During the launch of the golden jubilee celebrations of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) on July 29, in Kampala, Bishop S. Sipuka of South Africa decried the problem of land grabbing, which, he said, is threatening livelihoods of many people. Similarly while speaking at the silver jubilee celebrations of his coronation in Kampala, on July 31, the Buganda king Ronald M. Mutebi blamed massive corruption that has caused a total breakdown of the social fabric, on greed. While addressing African leaders in Ethiopia (2015), former US President Barak Obama, castigated dictators who tamper with constitutions to feed their greed for power.
What is greed?
These lamentations call each one us to a personal and moral assessment. Greed is an insatiable longing for unneeded excess, especially for wealth, status, power, or food. Greed is a deadly sin, bringing with it a kind of blindness that causes us to mistake mere wants for needs.
Greed is idolatry, the disordered love of wealth, power, and etc. We should love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. Greed often takes the form of consumerism and over-work. Consumerism is a view of the human person that reduces us to what we can buy and consume. The workaholic’s greed, on the other hand, is not in consuming but in producing. But both are materialistic in nature (Exodus 20:17).
Greed often leads to evils such as stealing, cheating, kidnapping, human trafficking, violence and murder. We usually end up being miserable rather than happy. Psychologists and moralists concur that most cases of depression and suicide are caused by greed. Once a person has the basic necessities, more money does not necessarily lead to more happiness.
What God says about it
Because of his great love for us, Jesus urges us to avoid the worship of golden gods/calf. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). Mammon, the biblical false god of greed, drives people away from fellowship with each other and with God.
When Jesus taught of the great difficulty that the rich have of entering heaven, he was not condemning riches in themselves, but those who were enslaved by them. We are called to a spirit of detachment from worldly goods and riches. Following the lead of St. Francis of Assisi, some people are called to a deep love of God and neighbor by giving up all material possessions and taking a vow of poverty.
Four things are just necessary to attain happiness: love of God, love of neighbour, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and exercising authentic freedom by doing good and avoiding evil. The use of money consists in parting with it or giving it to others. This proceeds from a greater virtue than when we spend it on ourselves. We are called to give money to worthy causes on a regular basis. “It belongs to the liberal man to part with things,” says St Thomas Aquinas.
Our freedom was fractured by sin. The only way our fractured freedom can be healed is through the application of the Cross or sacrifice. It is about turning away from sin and turning toward God. When both aspects are embraced, we can begin to experience our own transformation/transfiguration, following that of Jesus on Mt Tabor (Matthew 17:1-13).
The Transfiguration of Jesus opens up for us a deeper insight into the plan of God for the whole human race. Believers are mandated to invite everyone into the new communion of love, where they can begin the process of conversion and transformation (Acts 2:41-47).