Continuing our look at the Seven Deadly Sins, I turn to greed and envy. I put these two together because they both seek to have things we do not have.
Greed is to seek what we do not have. It is not directed towards any person. It is excessive desire to have material things or power. I say “excessive” because it is natural to want something like to have a nice home and a nice car. Likewise, power itself is not bad if the power is used for the good of others. Our human nature leads us to need someone to be in charge. Power becomes a problem when a person uses their power for their own gain, material or in name (pride).
Material things are (generally) not inherently bad. There is nothing wrong with seeking the things we need. For example, we all need a place to live. But when the desire moves from a simple home to a big “fancy” mansion and that desire controls all our actions we commit the sin of greed. Where do your priorities lie? Are you more concerned about spending your time with your family or do you spend all your time at work to “get more”? Remember we are not talking about trying to make enough money to have basic food, water, and shelter.
What about envy” While greed is directed at ‘things’ or ‘power’ envy is directed at an individual person or a group of people. To have envy is to desire what someone else has. It could be have their home or their car or another ‘thing’. Envy can also be to want to have the good family or life they have. We should all want to have a good family or good life. The problem is when that dictates our actions or clouds our judgment. One might, in a passing thought or initial reaction, say I would like to have that car that my friend just got. The passing thought is not so much the problem but again when we dwell on it. For example, do you think about it every time you see the person? Do you bring it up in conversation or do you think about it another time?
Sometimes envy can blind us to the real situation. For example, a person whose marriage has failed and is going through divorce might start to think that a friend has “that perfect marriage” but that may not be the real situation. Their friend might have the same problem.
Envy violates the Ninth and Tenth Commandment to covet what is not yours. Greed may violate the Seventh Commandment is “You shall not steal.” Greed may not seem like stealing. but if we have more than we need, it could result in someone else not having what they need. In that case, we have taken from them (steal) what they need.
The Church believes in the right to private property but it also believes in the Universal Destination of Goods; meaning that God has given all that we have not just for our own good but for the good of all. We have a right to what we need. Beyond our need we are called to share so that all may have what they need. There is nothing wrong with having a some fun or vacation. But the question is always is it the focus of our life or just something we do to relax.
Are your actions governed by love as Jesus calls us to love or by greed or envy? Remember, Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor.