Lent 4: Seven Deadly Sins (Jeff Cook)

Jeff Cook, author of Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes , has offered some brief meditations for us to ponder during Lent this year.

Greed

During Lent, we will meditate together on the Seven Deadly Sins and use this list as an aid in confession as we prepare ourselves for Holy Week, Good Friday and the Easter announcement of resurrection.

Greed is a misdirected love. Dante depicted the greedy chained to the ground, with their backs turned to heaven and their eyes fixed on the earth. The destructive power of greed was noted by one of those enchained who said, “Greed quenched my love of good, thus all my labors were in vain.”

Notice, greed is not gluttony, which indulges to the point of bursting. Greed in many ways couldn’t care less about enjoying its spoils. Greed pursues accumulation. Greed is the desire to possess more than I need, because of fear or idolatry. A fitting personification of Greed is Ebenezer Scrooge, who sat alone at night with a single candle to light his frigid bedroom. “Darkness is cheap,” wrote Charles Dickens, “and Scrooge liked it.”

Greed does not care about living well in the present for greed is obsessed about the future, and the future is a place of fear—fear that I will not have enough for tomorrow, fear that somehow the God who gives me each breath will stop providing if I do not squirrel away all I can.

Jesus’ brother James called greed the primary obstacle to peace in our world. Paul wrote that monetary greed is “a root of all kinds of evil.” All four gospel writers suggest that Judas betrayed Jesus partially because of greed. At its core, greed prefers wealth to the growth of our souls, to the God who made us, and to peace among people.

To those of us who struggle with greed Jesus says, “Freely you have received, freely give … What good will it be for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?” (Mt 10:8, 16:26)

(Excerpt from Seven: the Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes by Jeff Cook)

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  • And yet, we have the American culture that is supposedly Christian, preaching every chance it gets “Greed is good”.

  • JohnM

    Interesting point on the distinction between gluttony and greed. Lust of the flesh vs lust of the eyes?

  • MatthewS

    Greed does not care about living well in the present for greed is obsessed about the future, and the future is a place of fear—fear that I will not have enough for tomorrow, fear that somehow the God who gives me each breath will stop providing if I do not squirrel away all I can

    Thought-provoking. I’ve been thinking lately about John 15 and abiding in the vine. I think that part of abiding in Christ must include taking each day’s worries one day at a time.

  • DRT

    Thanks for posting this. These seemingly simplistic sins are considerably more complex and you have provoked me to taking the time to understand them and the intersection in my life.

  • When people have asked me throughout the years why I left Wall Street for ministry, my seemingly “flip” answer has been, “I repented.” It elicits a laugh, but usually offers an opportunity to converse about the greed that has infected many folks who populate the world of high finance. The bottom line becomes obvious when we’re confronted with the dilemma – to get ahead in this line of work, do we have to give up integrity and an awareness that all the gains made are the losses of others, and many of those people are hard-working and unaware of the implications of the choices made above them & w/out regard for them?

    [Note: I’m not saying that all lines of finance in Wall Street pose the exact dilemmas I faced. The two areas I specialized in were asset/mortgage-backed securities and swaps.]