This week’s installment of how to use the 7 heavenly virtues to defeat the 7 deadly sins: Charity versus Greed. I woke up this morning 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 the original version from 1971. It is one of the best feel good movies ever produced.
Spoiler alert – Charlie ends up winning the factory by demonstrating his strong moral character. All the other kids involved lose due to their over-indulgence in some particular 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 a garbage chute to the furnace. Mr. Wonka states that the furnace is only lit every other day, so she has a sporting chance of survival. If you have 3 minutes to spare, you can check out that scene 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 necessarily true in this life. But living a life of virtue may get you to the next, eternal life in heaven … which must have a chocolate factory, right?!
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 regarding temperance earlier, 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 sadly 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, or maybe the Holy Spirit, be our guide. Have you every seriously contemplated 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 needs. Plus we can have what we want now and pay later. Why wait? What’s the problem? I recently read that credit card and student loan debt are at the highest levels ever recorded. By contrast, the savings rate is at its lowest level. That’s a problem. Another impending crisis. Oh, and the national debt is a record $26.5 trillion, about $80,000 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 a 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 owning 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, or a tree house? It’s just a nice 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…
Yours in Gracious Giving, Scott