The Reality of Greed

Monday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint John of Capistrano, Priest—Optional Memorial

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Luke 12:13–15

What’s interesting in Jesus’ statement is that of all the people who ever walked the earth, no one is more worthy to be a “judge and arbitrator” of an injustice than Jesus Himself. Yet He refuses to intervene. Why is that? It appears to be a just request from the person, but instead of intervening Jesus tells a parable about greed.

Material possessions can be very seductive. That’s a fact. Yet many people have a very hard time admitting their attachment to possessions and money. They rationalize that they have worked hard, have earned what they have and should be able to indulge a bit. Some good-minded people who have many possessions appease their consciences by giving a small portion of what they have to charitable causes and then conclude that they can keep the rest for themselves. But what does Jesus think about that?

In and of themselves, material possessions are neither good nor bad. The problem is the sin of greed. Greed is an interior disposition by which a person becomes more attached to the passing things of this world than they are to God and His holy will. Though it might be possible to have many possessions and still remain interiorly detached from them, this is quite difficult. But having possessions is not the ultimate problem. Desiring possessions is the real problem. Therefore, even those with very little can fall into the same trap by becoming attached to what they do not have and by believing that the attainment of more will satisfy.

Jesus refused to act as “judge and arbitrator” in this case because it was clear to Him that the person making the request was struggling with greed. Jesus was far more concerned about this person’s interior attachments than He was about the inheritance being properly shared. Earthly justice means very little from the perspective of eternity. This may be hard for many to understand and accept. Doesn’t justice demand fairness? Not if the desire to be treated fairly is based on some sin such as greed. In that case, it is far better for the soul to be cheated out of their inheritance than it is to receive their fair share. In fact, if a person does struggle with greed, one of the best things for their soul might be to be cheated out of their own possessions. This will only be understood when we see that spiritual riches are infinitely greater than material riches.

Reflect, today, upon your interior desires. Look at them honestly. What do you desire the most in life? Do you dream of becoming rich? If so, does that desire consume much of your thinking? Reflect upon the scenario in which you were supposed to receive a very large inheritance but were cheated out of it. How would you react? The right reaction would be to care more for the soul of the person who cheated you than to care about actually being cheated. A person who is fully detached from material possessions will care little about losing such an inheritance or gaining one. It will truly matter not. If that is hard to accept, know that this is a sign that your soul is too attached to the things of this world. Pray for freedom from all greed. That is the only way to obtain the true riches of God.

Most generous Lord, You bestow mercy in superabundance. Your grace and love are all I need in life. By obtaining You and Your mercy, I obtain the one and only source of fulfillment in life. Please free me from earthly greed, and help me to see the things of this world as You see them. Jesus, I trust in You.