posted on April 01, 2009 00:12
The events of the past several months, and the turbulence and instability of financial markets and the world economy, have at their root a fundamental human failing embodied by one word: Greed. Defined as a sin of excess, in essence, greed is wanting more than we need, and taking more than we deserve, all the while not being satisfied with what we have. With an insatiable appetite, more and more is required and expected as a “right” to which one is entitled, often times without regard to the needs and cares of others. Greed, listed traditionally in Western thinking as one of the so-called “Seven Deadly Sins,” is a varied form failing to acknowledge God as God and wanting to be God ourselves.
With the human tendency towards greed as a backdrop, both America and the world have watched the consequences of greed unchecked as the global markets collapsed from the over-extension and mismanagement of credit and excessive borrowing of money. When accountability was needed (and unable to be found), the downward spin leading to layoffs, company closings, and low consumer confidence began, and even now, leaves many American families facing times of difficulty and uncertainty as they struggle to pay the mortgage, afford credible heath care, save for college, and generally “make ends meet.” The consumer culture that dominated the economy and was fueled by low interest loans and easily accessible credit cards (whether or not their recipients were financially able or responsible to have earned them) has met a harsh reality and has left as its legacy an economic crisis which has not been seen for decades.
In such times, people of faith are called to action on two different fronts. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is to respond to the needs and care of those individuals who are suffering in the down economy. Those who can and those who have are encouraged to support others through avenues of charitable giving (i.e., through nonprofits, faith communities, relief organizations, etc.)
The other call and responsibility is to help develop and encourage a sense of appreciation and thankfulness to counter the human propensity towards “greed;” to develop a “counter cultural” approach to the consumer culture to which we are exposed; and to educate ourselves and our children when “enough is enough” and to take what we need and not all that we can. To embrace and understand that the gifts that we have been given and that are placed in our lives are ultimately not ours – but rather gifts of God – given and entrusted to us for our welfare and the welfare ofothers, brings a blessing and a contentment that is needed in a life and a world that can be filled with a lot of “stuff.” There is freedom to be found in knowing where contentment lies, and in being able not to give in to the stress and seeming necessity of things that the world would tell us we need; not to be “greedy;” and, instead, be satisfied and thankful.
It is my hope that this year, as many will no doubt be forced to do by virtue of thecircumstances of the economy, we as Americans might be able to pause and examine what is truly needed and what is truly essential in life, and focus and invest in that rather than those things and the “stuff ” which the culture and the world would say is important.
May the peace of God which brings to us all that we need be with us now and always