The Greatest TreasonSunday Readings Lecturas y Comentarios Sunday Readings Bible StudyPrayer of the HoursBurning Question: Does God want you to be rich?"“All is meaningless- says the teacher – meaningless, meaningless!” I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and chasing of the wind”
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 1, 2010 (18C)
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.
This vision is particularly a bleak one. It still appeals greatly to people with a pessimistic turn of kind. At some point in our life, we may have resonated similar desperate cries from within our weary hearts. “You live and do you best….then you die…
Leave all what you did behind like you did nothing… more like back to zero.”
“Why are you dying to live…if you’re just living to die?”
“We wake up and sleep…eat and drink…laugh and cry…
this is all happening again and again…pointless.”
The breeding ground is the signs of the times defined by cultural analysts ad “decades of greed” – making greed not only acceptable, but encouraged. According to Gordon Gekko, a stock market investor worth in excess of $650 million, “Greed is good. Greed works." In an outrageous attempt to romanticize greed, thousands of contestants recently competed to marry a man they never dated or even met, simply because he was a “multi-millionaire.” Yet, “We consistently find that people who say money is most important to them are (the unhappiest),” says Kennon Sheldon, a psychologist at the University of Missouri at Columbia.
Greed is never good, nor does it serve to work any good purpose. Since we will never be able to attain everything we desire, greed offers us dissatisfaction. Our greediness ultimately destroys us as we harden our hearts, ignoring the needs of others. Ultimately, greed motivates us to pursue poor choices that plunge us into destruction. “The trustworthy man will be heaped with blessings, but he who is preoccupied with getting rich will not be guiltless”… the greedy-eyed man is on the look-out for wealth not knowing that misfortune will befall him.” (Proverbs 28: 20, 22)
It is easy to fall victim to greed. When our yearning for another’s possessions takes seed, we produce covetousness. Greed is never satisfied. Our materialism becomes insatiable as we attempt to acquire objects that are upgraded or more impressive than our neighbor’s. In Tim Kasser’s, The High Price of Materialism, he presents evidence of how insecurity breeds materialism. Advertising targets our feelings of inadequacy to provide that custom home, a 5-star family vacation, or simply possessing every high-tech gadget.
Kasser suggests that materialism, i.e. greediness works against close interpersonal relationships – “We became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated others and they hated us” (Titus 3:3); Works against authenticity and autonomy – “Then [Jesus] said, ‘Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own’” (Luke 12:15); Works against health and happiness – “For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, the pride in our possessions . . . this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever” (1 John 2: 16-17
Without knowing, we habitually practice greed through selfishness. Even preachers can be guilty of greed (1 Timothy 6: 5-6). By redirecting our ambitions and desires towards benefiting others, we overcome our greedy nature. The apostle Paul said, “I have never coveted anyone’s money or fine clothing. You know that these hands of mine have worked to pay my own way, and I have even supplied the needs of those who were with me” (Acts 20: 33-34). Paul habitually practiced generosity rather than covetousness.
The practice of generosity also protects us from the deadly effects of greed. Israel’s Jordan River remains a source of life as it flows into the Sea of Galilee and then travels to the Dead Sea. In all likelihood, Paul witnessed first hand the Sea of Galilee’s generous irrigation as well as abundant fishing resources. In contrast, the Dead Sea has no outlet, greedily robbing the arid region of moisture. Both man and animal refuse to drink from its acrid waters. It contains no life of any sort, except a few kinds of microbes -- sea fish placed into its waters die rapidly. Greed causes our lives to also become foul before God. But a life that flows abundantly shares all that God has given us. When we give, we truly prosper and are refreshed (Proverbs 11: 24-25)
The first reading says the rich man is foolish to have worked. Jesus says in the gospel, the rich man is foolish because he does not “amass for God.” “The last temptation, is the greatest treason: To do the right thing for the wrong reason”
(T. S. Eliot)