“Such, O my soul, are the miseries that attend on riches. They are gained with toil and kept with fear. They are enjoyed with danger and lost with grief. It is hard to be saved if we have them; and impossible if we love them; and scarcely can we have them, but we shall love them inordinately. Teach us, O Lord, this difficult lesson: to manage conscientiously the goods we possess, and not covetously desire more than you give to us.”
(St. Augustine, Letter 203)
To not speak about how God must enter our bank accounts would be to neglect the Gospel. Money is too important in our lives. It takes money for us to drive to Mass, to wear clothes, to type on a computer, to eat… to do just about anything. God’s wisdom and love is not just for Sundays but for every day and every part of our life, and this is a very important part. Perhaps even fundamental.
A major driving force of greed is fear, rooted in the love of having things and being safe. It is fear of not having enough, fear of not being able to make it, a fear of the unknown. This fear can be so strong that it can lead people to violence. A fear which is rooted in a disordered love of material things, leads to so much evil in our personal lives and in society as a whole, that it must be actively fought. Family feuds begin, nervous breakdowns take place, and revolutions are triggered. When love of riches grows too strong, other sins typically follow: neglecting family to pursue a career; donating little or nothing to charity; paying meagre wages to staff; cheating on tax returns; leaving no information after damaging a parked car; becoming unreasonably angry when money is lost or stolen; devoting unreasonable time and attention to financial matters; outright stealing; lying to get more money; taking financial advantage of people; falsifying insurance claims and looking down on people who are poor.
How do we fight greed in our own hearts? By giving freely and intelligently!
St. Mother Teresa would say that we have to learn to “Give until it hurts, or else we have not truly given.”
There are two extremes that must be avoided: Greed and Wastefulness.When we give, we should not do so unintelligently or wastefully, but nevertheless in order to fight greed we have to learn how to give. Catholics statistically are not in danger of being too generous or wasteful. Among all the Christians, Catholics on average give the least amount to their Church, usually 1% or less of their income.
To conclude, happiness does not come from money, once a person has the basic necessities, more money does not lead to more happiness. If we are to find that happiness it will be found in meaningful, selfless action. And this can only be achieved if we fight greed at its root, i.e. in our hearts.
Fr Michael Therese