Keeping Greed in Check
One of the things a pastor has to do sometimes is ask for money (don’t worry, it’s safe to keep on reading, this is not a money plea. Well, not until the fourth paragraph. Just kidding).
Part of this though entails at times sitting down with a donor who gives more to the parish, or has the means to give more to the parish. Typically when there’s a capital campaign for instance, the pastor will get together for dinner with someone or at times do a personal ask when there’s a major project going on. Other times things come up and the pastor may ask a group of people of means to consider giving for the need.
While at the time of this column’s writing I will not know if I won the Mega Millions Jackpot which is over $700 million, I’m guessing my numbers probably won’t come up, so I won’t be in a position to eliminate the parish debt, or purchase a pastor’s retreat at an undisclosed location in the woods of northern Minnesota near an undisclosed lake. But, to borrow from the Country Band “Reckless Kelly,” “Seems we hit the jackpot…we were born in North American in the 20th century…still we sleep in comfort with our shelter, bread and wine, knowing that we’re better off than any other place or time.” I realize I’m so blessed; I’ve got a great place to live, a great dog, have wonderful friends and family, I’m in a vocation I love, and can get away to take photos and purchase some camera equipment which helps to “recharge” me. I’d say I’ve got it made.
Now, do I daydream at times about winning the lottery or hitting it big like Ralph Kramden did on every episode of “The Honeymooners?” Sure. I think we all do. But one of the things we have to always be on guard against is greed taking over our lives.
As for the asking for money, I’ve been in some impressive homes and around people who are quite wealthy, but time and time again what I’ve found is so many who are wealthy are not obsessed with their money or their stuff, but rather are incredibly generous to others and to the Church.
In real life, we have many saints in our Church who were wealthy individuals too, from kings and queens to people who were well off in life. Simply being poor is not virtuous; nor is being rich a cause for scandal. Rather, the question is what does one do with what they are given? Certainly a person can have many possessions and also be in a very good place spiritually. The question applies both to our tangible and intangible resources.
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus tells the story of a rich man who has so much grain and other goods he builds larger barns to store it all, but is unaware that his life will be demanded of him that night. And in our second reading from Colossians, Paul cautions against greed. How then do we have that balance so we can enjoy the things of this world but not be consumed by them?
There’s a saying that you never see a U-Haul in a funeral procession. We never know when our lives will be demanded of us. If you saw the classic film “Citizen Kane,” Charles Kane dies in a mansion surrounded by lots of stuff, but no people; in life really what he wanted was love that he could never open himself up to receiving and giving in the right way. So we can ask ourselves from time to time if we are getting too preoccupied with our “stuff”; are we overextended on credit cards or debt to have things that are wants, not needs? Are we able to say “no” when spending gets to be a bit too much? Do we set aside money for savings and try to give to charity? The thing with our “stuff” is it inevitably gets worn out and needs replacing, and sometimes a preoccupation with having the latest and greatest clouds our vision from seeing the most important thing, growing in holiness.
Greed though is more than just money. Time is an even more important commodity for many of us. Sometimes a person will give money, but never of their time. So we should ask ourselves too how are we doing here? Are we married to the job so we are never home for our spouse or kids? Do we give of our time to volunteer? Do we make sure we set aside some time for prayer each day giving time to be with God? Do you try to get in time for leisure and relaxation too? Doing so is not slothful or being greedy – rather it gives one balance so they can better live out their vocation. But sometimes a person can spend too much time at work, or too much time doing their hobbies and interests or on entertainment than on their family. Having a proper balance is important.
Lastly, teaching kids these things means so much. With money, kids can learn the importance of work; doing chores for an allowance for instance, or saving up for a purchase. They can also learn the importance of sharing, and that it’s OK not to have the latest designer clothes or every single video game. The importance of balance of time is important too, so kids learn there is a time for sports, a time for homework, a time for doing chores, a time for prayer, a time for rest, a time to put down the phone and turn off the “screens” and a time to help others. Again, balance is so important though. Sometimes kids can get overextended and exhausted, and need time to just “be kids.”
Yes, as Christians we can certainly “live the good life” and were you to win the lottery, do not feel guilty about getting your dream house or that classic car you’ve dreamt about since you were a kid. And don’t feel guilty getting in some golf or fishing or just spending a day taking it easy. The key is having that balance, and also using our time and talent to make this world a better place by being people of hope, not greed. And so let us strive to work together for God’s glory, remembering that each one of us can do so much to make a difference in this world when we use the resources we are blessed with in the proper way.
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