Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Kinds of Greed

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed . . .” (Luke 12:15)

At the risk of sounding like a kill-joy, I’m glad last night is over. I don’t find Halloween to be the least bit fun. I don’t say that as hyper-spiritual overly anxious parent. I say it as one who just doesn’t get it.

When my children were very small it was a joy to dress them up and walk them from house to house so other people could see how cute they were. They’re still cute, but it’s different. Gone is the spongy full-body lady bug outfit that we wrapped our daughter in when she was not quite a year old. My son’s Bear in the Big Blue House outfit is still in his closet. I have no idea why. He outgrew that thing six or seven years ago.

And then there’s the candy. Greed manifests itself in a peculiar way at Halloween. Forget about witchcraft and the underworld. Plain old fashion greed is the real evil on this night. My kids will don’t come home from 'trick or treat' uttering dark incantations. But they do look at who got what and how much and what one has compared to the other. And then the abundance of it all goes ignored and sits around the house for days, tempting their Dad like the apple in Eden (“one Reese’s peanut butter cup can’t hurt”).

It’s striking that Jesus warned us about “all kinds” of greed. I’ve always associated greed with money. Greedy people were people who would do anything for a buck; they usually had plenty but wanted more. For that reason I’ve never felt the pangs of conviction when the scriptures mention greed as a spiritual problem. I know it’s a problem. It’s just not my problem.

But then Jesus mentions “all kinds” of greed, and suddenly it is my problem. I don’t have a voracious appetite for more money, but I’m greedy for other things.

I can be greedy for attention, for words of affirmation. I can be greedy with my time and resentful of those persons and things that interrupt and disturb the time I had set aside as “my own.” I can be greedy with ideas, keeping thoughts tucked away until just the right time when I can display a particular insight to impress the right people.

The “all kinds” bothers me because it makes me ask what kinds of greed I’m most vulnerable to. The answers force me to confession: I’m greedy.

But then Jesus tells a story about man and his possessions, a story about stockpiled resources. He tells the story of a man who gets rich. Doesn’t that let many of us off the hook? We’re not rich. We’re not raking in the profits. This parable is for someone else isn’t it? No, it isn’t.

We fight our greed for intangible things (attention, time) by giving away and letting go of the tangible things (money, grain). The soul is exercised in a particular way when you give. You need not give a large amount.

What happens when you give of your money will impact your soul. It makes you free: free to not get all the attention or guard your “down time” from others. The act of giving cultivates a generosity of spirit that permeates your life. Jesus spoke of the soul in a story about grain. They’re very closely connected. What you do with your grain shapes your soul.

What kinds of greed do you struggle with? Fight against it with a simple strategy. Give.

Loving and Giving God, help us to recognize all kinds of greed, and help us to be honest about the kinds of greed we struggle with. Make us bold to give of what we have, and use the giving to nurture a whole, healthy and generous soul –a soul that looks like Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.

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