In Luke’s Gospel, we are told, ‘A person’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when they have more than they need’ (Luke 12:15).Therefore, ‘what have we gained for all the toil and strain that we have undergone under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22). Dom Helder Camara, the Brazilian archbishop who devoted his life to seeking justice for the poor, said that when he was a child, he used to think that Christ might have been exaggerating when he warned about the dangers of wealth, ‘today I know better. I know how very hard it is to be rich and keep the milk of human kindness. Money has a dangerous way of putting scales on one’s eyes, a dangerous way of freezing people’s hands, eyes, lips, and hearts!” (Revolution through Peace 1971).
Of course, we all need money to go buy our essentials of food, clothing, and fuel. Money can be a useful means to certain ends – but it cannot function as a substitute for those ends. There is a story told by Tolstoy. Once upon a time a man was allowed to own as much land as he could walk around in a single day for the price of one thousand rubies if he returned to the starting point before the sun set. So, giving over his money, the man paced off into the distance getting as much land as he could. When the sun began to sink, he had to make a run for it lest, he forfeits everything. Huffing and puffing, he arrived back just in time for the sun to set, he collapsed at the chief’s feet, – dead – probably from a heart attack! The answer to the fable’s question: How much land does a person need? The answer is straightforward enough: ‘Enough to bury them!’ Psalm 89 says, ‘Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart’.
The opposite of greed is generosity. Greed dehumanises us as we become pre-occupied with evaluating all things, ourselves included, in terms of monetary value and worth, we lose the ability to see things for what they really are. Beauty, friendship, love, and life experience are assigned an economic value. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of the man who built bigger barns and ‘failed to make himself rich in the sight of God’ (Luke 12:22). This gathering of possessions has become an obsession in our culture. We are all encouraged to have the latest gadget, fashion, or car. Two virtues that should characterise our lives are GRATITUDE and GENEROSITY. These are the very opposite of greed and avarice. ‘Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was; he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). So have a look around you this week, do you need what you are going to buy or could someone else benefit from your generosity more? Your reward will be great in heaven.