Of the seven deadly sins, the one about which I’ve heard the least in sermons from the pulpit has been greed.
I wonder if my experience is unique or if others have noticed a similar lack of attention to that particular sin in their houses of worship.
A good sermon is nothing more or less than a good speech. And I love a good speech, whether it’s delivered in a religious or secular context.
As is the case with other speeches, some sermons have lulled me into a semi-comatose state while others have consoled me, uplifted me and enlightened me.
Most of the sermons I have heard through the mass media over the years have had little or nothing to do with greed.
Many of them denounce lust, another popular sin, but very few that I have heard denounce the lust for money and material possessions.
When I was in elementary school, one of my mother’s salon customers, an elderly, well-to-do, well-traveled doctor’s wife who had no children of her own, wanted to give me one of her mink stoles.
In an era before the animal rights movement made owning a real animal fur socially questionable, this was quite a generous gesture.
But, even at the risk of losing a customer and breaking this sweet old woman’s heart, mother told me I had to return the fur.
When I asked her why, mother said she did not want me to develop such a taste for expensive items that it overwhelmed more important priorities such as being a decent person or having a good work ethic.
We weren’t poor, but we were hardly rolling in dough. My parents, both of whom came from modest backgrounds, were just as conscientious about my brother and me not becoming monetary whores as they were about our not becoming sexual whores.
Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Greed is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.”
Yet, we as a society, heavily in debt and strapped for cash, express minimal outrage when hustlers from Wall Street to Washington imperil our future by prostituting national values for their personal financial enrichment.
Some well-heeled business owners in church congregations might feel targeted if preachers sermonize about greed, but they shouldn’t feel that way.
One need not be rich to be greedy. And all are invited to put whatever they can afford in the collection plate.
The labyrinth of ways to ferret away money in violation of the law is complex and not easily understood.
However, it is possible to understand because some people manipulate that labyrinth so freely.
If our news agencies spent more time investigating that labyrinth and less time wallowing in the real or manufactured sins of celebrities, perhaps we finally would come to understand that often misquoted line of scripture from First Timothy 6:10, It reads, in part, “Love of money is the root of all evil.”