Greed destroys us little by little. Here are some ways to combat it...
We live in a society that worships success. In this race toward happiness and the “good life,” we have unwittingly become slaves to money and material goods. What can we do to avoid this pitfall?
1Don't underestimate this vice
“Let no one underestimate this disease of avarice,” advices Saint John Cassian, monk and theologian, “He who surrenders even once to the concupiscence of a small sum of money and allows avarice to take hold of his heart, cannot avoid being inflamed by more violent desires.”
2Remember the origin and finality of your possessions
Money and property do not originate with us and are not destined for us. It is true that we come to possess them through hard work, but ultimately they always come from God: “Greedy man,” says Saint John Vianney, “is like a pig eating acorns without wondering where they come from.” Material goods are not solely intended for the one who has earned them: The Vatican II Counsel has declared: “Man in his uses of it, must never hold the things he legitimately possesses as his alone, but also regard them as common: in that they can benefit not only him but also others.”
3Discern where your treasure lies...for “this is where your heart will be”
Saint Francis de Sales offers us this image : “The eagles make their nest like a palm of a hand leaving in them but a small opening on the side at the top; they nest on the seashore and make them so tight an impenetrable that if waves surprises them, no water can ever enter[…]. Your heart must be like this, only open to Heaven, and impenetrable to the wealth and trifle things”.
4Practice the opposing virtue
Be generous, give without looking to get something in return, without delay or restrictions. The Scriptures constantly tell us to “Give freely” (Mt, 10:8); “Give and it will be given to you […], for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Lk, 6:38). The Old Testament required to give a tithe to God, which was one tenth of one’s income (not one’s profits), but it is even more out of gratitude to Christ the Savior that we should allocate a sum as a donation to the Church.
5Give especially to the poor
Saint Basil literally yells at the “rich” who “avoid meetings so as not to be forced to let any alms. You know only one word ‘I have nothing, I will not give anything, because I am poor.’ Yes, you are poor, you have no property: you are poor of love, poor of goodness, poor of faith in God, poor of eternal hope.”
And here is a bit of practical advice: keep some change in your pocket, to give to those in need you see on the streets, without judging, without choosing (“Not that one, he looks drunk…”). Finally give it while offering a smile or a kind word.
6Go back to the root of the problem
Behind the craving for financial security is a lack of trust in Providence. We all recall the parable of the man amassing wealth for his own financial security: “God said: ‘You fool, this very night, your life will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (Lk 12:20). Relying on Providence means you lack foresight. Planning is not merely a matter of prudence (saving money for your children’s education), but also of justice (to avoid as much as possible relying on public assistance).
7Be intentional about your donations
In his “Few Rules to Observe in the Distribution of Alms,” Saint Ignatius of Loyola provides us the example of “Saint Joachim and Saint Anne who, each year divided their property into three parts : giving one to the poor, consecrating the second part to the Temple, and reserving the third for their own needs.” For example, early in the year, we should think about what part of our budget we could commit to the church and charities. This can be an occasion to take stock of our possessions: would things we have not used in a year or more (clothing, tools, etc.), truly be useful to us later on?
8Switch your plans around
Instead of saying: “I would give when I am sure to have enough” – which is something we never have, since our earthly imperatives always undermine the best of resolutions – you can say: “I will consecrate a part of my budget to the Lord.” We should educate our children to give, encouraging them to offer a part of their pocket money to a work of charity, as soon as they receive them.
Having enumerated the devastating effects of money, Saint John Climacus adds, “A small fire is enough to burn a lot of wood, and with the aid of a single virtue, we escape all the passions we have just said. This virtue is called detachment; it is engendered by the experience and the taste of God, and by the thought of the account which will have to be rendered at the hour of death”.
Father Pascal Ide and Luc Adrian