The quest for material things is pointless. It never ends and it doesn’t create lasting happiness. Even worse, it leads us into committing more sins.
The Victory in Virtue Series
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Today I present another entry in the Victory in Virtue series. Today is the seventh part of Fight the Vices. This is where we look at the vices we need to avoid as Christians. Today’s post is on the vice of greed.
The vice of greed is much like the vice of envy. While envy is more about coveting what others have and not being content because of that, greed is about the simple desire for more, more, more. Like envy, the vice of greed also comes from not being satisfied and content here and now with all we have in the LORD. And like envy, this lack of contentment leads us on a pointless quest for more things of this world.
None of these things can make us happy for long though. How pointless. If only we’d be content and turn to God. If only we sought Him out with the same kind of intensity. Then we’d have all the happiness we could ever ask for, and the Spiritual treasures that can make us happy for real. The vice of greed knocks us off track and sends us on a pointless quest of distraction. One that makes us miserable.
So let’s find out what we can do about it!
What Is the Vice of Greed?
Greed. Noun: intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.
The Bible tells us over and over not to be greedy. In the Old Testament, the LORD demands we take care of the poor and needy. The oppressed, the widow, the fatherless, and so on. We can’t honor those obligations if we’re greedy and keep our wealth to ourselves.
The New Testament continues the anti-greed message. In 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Paul gives the most famous teaching about greed ever. It’s so famous even non-Christians know it well: “Money is the root of all evil.” Quoting it this way actually leaves out three very important words that change the meaning. The full verse says: “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
(9) But people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful passions that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (10) The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal.1 Timothy 6:9-10 (CEB)
These verses tell us some important truths about greed. First, people trying to get rich fall into temptation. They get caught in their emotions and desires for short-lived worldly things. They follow these desires to their own doom, as they grow closer to the temporary world and farther from God.
Some wander away from the Christian Faith because they made money their goal. Money, and the temporary worldly things it can buy, become more important to them than honoring God and growing closer to Him. Soon enough money, not God, becomes all they need. They think as long as they have money, they can get through life with or without God. This is the sin of pride.
Second, money is the root of all kinds of evil. The cause of evil. This teaches that money itself isn’t evil; money is a tool, an object, a resource. But when money’s involved, sin so often follows.
Money itself isn’t sinful, but what we do with money and what we do to get money can be sinful.
Our desire for money and the things it can buy can easily lead us into sinning to get it. We might lie, cheat, steal, or even rob to get it. It’s not OK with the LORD if we sin to get money. Whatever money we have, we must get it through honest means: working, donations, or even begging**.
**Begging is not against God’s Law. Many holy people throughout the ages lived by begging.
Once we have some money, now what are we going to do with it? Once again, money can lead us into sin here. If we use money to take care of our family, there’s no problem. But if we use money to indulge in sins (like drinking, strip clubs, etc.) or to gather up worthless possessions, this is sin. Money often causes us to collect worthless, short-lived, temporary items we don’t need. Think about cars, for example. Why spend so much money on a fancy car when a cheaper, non-luxury car will serve just fine? If we splurge on the luxury car instead of spending the excess money on the poor, we have sinned. We indulged ourselves with more than we needed; we got greedy.
Besides using our money on ourselves rather than the poor, as the LORD commands, do you see the Spiritual problem with the above example?
Think back to the dictionary definition of greed. It’s an “intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.” Wealth, power, or food are all things of this world. They’re temporary, like this world. They’re short-lived, and don’t last. So even if we get these things, the happiness they bring doesn’t last long. Then we need more, and more, and more.
We will always need more worldly things if we look to them for our happiness rather than God. It creates a never-ending cycle of unhappiness as we pursue more worldly goods which can never make us happy like God can. Be content and happy with God!
Ecclesiastes, another Wisdom book in the Bible, warns of looking for happiness in anything outside of God. Those who love money have it worst; they’re never satisfied. They always need more. This also applies to all worldly goods, like food and power. But as verse 12 shows so vividly, having these things doesn’t create happiness. The worker sleeps fine, but the excess of the wealthy won’t let them sleep.
(10) The money lover isn’t satisfied with money; neither is the lover of wealth satisfied with income. This too is pointless. (11) […] (12) Sweet is the worker’s sleep, whether there’s a lot or little to eat; but the excess of the wealthy won’t let them sleep.Ecclesiastes 5:10; 12 (CEB)
Having a lot doesn’t make us content or at ease. Being content in the LORD is what puts us at ease. And we must have this contented satisfaction first, before pursuing other things. If we aren’t satisfied in the LORD right now, we’ll never be satisfied. The things of this world give temporary satisfaction. The LORD gives eternal satisfaction and contentment.
We must be content with whatever we have, and our circumstances. God has given us everything He wants us to have, and placed us in circumstances He wants us to be in. He may not want us there forever, so perhaps He wants to teach us how to improve our circumstances. The point is, wherever we are in life and whatever we have, we must be grateful to God and praise Him. If we aren’t satisfied with what we have right now, we will never be satisfied, even if we get our hands on what we think is the one thing we really want more than anything!
Only we have the power to make ourselves happy. We can be happy right now; it’s free and we don’t need anything to get it. This is called being content, and it’s something God calls us to do. The Bible teaches us to avoid that pointless life in pursuit of anything worldly (riches, parties, or whatever). God teaches us to live a life focused on what matters—God, our relationship with Him, and our quest to seek Him.
Our Savior says it best, as always. In Luke 12:15 He says our lives aren’t determined by our possessions. What we have here on earth is meaningless. How is our relationship with God? What’s our Spiritual life like? And are we living a life that honors God here on earth? We don’t need a single worldly possession to do these things; we can do them anytime, for free. So guard against greed, because possessions don’t matter.
(15) Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourself against all kinds of greed. After all, one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions, even when someone is very wealthy.”Luke 12:15 (CEB)
The quest for material things is pointless. It never ends and it doesn’t create lasting happiness. Even worse, it leads us into committing more sins.
Now let’s switch gears. What’s the Spiritual element of the vice of greed?
John of the Cross has much to say about the vice of Spiritual greed. In Dark Night of the Soul, he explains that like with the regular vice of greed, the greedy can never have enough. They’re never satisfied, in this case with Spiritual things.
[…] they find not in spiritual things the consolation that they would desire. Many can never have enough of […] possessing and reading many books which treat of [Spirituality], and they spend their time on all these things rather than on works of mortification and the perfecting of the inward poverty of spirit […].John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, Page 9
It’s always good to keep reading and learning—we should be doing that. But we can’t chase after books and learning at the cost of neglecting the inner work we need to do on ourselves. That’s the tough work of living out our Faith, growing closer to God, and maturing in Christ. The Spiritually greedy go looking for the answers in books and learning. Those are important, but so is our inner reformation.
Besides that, all the knowledge we can get from books (etc.) is human Wisdom. God’s Wisdom is what we want though! Only God’s Wisdom can truly guide us without error. And we can only get God’s Wisdom through prayer, reflection, and Patience. So the Spiritually greedy, like the regular greedy, are looking for answers in the wrong places.
Next, we again see a compulsion to collect more and more items. This time items of a religious nature.
Furthermore, they burden themselves with images and rosaries which are very curious; now they put one down, now take up another; now they change about, now back again; now they want this kind of thing, now that, preferring one kind of cross to another, because it is more curious. […] it is quite contrary to poverty of spirit, which considers only the substance of devotion […]John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, Page 9
We don’t need a single cross, icon, or image to practice our Faith. We can pray to God with nothing, and those prayers are accepted. Religious objects don’t empower our prayers or enable our Faith. We don’t need a single religious object to be Christians. And these objects can even attract demons if we put faith in the objects. God is God; He’s not a statue. He’s not in the statue (or image, or whatever), and if we start thinking that we’ve been deceived by the devil.
Religious objects can be nice, depending on what they are. But we must never desire these things, because we can live our Faith without them, so we should do that as much as possible. These objects add no value, and often distract our Faith life.
Above all else, we must avoid the pursuit of these things. We must be satisfied with whatever articles we have. Otherwise we fall into the same never-ending cycle of greed as with the regular vice of greed.
In other words, we must keep our Faith as free from objects and images as we can. None of those are necessary or even useful to us. What’s inside us, how we feel about our Faith and toward God, that’s all that matters to God. All the rest is extra. It can be nice, but it’s unnecessary. John of the Cross says so too:
For true devotion must issue from the heart, and consists in the truth and substance alone of what is represented by spiritual things; all the rest is affection and attachment […]John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, Page 9
What’s the Antidote?
There’s at least one Virtue that can cancel out any vice. There is no vice that can’t be conquered.
To avoid getting attached to our possessions, or falling into the pointless quest for more, more, more … let’s give our stuff away! To fight the vice of greed we must practice the Virtue of Charity. The LORD desires that we use our surplus to care for the needs of others. Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 8.
(14) At the present moment, your surplus can fill their deficit so that in the future their surplus can fill your deficit. In this way there is equality. (15) As it is written, “The one who gathered more didn’t have too much, and the one who gathered less didn’t have too little. [Exodus 16:18]”2 Corinthians 8:14-15 (CEB)
If we live this way, using our blessings of wealth to take care of others, then we’re following the example of the earliest Christians. These earliest Christians are our goal of how to worship and how to live. No other Christians were as holy as they were, and they performed many miracles. They lived in a community where they shared everything they had, desiring nothing for themselves except helping the needy. This is depicted in Acts 2.
(44) All the believers were united and shared everything. (45) They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them.Acts 2:44-45 (CEB)
And again in Acts 4.
(32) The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common.Acts 4:32 (CEB)
One important thing to learn from their example is this:
Practicing Charity kills the vice of greed. When we see our resources help others, we understand how blessed we are and stop wanting to hoard more and more stuff. When we help others, we see their needs and our conscience no longer allows us to be greedy. Now we know what’s important.
If we practice the Virtue of Charity, it will kill the vice of greed in us over time.
As for the Virtue of Piety, I wrote about this being an antidote for the vice of envy. What I wrote for envy also applies here. If we’re satisfied with the LORD now, we won’t be greedy, because we don’t want anything more. In Part 14: Envy, I wrote:
The Virtue of Piety is about loving God, obeying Him, and following His Commandments. God wants us to be grateful and content for what we have. If we envy and covet what others have, we suggest God hasn’t given us enough. Preposterous! God gives us exactly what we need. If we aren’t satisfied with what He has given us, we aren’t being Pious. Once that happens, we invite the vice of envy (and more).
God commands us to be grateful and content. The Bible says this many times. Being grateful to God and content with what we have is part of the Virtue of Piety.
(16) Rejoice always. (17) Pray continually. (18) Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (CEB)
If we’re satisfied with the LORD now, we won’t be greedy, because we don’t want anything more. Especially not any of the temporary things of this world.
So these are the Virtues that counteract and conquer the vice of greed. But our most potent weapon against greed is prayer. So let’s now move on to some prayers we can use to guard against the vice of greed, and fight it in our own lives.
Prayers against the Vice of Greed
There are many prayers we could pray to combat the vice of greed. The best ones of course will be the ones we create ourselves—the ones that come straight from the heart. Remember: When we pray we aren’t trying to say the right combination of words to unlock something in Heaven. No, that would be magic, which is an abomination to the LORD. Prayer is much simpler. Simply tell the LORD what you want, what you need, what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, and so on.
Praying for help in fighting a vice is the best way to fight it. So here are a few short, simple prayers to combat the vice of greed that you can try adding to your prayer routine.
Help Me Be Content
I’ll start by re-posting a prayer I wrote for the vice of envy post. The content of the prayer still applies to fighting the vice of greed. It’s all about being content and satisfied in the LORD with life as it is now.
If we’re content with what we have, and content in the LORD, then we’ll be happy and won’t need anything else. Everything else the LORD blesses us with will be bonus icing on the cake. But if we aren’t content with what we have, and the LORD isn’t enough for us, we can fall to the vice of greed. Then we get dragged into the pointless quest of looking for more, more, more. The pointless quest that never ends.
To avoid that, we must be content. So here’s a prayer asking for the LORD’s help with that:
LORD, thank You so much for all Your blessings. I know You have blessed me so much in life with [state God’s blessings in your life here]. When the devil tempts me to think of what I don’t have rather than Your blessings, it makes me feel bad. Please help me to be content with all I have, and with all Your blessings. Please help me to see and feel that You are all I need, and that none of the short-lived prizes of this temporary world mean anything in the end. Amen.
Keep My Priorities Straight
Greed keeps us chasing after the wrong things, because what we’re greedy for is something of this world. Money, power, food, clothes, whatever. All these things are worldly items. Temporary, short-lived. The satisfaction they give is temporary. They can’t make us happy.
But the things of Heaven are eternal. The satisfaction and joy the LORD can provide last forever. The LORD can make us happy in the short, medium, and long-term if we’d only fix our perspective. The pleasures of Heaven are the ones we should be pursuing. When we get greedy for anything in this world, we’ve got our priorities all wrong!
Let’s chase after the good stuff. Here’s a prayer asking for the LORD to help us desire what we really want.
LORD, thank You for all Your blessings in my life. Please save me from falling to the vice of greed, and desiring the things of this temporary world. Please save me from desiring these meaningless things, no matter how appealing they are, because they won’t last and neither will the satisfaction they give. Please heal my heart to fix my priorities, so I can keep my sights fixed on the only prize that matters: Reuniting with You in Heaven. Please grant me Wisdom to keep my heart and mind fixed on the things of Heaven and not the things of earth (Colossians 3:2).
Keep My Faith Focused
In the vice of Spiritual pride, we neglect the inner work we need to do while we go looking for answers from external sources. We’re also prone to collecting religious objects, which in the end are as meaningless as any other worldly good we can collect. These items can even be dangerous if we put faith in them, or attribute powers to them. Once we do that the items can attract demons. Our Faith must be reserved for God and God alone, not any statue, image, icon, or whatever else.
We don’t need any object whatsoever to practice our Faith. We can do that anytime, anywhere, with nothing, because Faith is a relationship with God. And although reading about our Faith is a good habit to have, we don’t need to go from one external source to another looking for insight when the answers we need can be gained through prayer to God, with Patience. These external sources (like books) aren’t as good as the Wisdom we can get from God anyway, because they’re human wisdom. So it’s pointless to be greedy for them. The vice of Spiritual greed is one that corrupts our Faith and makes us look to the wrong things for Spiritual benefit.
So here’s a quick prayer asking the LORD to help keep our Spirituality healthy.
LORD, thank You for the blessing of Faith and the ability to seek You. My Faith is the most precious asset I have, without it I have nothing. So I ask for Your help to protect my Faith and keep it focused on the right things. Please convict me in the Spirit when I begin looking for insight from humans through books and other sources. Please convict me in the Spirit when I get greedy for religious objects; take them from me, LORD, and show me how worthless they are. Please help me to always remember that You are all that matters, and I don’t need anything else to practice my Faith and draw closer to You, for which I give You thanks and praise. Amen!
Again, there are so many ways to pray against any vice. I could go on and on and on. Everyone is always welcome to leave a comment with prayers of their own.
But once we’re done praying, it’s time to act (in the physical world). Let’s move on to that now.
Fighting the Vice
To fight a vice, we must change our behavior and be consistent about that. We can’t do something new a few times and stop there. We must stick with our new ways, turning our back on our old sins. This consistency is how we build up a habit. It’s also how we cultivate and strengthen a Virtue, which are the “antidotes” to vice.
So how can we do that to fight greed? Let’s look at a few practical ideas. And remember: These are only a start! The possibilities are endless. I welcome any comments with good ideas about this.
Here are just a few ideas of how we can fight the vice of greed in our own lives:
- Give Charity to the homeless, those less fortunate, or disaster victims to reset our perspective and see how blessed we are
- Get rid of what material possessions we can; figure out what we don’t need
- And other ideas you can think of!
The first step to fighting the vice of greed is Charity, hands down. Charity kills greed. As long as we’re not a severely disordered person, like a narcissist, we can’t perform Charity for the less fortunate without realizing our own blessings. When we help others and see what they lack, we understand how many blessings we have ourselves.
This is only one of the reasons why giving to others makes us feel so good. If we spend our extra money on those less fortunate, instead of buying more pointless things for ourselves, we’ll become happier over time. We won’t be wasting money on meaningless distractions, but will instead be helping our fellow humans. This action pleases God, and creates genuine happiness inside us. A happiness that can only come from doing the right thing. The more we give Charity, the stronger this happiness will become.
Paul said in Acts 20 that Jesus said “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” If we give enough Charity enough times, we’ll come to understand what Jesus meant soon enough.
(35) In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”Acts 20:35 (CEB)
The next thing we can do to fight the vice of greed is to get rid of whatever material possessions we can. One annoying thing about possessions is that having them tends to lead us to get more. For example: If we buy a Christmas tree, we’re going to want to buy lights for the tree too. And ornaments. And a star on top. And a tree stand. And on and on and on.
Stuff creates more stuff. It’s a never-ending cycle of its own.
To combat this, we should instead see what stuff we have that we can get rid of. It’s easy enough to get started with this—we can get rid of old stuff we don’t use anymore. We can get rid of junk, in other words.
It gets harder once we look at the stuff we don’t see as junk. Things we actually use. At this point we should ask ourselves: Do I need this to live? What does it do for me? Does it add anything to my life? Does it make me a better person?
This is the real challenge. Any items that don’t add to our life, we can afford to sell or get rid of. Any items we get rid of will lower our attachment to the material world, bringing us closer to God and the Spiritual satisfaction only He can provide. If we turn our thoughts from getting more material goods to getting rid of them instead, we will now be fighting the vice of greed.
We can’t fall to the vice of greed for having more and more if we’re giving it all away!
Chasing the Wrong Thing
To finish up with greed, I’ll say what I said about the vice of envy: The vice of greed is pointless.
Why be greedy for anything in this world? Any item we can get is temporary, and so is the satisfaction it gives. There’s no need to be greedy for temporary things. Anything we can gain here in this world is meaningless!
This world and our desire for anything in it will fade away (1 John 2:17), but those who serve the LORD are forever. So rather than looking at what more we can get, we must be grateful for what God has given us. And we must be focused on all that matters: Living a Holy life and reuniting with God in Heaven. Whatever pain we feel from lacking something on earth won’t matter when we die here and go to Heaven, where there is pure contentment for all eternity. This is all that matters, all we should focus on.
When we’re content with all we have in the LORD, which is everything, then we don’t need anything else. Contentment protects us from the vice of greed.
God has given us all we need. If He’s blessed us with great material resources, we must glorify Him by spreading our blessings around through Charity. The desire for more and more stuff is a trap. We must never desire more than we actually need, remembering that all worldly goods crumble to dust in the end. And it can’t make us happy anyway. Which is so sad because, as Christians, we do have access to someone who can give us true happiness if we seek Him with this kind of intensity.
That intense desire for more, more, more should be reserved for God. If only we went after God and the things of Heaven with that intensity! Think of how happy we’d be! The vice of greed gets our priorities all wrong, chasing after things that don’t matter and can’t make us happy.
Let’s keep our priorities straight—fight the vice of greed, share our blessings, and seek more and more of God—the only One who can make us truly happy—above anything else.
The vice for next time is fear. Stay tuned for that and Subscribe to my FREE weekly newsletter with the link below so you’ll never miss a post!!
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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