“Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth and whatever you feed it is never enough,” wrote the Dutch crime novelist Janwillem van de Wetering.
This week I’m looking at the sin of greed, making it the basis of an examination of conscience and pairing it with the second penitential psalm in my lenten reflections.
Week 2: Psalm 32 — “From the sin of greed, O Lord, deliver me…”
I have been blessed with many things – at least, that’s how I’ve always looked at it. But as I struggle to find something to wear in my packed closet, I wonder whether it’s right to say I’ve been “blessed,” materially. No one handed me all of these sweaters and jeans, I bought them. Just as I bought the lovely things in my kitchen and den, the flowering shrubs in my yard. And I wonder – at what point does enjoying God’s beauty and the good things of this world cross over to greed?
Is it greed if I sit with a cup of tea while I browse through catalogs, no need in mind but some unmet longing for more?
Having things is not bad. Having money is not bad. It’s the love of money that St. Paul warns against, in 1 Timothy 6:10: “the root of all evils,” he calls it.
Greed is the insatiable desire to have more money or possessions, usually more than you need. Having more is never enough with greed; there is always more around the corner, something else to grasp at, more to be hoarded and stashed away. Our word “greed” comes from the old English graedig, voracious: “always hungry for more.”
As possible as it is to be greedy for things, it’s also possible to be greedy with things, so that we fail to be good stewards or to share with others. Goods, to the greedy, are not to be given or even used so much as kept under lock and key. We can also be greedy with time, for example, or favor. Greed turns us in on ourselves and shuts others out.
For this reason, greed is directly opposed to love which holds things with open hands and is quick to give.
I have listed a number of short verses you might want to look up and ponder as you examine your conscience this week. If you only have time to consider one thing, read the “parable of the rich fool” in Luke 12:13-21. Then take any need you find in your own heart to God for healing as you pray with Psalm 32.
“From the sin of greed, O Lord, deliver me…”
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Read my post on praying with the Penitential Psalms for Lent here.