Few cultures can boast such a rich mythology as the Greeks. From the adventures of Ajax to the sorrows of Oedipus Rex, Greek folklore excels at transmitting profound moral lessons through creative storytelling. One of my personal favorites is the tragic tale of King Midas. After showing hospitality to a friend of the god Dionysius, Midas is allowed one wish. The king decided that he wanted everything he touched to turn into gold. “What is greater than money?” the king thought. With wealth he could buy whatever he wanted and be happy. Dionysius granted Midas’ wish. Soon, the selfish king’s castle was filled with 24 karat gold furniture, tapestries and even food. Excitedly, his daughter ran into the throne room to behold her father’s miraculous power. Delighted by his little girl’s presence, he ran to embrace her. While holding her, the king’s joy turned into horror as his daughter’s flesh slowly changed into metal. He wept over the child’s lifeless body. For his love of gold had stolen his greatest treasure. As usual, the ancient Greeks teach us a valuable lesson. Greed is a poison that blinds us to what truly matters. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, greed is the denial of things eternal for the sake of worldly things. In other words, it is an inordinate love of material things. Greed, also called avarice, replaces eternal satisfaction with temporal stimulation. As beings composed of body and soul, we can only be content by heavenly realities. In the end, even if earthly things can provide a passing pleasure, they cannot definitively fulfill us. When we allow money, time, career and technology to take priority in our lives, we fail to recognize our true happiness and the reason for our existence. This is why- no matter how much television we watch, Netflix episodes we binge, video games we play, money we make or Facebook likes we get- it is ultimately unrewarding. Furthermore, like King Midas, greed steals our attention from what is most precious in our lives. How many mothers and fathers careers get in the way of their parenting? They try to climb the corporate ladder at the cost of raising their children. A family can be happy in a 2000 square foot home just as much as a family can be miserable in a 8000 square foot mansion. How many young adults waste countless hours on social media at the cost of developing lasting human relationships? 1000 Facebook friends is nothing compared to one faithful friend. Satan is a master of illusion. His goal is to make life cheap by seducing us with superficial whims and empty promises. If he can convince us to waste our energies on worthless ambitions or worldly endeavors, then we prove no threat to his influence on culture. We are out of the game. The devil does not mind if you become partner at your law firm if it keeps you from becoming a saint in heaven. He will eagerly buff up your resume if it means dismantling your soul. All the forces of hell will work tirelessly to make you feel comfortable in this world if it means making you miserable in the next. Let’s not be fooled by the enemy’s tricks. We know what true happiness is and who can give it to us. Let us turn to Christ and the Church. That is where our real treasure lies.
The Seven Deadly Sins: Greed