Did you practice your temperance last week? Melanie went to the grocery store without me, under protest. She came back with a receipt that represented 75 percent need and only 25 percent want. And she saved $25 off our normal weekly bill. That represents 100 meals for the Food Bank to provide to the hungry. On the downside, she informed me I will be going with her in the future for my own good, whatever that means.
On to Greed and Charity. I woke up thinking about the movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” This was my favorite movie as a kid and remains so to this day. I’m going to assume you have seen it. If not, stop reading and go watch it. You’ll be glad you did.
Spoiler alert – Charlie ends up winning the factory by demonstrating his strong moral character. All the other kids lose due to a vice; mainly gluttony, greed and pride. My favorite was “I want it now!” girl who demanded her father buy her an Oompa Loompa and a Golden Goose. Now that’s greedy! She ends up being declared a bad egg and falling down the garbage chute to the furnace. Mr. Wonka says the furnace is only lit every other day, so she has a sporting chance of survival. If you have 3 minutes to spare, check it out here.
On the other hand, Charlie resists the greedy urge to sell his Everlasting Gobstopper to Slugworth. And that selfless act won him the factory. The movie ends with Mr. Wonka reminding Charlie not to forget about the man who suddenly received everything he ever wanted. Charlie asks, “What happened?” to which Wonka replies, “He lived happily ever after.” I don’t think that is true in this life. But living a life of virtue may get you to the next, eternal life in heaven…which I certainly hope has a candy factory.
Greed is an extreme desire for wealth or material gain. Covetousness, materialism. Also known as avarice; an insatiable desire for riches; the inordinate miserly desire to gain and hoard wealth. Acquisitiveness, cupidity, selfishness, miserliness, stinginess.
We all know the bible verse (1 Timothy 6:10) that states that, “For the love of money is the root of all evils.” We all need some amount of money to meet our basic needs and to enable us to achieve our mission in life. As we discussed last week, the big question is; What do we truly need? Tough question. Or maybe the answer is just not what we want to hear.
As Jesus chose his disciples he told them to leave everything they owned and follow Him. I’ve always assumed they didn’t have much back then. Still it must have been a tough decision. Like it was for the rich man who asked Jesus what he had to do to get to heaven. He was told to sell everything he had and give to the poor. The man walked away from that challenge. Is that what we are asked to do too? I don’t know. I think we all need to let our conscience (the Holy Spirit) be our guide. Just keep asking the question; “How much money and stuff do I really need?”
As with gluttony, the line between needs and wants is blurry in our instant gratification culture. Advertisers are brilliant in their portrayal of wants as need. Plus we can have what we want now and pay later. Why wait? What’s the problem? Well I just heard that credit card and student loan debt are at the highest levels ever recorded. By contrast, the savings rate is at the lowest level. That’s a problem. An impending crisis. Oh, and the national debt is a record $21 trillion, about $65,000 for every citizen…wow!
Greed seems to be winning. At the same time, I don’t think any of us would call ourselves greedy. I don’t know anyone I would call greedy. No miserly Scrooge types. I know a lot of people with a lot of stuff, including me. They are all also very generous, donating their time and money to good causes. Is that greedy? Maybe. Mostly I think it’s pride. Keeping up with the Joneses.
I’ve bought a lot of stuff. Looking back and asking why, I don’t think greed or pride was the reason. Rather it was in search for happiness. Maybe that is pride. Or maybe spending was an unconscious strategy to keep me going to work. I really don’t know. But I do know the stuff only made me happy temporarily. Like a kid at Christmas. Get a bunch of toys, play with them for a while and then move on to wanting something else.
I’m going to conclude that most of our accumulation of stuff is the result of attempting to buy happiness. It doesn’t work. It’s a vicious cycle. We buy stuff because we’re unhappy, and we’re unhappy because we buy stuff. It’s time to stop the madness. To start a new cycle, one of saving and giving.
Charity is the voluntary giving of help to those in need. Kindness and tolerance in judging others. Aid, relief, alms, philanthropy, benevolence, goodwill, compassion, consideration, concern, kindness, sympathy, indulgence, tolerance, leniency.
Charity is giving of your time, talent and treasure with no expectation of receiving anything in return. It’s giving with an attitude of gratitude. The strange thing is, the more you give the more you seem to get. Apparently it’s a law of nature. And it makes you happy too. Way happier than stuff. Think about it, don’t you enjoy giving gifts more than receiving them?
I have this crazy dream of developing a tiny house community of striving saints. Not like a cult or commune or closed society. Just a place for like-minded people to live a life of simplicity and service. Residents would be normal members of society with regular jobs and lives. I’m not sure how the raising children thing would work. Maybe they get their own even tinier place? It’s just a place to live and learn from each other. To inspire each other to live virtuously and with a sense of purpose. To serve others and become our best selves.
Why tiny houses? Because it would require us to give most of our stuff away. To only keep the things we really need. Like only the stuff that would fit in a 400 square foot area. For us that would mean getting rid of about 85 percent of our belongings. Could you do it? If you’ve never seen a tiny house, check out these models.
Another advantage of living with less is that you have less to do. It frees up your time. No yard work, little cleaning, and more desire to get out of that tiny space and do something useful in the world. To be charitable.
Here’s your challenge for the week. First, actually count your blessings. Write them down, everything you are grateful for. Next, think about what you would do if you were actually moving to a tiny home. What would you keep? What would you do with the rest? Start doing that now in some small way. Give away one thing to charity this week. And let me know if you want to invest in the tiny house community. I’m joking, well kind of…
Just had a thought that we should also have a tiny clubhouse for gatherings. And maybe a miniature golf course and wading pool. Okay, I’ll stop…
Yours in Gracious Giving, Scott
I did the exercise… my gratefuls: Faith, Health, Wife, Family,…although as much as I love my Family I don’t need them to be joyful? Don’t tell them that! I believe I need my wife and health to be joyful…but I think if my Faith was great enough I receive the grace to suffer well all I need is Faith as I firmly believe in the bible passage “Your Grace is enough”.2 Cor 12:9 “My grace is sufficient” Saints that live in Cloistered Communities like Demontreville Carmilites I visited last week on retreat only have Faith and of course themselves but look at all the hermit saints the Church is full of them! As for stuff is is very overrated and a huge detractor from of focus on Jesus…Huge… I think that is the message, what/who is your God? The Jesuits emblem is two wolves (symbols of evil) standing on their hind feet looking a a boiling pot of food…which evil wolf wins… the one you feed!.
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Thanks for your comments, Steve. Always full of insight and inspiration!