Aloha Friday Message – March 18, 2016 Lenten Series, #6

1612AFC031816 – 2016 Lenten Series, #6

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Luke 12:15 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Romans 1:29-32 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips,30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die – yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

LentenSeries_MAloha nui loa, ʻŌmea. Much love to you Belovéd. We are approaching Easter and the end of Lent. Today we look at the next set of words in our list of The 7 Deadly Sins and Their Corresponding Virtues. We have already looked at Pride and Humility, Envy and Kindness, the tough topics of Gluttony and Temperance, the surprising topics of Sloth and Diligence, and last week, something a little tougher: Lust and Chastity. Today’s paired topics are Avarice and Charity. You may have noticed in the table that footnote 3  lists two other words – Greed and Cupidity. Greed is a word we understand fairly well. We recognize it as an intense desire for money, or power, or food, or possessions.

We think of greedy people as materialistic, miserly, selfish, penny-pinching misanthropes who hate humanity, or who dislike and distrust other people fearing others will “rob” them of their hoarded wealth. Cupidity is not a very common word these days, but it conveys many of the same concepts. It describes what could be called an irrational, perverse, and unjust desire for wealth; it’s like a Lust for total prosperity through all things that can be acquired and possessed. The key-word listed is Avarice. Avarice is  a malicious malady which makes the getting and keeping of money and possessions the central – and often only – reason for living. Because of this, Avarice can sometimes be ironically characterized a good thing because those it its grip are convinced that the hoarding of wealth is prudent preparation for provisioning the future. The result is discriminatory injustice to others whose are denied access to the basic needs for life – income, shelter, food, and dignity. This kind of avaricious accumulation of material goods often leads to many other sins – it is the love of wealth above all; it is – as the Apostle Paul told us – the root of all kinds of evil. Jesus himself warned us about the power of greed. He knew – and we can see – that it sometimes gets in the way of entering into The Kingdom of God. Remember the “Rich Young Ruler?” He came to Jesus to ask him what he must do to be saved. Jesus looked at him with love. I believe he saw the earnest desire for salvation in the young man’s heart, but also saw the wall of greed that surrounded that desire. Let’s look again at how that short episode ended:

Luke 10:21-23 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell [everything] you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

This shocked the crowd because at that time, the Jews believed that wealth was a sign of God’s favor. How could it be, then, that wealth was now a hindrance to God’s favor? Once again, Jesus’ radical Love turned their world upside down. Throughout his ministry, Jesus pointed out that what the world thinks is “just plain great” is actually “just plain awful.” They praised and honored the wealthy, applauded them for their nearness to God, and longed to be like them – not only wealthy, but also blessed with honor and prestige.

We also give great prestige to the wealthy in these days characterized by the huge contrast between incomprehensible wealth and inconceivable poverty. We praise the wealthy – especially when they appear to be concerned about alleviating poverty. The Apostle Paul saw the same thing in history – both ancient and current to his time. Here’s what he had to say about it in Romans 1:29-32 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips,30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them. It seems to me, sadly, that things have not changed all that much. It’s so bad these days that a few people outright refuse to accept a gift of charity because of their Pride. Still others are actually proud of their neediness and not only expect charity, but vehemently assert they are entitled to it! Charity has become a commodity because it can be bought, sold, and demanded as payment. That’s not what charity is supposed to be about.

In modern American English charity is associated with philanthropy – concerted efforts to improve the general welfare of humanity. Charity per se is an attitude of sympathy toward persons less fortunate which attitude promotes acts of corporal and spiritual mercy. Throughout the New Testament, the word ἀγάπη (agapé) [ag-ah’-pay)]. Use of the word charity for agapé traces back to St. Jerome and the Latin Translation of the Bible call The Vulgate. There is no direct English or Latin translation for agapé. Most modern translations insert the word love where agapé appears in scripture. Most of those instances are in the Epistles; only two instances in the Gospels contain agapé – Matthew 42:12, and Luke 11:42. That word, agapé, was a word that was derived from a verb agapan found in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Bible) which connoted esteem, admiration, veneration, and love. As mentioned above, today charity sometimes carries a negative connotation because some folks – thanks to our “PC World” – interpret as an accusation of neediness. “I don’t want your charity.” You and I, however, should always be able to remember that the Biblical use of the word (as well as the secular use) should and does mean LOVE. Remember that LOVE is not an emotion – like is an emotion – and love implies action. What do we do when we act on our Love?

When we act on love, we live out the core of the Gospel. You may remember this:


Love is what God IS. When we love one another, we love God. When we love God, that action is expressed by our loving others. Loving others and loving God leads us to avoid greed because love – agapé – begets generosity. We become generous with our possessions, generous with our time, generous with our service, and generous with our (wait for it … ) LOVE! We cannot be greedy and loving at the same time. If our emotional relationships with others are not generous and are instead characterized by jealousy then our so-called love has been corrupted with greed. When our hearts and minds are filled with judgments against others, we are in the throes of greed, believing that we are entitled to be “freed from” others we perceive as being parasites that drain away our wealth and happiness. In America in particular, we base this on (usually personal) interpretations of the “immortal declaration” penned by Thomas Jefferson in The Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. If we are not happy, don’t feel “free,” and have a miserable life – why, it must be “their fault!” That is the voice of Greed. Life does not consist “in the abundance of possessions.” Greed is among those forms of wickedness that cause us to be ” foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Greed triggers many of the other Capital Vices – Deadly Sins – and becomes a barrier against knowing and practicing agapé.

It is true that it is prudent to prepare for the future – consider the ant – Proverbs 6:6 – but when we do so in ways that prevent us from being loving, generous, and good stewards of all of God’s gifts, we are no longer prudent; we are greedy. In the background music of our lives, we should be able to easily listen to and understand this ancient hymn:

Ubi Caritas (listen to it here) (↔ Music Link)

Where Charity and Love prevail
There God is ever found;
Brought here together by Christ’s love,
By Love are we thus bound.

In that lyric, “here” means in this world – n0t just in that building we call a church. Be LOVE, Belovéd, because it’s our nature in the Spirit of the Living God.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Special request for prayers for JE who is recuperating from the 43rd abdominal surgery of a long illness. Praying for successful treatment and healing.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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