The Seven Deadly Sins – Greed

India and World BankWhat Are The Seven Deadly Sins?

See part 1

Avarice/Greed

Avarice (from Latin avarus,greedy“; “to crave“) is the inordinate love for riches. And it’s important to know that it is defined by an inordinate desire not by an ordinate possession. For the poor, when desiring something inordinately, are avaricious.

In order to understand avarice, we need to understand that all made things are made to serve God. When they do not serve God they become disordered. And so it’s necessary for us to use certain things in order to keep our lives going. It’s necessary for us to buy food and use transportation, and to have housing and clothing and so forth. These things are necessary and we have a legitimate right in acquiring these things.

Our Lord […] does require us to have a spirit of moderation regarding the use of the things of this world. We call this the spirit of poverty. Now, the spirit of poverty requires us to desire only those goods of this world which pertain to necessity, or to convenience according to our state in life. It also requires us to be unattached even to those things. To be ready at a moments notice, to give up not only the more expensive things of this life, but even the necessities of this life if the Law of God should demand it.

Now, the following question is the one that most people want to know about when it comes to avarice is: what conveniences, or what extras may I legitimately desire and obtain without crossing the line into excess? Beside the food, transportation, housing, clothing, we want to know what extra things can I have? What comfortable things can I use? What luxuries are legitimate for me to use? The answer is simple in principle but difficult in application. The principle is this: one may desire and possess the conveniences of this world, which are in accordance with one’s state in life.

I’ll give you an example that helps us understand this: Let us take the President of the United States (whoever it may be at any time). Is the President avaricious because he lives in the White House with all its splendor and preface? He could easily be protected from the elements, some might say, just as efficiently in a log cabin. Yet the rich and lush appointment of his house are necessities of his state in life, since the dignity of his office requires these things. So, he legitimately can acquire and possess them. Yet, if a maid who works in the White House desired these things and then envied for such things, then she would sin because such things are beyond her state in life – beyond both the requirements of her necessities and her legitimate conveniences.

This is the difficult part: the application. We know that we can have depending on our state in life, so that means that we have to look at our lives and look at who we are, what we possess, what kind of money we make, and depending upon that we know whether or not we are being avaricious because (like I said at the beginning) a poor person can be very avaricious because they desire things that are not appropriate for their state in life. They desire things that they cannot have. And so this is perhaps the easiest way to understand: that the poor can be avaricious, they can suffer from this sin precisely because they want those things which are outside the realm of their state in life. We need to recognize that principle.

Now, avarice makes us cold-hearted and makes us mean-spirited and worldly and unspiritual, envious and dishonest, because avarice is based on lack of confidence in the providence that God has for us. So how can we root out avarice from our life? There are two ways, or the remedy is two-fold: the first thing is for us to meditate on our death. The second way is alms-giving.

If we meditate on our death, recognizing that we are but administrators, who must one day render an account to the Sovereign Judge, then we will remember that we cannot take along the goods we have with us into the next world (because we are not made for this world — we are made for the next world). And so thinking about our death helps us to fight the desire of having things that are beyond our state of life.

The most effective way of detaching ourselves from riches is to invest [our riches] in heavenly treasures [by giving] to those most in need and when we give alms […] we are making sure that avarice doesn’t take root in our heart. […] These gifts yield a hundred fold in this world and the next.

Source: see part 1

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