects of Greed in our nation today.  Simply look to our government.  Could YOU afford to run for a government office?  Sadly, it takes money to run for office and we are made aware of this by pleas for money to support this cause, this person, this law, that law.  Reasoning and morality of an issue or person are secondary–you want to win, you gotta have money.  And money equals power.  Can you see how these two intertwine to create even more greed?  The trickle-down theory does not work to create equality, but it does to create greed.

GREED divides and has a ripple effect in every area of humanity.  Look at the ways we encourage it.  Right now, we are seeing Girl Scouts selling cookies to raise money.  The troop that sells the most cookies will be rewarded.  The girl within the troop that sells the most cookies wins a prize and recognition.  So these innocent little cookie sellers try hard, then harder to be number one in bringing in the most money!  Yes!  The more money the better!  The shy little girl, the girl whose parents do not know people who can afford to buy a case of cookies, the girl who has no one to walk her door to door–what a loser!  Suzy sold 30 boxes of cookies last Friday.  Janie only sold one–to her uncle who felt sorry for her.  Suzy proudly turns in her cash to the troop leader.  Janie shyly puts her money in an envelope and slides it to the troop leader.  Yay for Suzy!  Boo for loser Janie!  Suzy has seen what money does for her standing among her peers.  So has Janie.

Janie and Suzy enter junior high school.  Both try out to be cheerleaders.  Both are happily accepted.  The cost of the cheerleading outfit is $250.00 for everything.  Suzy goes home with the slip showing costs and is excited, as are her parents.  Janie takes the slip home with her and throws it away.  Her parents ask how she did at tryouts.  Janie says it was okay but she decided she didn’t want to do it after all.  She says she doesn’t have time,  wants to concentrate on school work to get the best grades and her parents tell her how proud they are that she tried out anyway and nothing is ever questioned.  But Janie knows with her parents both working and saving for an actual house, with younger brothers and sisters, there is no way they can afford for her to be a cheerleader.  Janie is very aware of money in her home and how far it will go.  She’s learning again how money is power and standing.

Suzy and Janie become adults.  Both have educations and careers.  Suzy went to the Ivy League colleges.  Janie worked her way through local colleges and got scholarships and feels equal to all her peers.  Both women become doctors.  During residency, they choose their fields.  Suzy wants to become a dermatologist where she can have easy hours and rake in the money.  Why not?  She went through school to get to this point and make money–the most important thing.  Janie chooses obstetrics and gynecology as her field of work.  She knows from experience what women go through with health problems and childbirth and wants to be of service there.  Suzy moves into a practice in Beverly Hills where the rich will pay to look better and younger.  Janie also moves into the L.A. area but sets up a free clinic in a barrio of East L.A.  Suzy marries well and is ready to retire at forty years of age, having acquired more money than she will ever spend as she lives out her life.  Janie marries a recovered addict who she helps put through law school and they both reside in the barrio, where they are close to the people they help.  They laugh that one day they will retire, so they can attend their own funerals.  And they keep helping those who need them most.  When asked if she and her husband are greedy, Suzy replies, “What’s wrong with wanting money?  I want it and I love having it and the power and prestige that go with it.  I worked for it!  It’s mine!  The more I have, the happier I am!  I can make money hand over fist from the people that want to be pretty.  Why shouldn’t I charge exorbitant prices?  I love it!”  When Janie and her husband are asked why they don’t move into more lucrative and money-making positions as doctor and lawyer, Janie responds, “Why would we when we are helping people here?  Women’s health is better now, babies are born without as much risk, people are staying out of jail now and working toward a better life.  If we weren’t here, would it be the same?  We just want to make a difference and we are so rich to live with these people.  They are our family and friends and no amount of money can replace them!”

We look at churches.  You know, as an actual fact, we have never been to a fundraiser or dinner at church that wasn’t used to raise funds to build a bigger, more modern and beautiful building.  Surely we aren’t the only ones!  (Sorry to call you shirley)  We can recall huge drawn thermometers showing how much has been collected to build the new church.  Every Sunday, every service, the red coloring creeps up the thermometer to show how much money has been acquired.  Adults were always excited and talked of the new building, what the new facilities would look like–how many more people could be held.  As kids, we would watch this.  Then after church, we would see someone sitting on a curb, or pushing a bicycle with all their belongings, with a sign asking for help.  We remember asking if we were going to stop and help.  And we remember being told, “We already gave at church.”  Ooookay.  They gave at church for a new building.  What did that have to do with the poor hungry people with no houses?  It never quite made sense. As we got older, it made sense, but not the way they wanted it to.  We began to see the churches as greedy, money-grubbing buildings that had nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus or the Bible.  It was GREED.  “Hey!  Did you see our church?  It’s the biggest in town!”  And we hate to point this out, honest truth, but ever seen Joel Osteen?  Pat Robertson?  The Falwells?  Franklin Graham?  Seen the great buildings?  Ever seen them feeding the homeless?  Sheltering the homeless and sick?  No.  Great buildings built with GREED.  Great mansions for them built with GREED.  Just sayin…  A verse in the Bible we were required to memorize said,”…man cannot serve God and mammon.”  Just for clarification, Mammon is the demon associated with Greed and Avarice.

So are you Greedy?  Do you want more and more money so you can have more and more power?  And what is wrong with wanting a secure home, food, shelter, etc., by having more money?  It is when it is used to wield power, to buy behaviors, to serve the one who has it and only that person that it is wrong.  Are we greedy?  Yep!  We, too, desire to live a comfortable life without worrying should an emergency or special need come up.  But we will never amass a large amount of money.  It slides too quickly to buy food for a stray dog or cat, to buy a meal for a hungry person.  It goes quickly from our hands to the shy girl scout at the back selling  her cookies who takes it hesitantly but gratefully.  It goes to the woman who can’t buy all the groceries she needs with a baby on her hip and one in tow as we see her start putting items back–like the apples they don’t really need in favor of another gallon of milk.  Yes, we are greedy!  We want enough money, to have enough to share EVERYWHERE!  We want enough to put people up for the night somewhere warm instead of the street.  We want enough to buy new shoes for the poor man pulling his shopping cart behind him because he only has a holey, slim piece of shoe sole between him and the pavement.  We want enough to buy that cough syrup for that child that can hardly breathe for coughing  so hard.  We want enough to throw money into research for cancer for our friends and those we have never met!  We want enough to throw into education about trans persons, the LGBTQ community.  We want enough to buy lawmakers so they listen to us instead of the persons filling their pockets now.  Yes!  We are GREEDY!

We have no way to amass the money needed for power.  But we do have a way to amass its opposite, the virtue of CHARITY.  We can remember when, as a child, we traveled on the Watkins route our beloved aunt had from home to home.  She served the poorest of the poor.  She was the epitome of CHARITY,  but said we should never offend someone by using the word charity itself.  Her form of charity was to offer something needed, but require some form of payment.  She said this allowed them to maintain their dignity while accepting what they needed.  She would “sell” them Watkins items, but forget to be back to collect the money for it.  And she would apologize to them for her neglect and forgetfulness if they brought it up.  Then she would say would they mind if she didn’t collect until later because she didn’t have her book … or some such contrived face-saver.  She took us along to do her deeds for two reasons: 1. people wouldn’t turn a child away offering them something (can’t hurt the kid’s feelings, right?)  2. we needed to see how fortunate we were and realize circumstances don’t determine good or bad people.   Well, we thoroughly enjoyed being her “shill” and getting people to take foodstuffs, clothes, toiletries from us, immediately putting out puppy dog eyes if they started to refuse our gift and then grinning from ear to ear when they accepted.  Why did we enjoy “CHARITY”?  Because we probably got more hugs and love from those people than we had ever gotten in our lives!  And it felt sooooo good to give and receive!  So far as her second reason–it came naturally and easily and we had no problem whatsoever seeing that the woman with the torn and faded dress was a kinder, more loving person than the one that had shoved ahead of us rudely, wearing her fancy new dress and shoes.  The old man in torn britches, hunkered down as he rubbed liniment into aching elbows, reeking of urine and tobacco, told us wonderful stories without telling us to leave him alone as the man had in the suit when we asked where the bathroom was in an office.  And the kids our age?  No problem!  We had gum!  We shared the gum!  We had toys, we gave, they received, and we played and played and they and us sadly waved goodbye to each other as we left with our aunt.

Charity gets a bad rep as being something bestowed on someone less fortunate.  No, charity works in the spirit as well as with material things.  One example our aunt used was to remind us of that one time, knowing a woman with seven children was out of flour, sugar, and some other stuff she needed until the end of the month, we trudged up broken steps behind her with all these, fearful we would be turned away as soon as the woman saw us.  Instead, as soon as that door opened, our aunt said, “Oh, Lordy!  Could you take some of these things and help me out?  And could you do me a favor?”  The woman silently and suspiciously helped our aunt and looked at us and motioned us indoors.  Then my aunt said, “Remember those biscuits and flapjacks you said you’d show me how to make sometime?  Well, I brought my niece and I need her to know, too, so could you please ma’am show her and me how you do it because my honey said they were the best he ever tasted and I burn everything anyway and poor man…” and the woman started laughing and told our aunt she could do that.  Our aunt hugged her and kept saying thank you and we left 15 pounds of flour, two big jars of molasses and 20 pounds of sugar along with whatever we carried in and went home full of the best flapjacks and biscuits we’d ever eaten and her kids were stuffed, too.  That wasn’t charity, that was what we came to know as sharing with both sides getting something good.  (And yes, our aunt told the truth–she burned everything she cooked)

Charity is a beautiful virtue, done in the right heart.  It isn’t superiority and an “I have, you don’t” thing.  It is one heart reaching out to another, saying, “I care for you.  I want to help and I know if I am in need, you will help me.  We care about each other.”  And it speaks directly to greed by not accumulating money or wealth, but by spreading it around so no one need feel less than or debased.  Charity does not see race, religion, sexual orientation, beauty/ugliness, richness or poverty.  Charity sees the soul and reaches out in love.  That is probably the easiest virtue of all.  Don’t you just love it?  If we all did it, exercised it—wow!  Wouldn’t that just be the coolest thing ever?

See you tomorrow for another dive into sins!  Dream sweetly!



3 thoughts on “#4–Greed as a Cardinal Sin and its Counterpart Virtue”

  1. Such a different perspective on how to give, while not making the person feel like they are needy. I love the story about the flapjacks and biscuits. Your aunt had a lot of wisdom. Thanks for sharing her story.


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