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..and Even More Greed

This Catholic Answers article, The Sin of Greed by Christopher Kaczor, is a bit lengthy but excellent. Here are some highlights.

Greed is the disordered love of riches. We should love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves, but we can begin to love money more than God and more than our neighbor. Greed (or avarice) is also one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Like pride, lust, gluttony, sloth, anger, and envy, greed is called a “deadly” or “capital” sin because it gives rise to other sins (see “Greed Leads to Other Sins,” p. 24).

Of course, money and material goods are not evil but good. Indeed, we really do need money—or at least what Thomas Aquinas called “natural wealth” such as food, clothing, and shelter—to survive. We use what he called “artificial wealth” such as cash, credit cards, or coins to purchase natural wealth. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to secure the physical well-being of yourself and your loved ones through the use of money. In fact, that desire is good.

However, a healthy desire for natural wealth, and by extension artificial wealth, can grow into an unnatural and unhealthy desire for riches.

It turns out that more money can make you much happier—if you live in abject poverty. If you do not have clothes to keep you warm, if you have no food for your children, and no roof over your head at night, money for these basic provisions greatly improves reported happiness.

However, once you have enough money to provide food, clothing and shelter, increases in money are unrelated to stable increases in happiness. In other words, once a person has the basic necessities, more money does not lead to more happiness (see “Lottery Winners Come Down to Earth,” p. 25).

Research reveals another startling result: If you compare a lottery winner and a paraplegic a year after the fateful events occurred, you would know virtually nothing about their levels of happiness. If you compare the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and the janitor who cleans his office, given this knowledge alone, we would have no way to know which person is happier.

What does help people attain happiness, according to contemporary psychologists? Four things matter in particular: 1) good relationships with others, 2) strong religious ties, 3) meaningful activity, and 4) personal control. We can translate these into more traditional terms: 1) love of neighbor, 2) love of God, 3) corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and 4) exercising authentic freedom by doing good and avoiding evil.


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