The Sin of Avarice

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

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for though one may be rich, a man’s life does not consist in his possessions.
(Luke 12:15)

No wealth can ever guarantee
That life will be “a bed of roses”;
God must be our priority
For He alone wills and disposes.

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Friend, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for though one may be rich, a man’s life does not consist in 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

Our Lord’s preaching was rudely interrupted by this man who was more concerned about his worldly desires rather than the eternal lessons that our Lord was teaching. In response to his impudence, our Lord took this occasion to warn His listeners to be on guard against the sin of avarice. A man in the grip of greed is usually one who is concerned only of himself, and has scant regard for others. The rich fool in the parable made no mention of gratitude to God or others for his good fortune, nor even plans to share his bumper crop. In fact, typical of a shrewd Shylock, he even decided to hoard the harvest so that he could get a better price, instead of flooding the market to benefit the consuming public.

Jesus warns us against greed not only because it is a major obstacle to eternal life, but because even in this life, it serves no practical purpose, and can even lead to our financial and social ruin. His words can only apply so well in today’s global economic uncertainty, brought about by the many decades of the ultra-materialistic lifestyle of the most industrialized country and biggest market for the world’s goods. This country is also the biggest debtor in the world, with national and foreign liabilities of over sixteen trillion dollars. One can only wonder how they can pay the monthly interests on this humongous debt, much less the principal. Part of their problem is the insatiable greed of their wealthy, who irresponsibly manipulated the world’s financial resources. These power brokers, consisting of developers, oil barons, bankers, industrialists, and big-time traders took liberty with depositors’ and tax payers’ money, and speculated in real estate and the stock market, creating the artificial spiraling of the prices of stocks in banks, real estate and oil, earning for them fat commissions and untold wealth. Their schemes and lust for more wealth had so blinded them that they failed to see the inevitable bursting of the sub-prime housing bubble that they had created, and the collapse of their major banks, which their government had to bail out and underwrite.
In the darkness of greed, against the light of today’s Gospel message, it may be relevant to reflect on the life of the saints of the Church, particularly St. Paul of the Cross. The son of a wealthy merchant family in Genoa, St. Paul turned his back on a large inheritance left by an uncle priest, and the prospect of an honorable marriage, choosing instead to live in poverty and penance, following the life of Christ in His passion and cross. Considered to be one of the greatest Catholic mystics of the 18th century, St. Paul of the Cross founded the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, or more commonly known as the Passionists. His ideal, as he taught his followers, was to become “a man totally God-centered, totally apostolic, a man of prayer, detached from the world, from things, from himself so that he may in all truth be called a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Lord, give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Lest, having too much I deny You saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or being in want, I steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Prov. 30: 8-9) Thank You, Lord for the lessons You teach about the evil of greed, and for the example of the life of Your saints like St. Paul of the Cross. Amen.

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