In this Sunday’s gospel (18th Sunday, Cycle C, Luke 12:16-21), a man asks Jesus to intervene between him and his brother, who was trying to be unfair in the distribution of their estate. In his response, Christ instructs about our need to avoid “all forms of greed”.
Our society is on overdrive in the pursuit of happiness and seeks this happiness from the outside rather than from the inside. Somehow we believe that the next material acquisition is what it takes to satiate the heart. This is what greed and avarice is all about and St. John Cassian warns, “Let no one underestimate this disease” for greed begets more greed. To curb this disease, we need to:
(A) Be content—Contentment makes one thankful for what one has, in which case, happiness or unhappiness is no longer about who you are, what you have, where you are, or what you do. Life is not focused on the unending quest to satiate the human heart, which is insatiable, or the pursuit of big happiness, which never happens. Life is focused on appreciating the ever present small moments of joy. Contentment is not about what we possess, but about what we can do without; it is not about great possessions but in having few wants.
(B) Be mindful of where your wealth came from. “A greedy man”, says St. John Vianney, “is like a pig eating acorn without wondering where it came from.” People usually say, “I worked very hard for my money”. Yes, what we have may have come to us through hard work, but ultimately it comes from God, and is not intended only for us who earned it. Scripture tells us that Christ called the man who thought otherwise a rich fool (Cf. Lk 12:20-21). It is our Lord’s teaching that we should never hold the things we have as ours alone, but must regard them as God’s provision for the good of others who are in need. We are God’s channel for the distribution of this world’s goods.
(C) Be Detached—Detachment is not that we should own nothing but rather that what we own should not become our owner. It is a disposition toward God fully aware of the temporality of material things and the account we will have to render, hereafter. So, attachment, which is at the root of greed, is a great fabricator of illusion because all things are temporary. Only in letting go do we have a better hold on life.
(D) Tithe—Our Lord demands that 10% of our yearly income be dedicated to helping the poor and for the upkeep of the His Temple (Church). Those who do not do this are accused by God as stealing from Him (Malachi 3:10). We need to think about what part of our budget should be committed to the church and to helping the less fortunate. We should also educate and encourage our children to do the same from their pocket monies. It is a command of the Lord. To follow it is usually a blessing; to challenge it, is usually not fruitful.
(E) Think of eternity. Scripture says, “Command [my people] not to put their hope in wealth…but to put their hope in God… [and] to be rich in good deeds… in this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life”. So, let us be grateful for what we have and everything else will be added unto us. Amen.