The Subtle Snare of Greed

Luke 12: 13-21
Rom 4: 20-25 / Lk 1

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
(Luke 12:15)

Take heed: avarice can multiply,
Just as leaven makes bread increase;
Having more can never satisfy,
Greed is one dangerous disease.

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Friend, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “A certain rich man’s land produced a bountiful harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasures for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Luke 12:13-21)

Reflection

Jesus’ fame for helping the afflicted and His teachings about justice and mercy had already spread all over Galilee. Because of this, people with all kinds of problems were seeking Him out for immediate remedy. The man who interrupted Jesus in His talk was probably one of those unjustly treated by a first-born son in the execution of their father’s estate, and sincerely believed that Jesus could easily resolve this financial concern. His problem however was his tactlessness and lack of decorum. Ironic for him that at that time Jesus was teaching, “…do not worry about what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say” (Lk.12:11-12). It was obvious to all that the man was totally without discernment, and was only concerned about his personal and material needs.

This abnormal display of rudeness, however, Jesus would use as an opportunity to teach His listeners about the evil of greed and the futility of riches. One who placed his trust in his wealth was a fool! The religious authorities and the wealthy among the crowd must have flinched at this statement, because it was generally believed that those who were rich were blessed by God. Jesus would later contradict this accepted norm by saying, “It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Lk.19:25).

Jesus cautions us to “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” Greed comes in many forms, and always brings about misfortune or misery. And as in the case of the tactless man, we may not even be aware of it. For instance, the most common kind of greed is gluttony. Observe the guests at a dinner party, how a lot of them jostle around the buffet table. You can always tell who the gluttons are—their plates are almost overflowing with food. The more prudent ones go straight to the end of the table where the fruits are, and start with this healthier fare. More often it is the gluttons who bear the obvious consequences of their greed—such as being overweight, having diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. It is for this practical reason that our Lord warns us to keep a check on our appetites, so that we can maintain a healthier lifestyle. The same applies to the inordinate lust for wealth, power, and even the attention (or admiration) of our peers (facelift, fashion, flashy cars). All of these forms of greed will only draw us away from God, into perdition.

Dear God, we thank you for making us aware that greed is a subtle trap that the evil one lays along our life journey to prevent us from practicing the virtues of kindness and generosity that our Redeemer Jesus taught us to set us free. Grant that we may always remember to store up treasures in heaven, so that we may never be selfish or greedy in any way again. Amen.

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