Our Greedy Hearts

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Our popular culture is reflected in the kinds of television shows we watch. Take a look at any night’s lineup and you’ll see lots of programs that revolve around greed. We have shows where people put their lives on hold to mine for gold, to find expensive logs mired in river mud, and to bid on abandoned storage lockers in the hope of getting something for nothing. There are dozens of other shows which reveal the lives of the richest consumers among us, from housewives to sports stars to “celebrities” like the Kardashians. We seem to be fascinated with stuff: getting stuff, buying stuff, having stuff, and then getting more stuff. We enjoy seeing other people’s stuff, although that only makes us want it, too. We are, it would seem, a greedy culture.

Why are we so drawn to the things of the world? We know that life is fleeting. We know that our time here on this earth will all too soon be over. And we know we can’t take any of it with us. Buy many of us spend the great part of our lives working to buy things, to own things, to acquire more things. We’re fascinated by those among us who have the biggest, the best, the newest and the latest. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good thing to work and provide for your needs and the needs of your family. It’s okay to have nice things and to enjoy them. Beautiful things remind us of the source of all beauty which is God. When we admire a beautiful painting, we’re acknowledging that “something” in the painting that reflects the beauty of God. But far too many people in our culture look only to things for their happiness. We think we’ll finally be happy when we have enough good stuff. The problem is we never seem to have enough and the stuff we do get never seems to be good enough. More and more only leads to more and more. And still we feel….somehow….less.

When we search for happiness anywhere but in a relationship with Jesus, we’re bound to be left wanting. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world,” writes C. S. Lewis. When we put “stuff” at the center of our lives it’s pride that has taken the place of the Lord. At the heart of greed is the sin of pride: the deadliest of all sins. Pride says we’re in charge and we make the rules. Greed says he who has the most and best stuff makes the rules. Both pride and greed run counter to the Christian mission of charity, discipleship, sacrifice and submitting our lives to Christ.

Now, think of those “real” housewives. Do they make you think of charity, discipleship, sacrifice or submission to Christ? The “housewives” franchise doesn’t have a corner on the pride market, of course. But their shows are easy examples of our cultural obsession. In them we can see the fruits of greed and pride: discord, divorce, substance abuse, family dissolution, anger, infidelity, and even suicide.

As we continue our Lenten journey, let’s reflect on the greed and pride in our own lives. Where can I be more generous? How can I be more patient and forgiving? What part of my heart am I greedily holding back from the Lord? How can I humbly follow Jesus every day in every situation?

Humility is the only thing that no devil can imitate.”
—St. John Climacus
(525 – 606 A.D.)

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