The Vice of Greed
Teaching of Virtue
The Vice of Greed
The insatiable thirst for more arises from the deadly sin of greed.
The vice of greed is a disposition of immoderate desire to possess worldly things over spiritual things.
Scripture says, “...Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). Yet, the greedy one is deceived to believe if they can only attain bigger and better things of all sorts—they will find happiness and fulfillment. They will not.
There is nothing wrong with nice things; greed is found in the rich and poor alike; for greed is not revealed in the content-qualities of one’s home—but in the content-qualities of one’s heart.
The greedy are preoccupied with the betterment of their status over the betterment of their soul—with how the world views them than God views them. Vain pursuit of temporal gain in place of eternal gain erodes their character, leaving them angered at what they lose, dissatisfied with what they have, and in an endless pit of want for what they do not yet possess.
Guard against greed with the virtues of generosity, detachment, and integrity; generosity to have a giving heart toward your time, talent, and treasure; detachment to view nothing as truly yours, but gifts from God, of which you are to be a good steward while under your care; integrity to say, “If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God” (St. Patrick), to strive to grow your character account before your bank account—to be rich from the inside out.
Scroll down for the related scriptures, quotes, and lesson plan associated with this teaching.
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“...Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” — Luke 12:15 (NRSV-CE)
“Command those who are rich in the things of this life not to be proud, but to place their hope, not in such an uncertain thing as riches, but in God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share with others. In this way they will store up for themselves a treasure which will be a solid foundation for the future. And then they will be able to win the life which is true life.” — 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (GNT)
“Wealth that has been obtained dishonestly is like a stream that runs full during a thunderstorm, tumbling rocks along as it flows, but then suddenly goes dry.” — Sirach 40:13-14 (GNT)
"No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” A Saying Against the Pharisees. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him. And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts..." — Luke 16:13-15 (NABRE)
"Then he said to the crowd, 'Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.' Then he told them a parable. 'There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, 'Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!'’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” — Luke 12:15-21 (NABRE)
“One who loves gold will not be justified; one who pursues money will be led astray by it. Many have come to ruin because of gold, and their destruction has met them face to face. It is a stumbling block to those who are avid for it, and every fool will be taken captive by it. Blessed is the rich person who is found blameless, and who does not go after gold.” — Sirach 31:5-8 (NRSV-CE)
“It is impolite to have a greedy eye; remember that. Nothing in creation is greedier than the eye; that is why it sheds tears so often.” — Sirach 31:13 (GNT)
“If you love money, you will never be satisfied; if you long to be rich, you will never get all you want. It is useless.” — Ecclesiastes 5:10 (GNT)
“Selfish people are in such a hurry to get rich that they do not know when poverty is about to strike.” — Proverbs 28:22 (GNT)
"Do not let your hand be stretched out to receive and closed when it is time to give." — Sirach 4:31 (NRSV-CE)
“Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.” — James 5:1-6 (NRSV-CE)
"Do not depend on dishonest wealth, for it will not benefit you on the day of calamity." — Sirach 5:8 (NRSV-CE)
“...those greedy for gain curse and renounce the Lord.” — Psalm 10:3 (NRSV-CE)
“Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households…” — Proverbs 15:27 (NRSV-CE)
“The eye of the greedy person is not satisfied with his share; greedy injustice withers the soul.” — Sirach 14:9 (NRSV-CE)
“Wealth is deceitful. Greedy people are proud and restless—like death itself they are never satisfied…” — Habakkuk 2:5 (GNT)
“Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” — 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NRSV-CE)
“Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have…” — Hebrews 13:5 (NRSV-CE)
“If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God.” — St. Patrick
“The sin is not in having more, the sin is being discontent. The sin is not in having wealth, the sin is in what you do with it. It’s not the amount, it’s the attitude… It’s not about what you have, it’s about how you feel about what you have.” — John MacArthur
“The problem with greed is not so much seen in our possessions, but rather what is possessing our hearts…Our Lord says to be on your guard against “every form of greed” in Luke 12:15. The way I see it, greed is the interlocking component that cements so many other sins together. If the heart is self-focused, looking for status in worldly stuff, it will be materialistic. More is always equivalent with success – admiration from others, joy in possessions, fulfillment in things. Thus a materialistic heart will be produced. The heart will always want more. Greed is then the result.” — Randy Smith
"[Greed] is a sin directly against one's neighbor, since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them... it is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, inasmuch as man contemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things." — St. Thomas Aquinas
“The reason that greed or avarice is one of the "deadly sins" is that it kills the soul to the extent that it substitutes things for God as the object of worship and inclines people to commit other moral violations along the way.” — Robert A. Sirico
"[Greed] plunges a man deep into the mire of this world, so that he makes it to be his god." — Henry Edward
“Greed was what motivated Judas to sell Jesus.” — St. Mother Teresa
“Earthly riches are like the reed. Its roots are sunk in the swamp, and its exterior is fair to behold; but inside it is hollow. If a man leans on such a reed, it will snap off and pierce his soul.” — St. Anthony of Padua
“The love for material things grows like a fungus in the soul and destroys the loveliness of the human heart utterly.” — Caryll Houselander
“The greedy man is really not rich, but poor. He does not control his money but is controlled by it. He does not possess his wealth but is possessed by it. He may have many things, yet for him he has all too little.” — St. Anthony of Padua
“Money, as it increases, becomes either the master or the slave of its owner.” — Horace
“In its pursuit of worldly possessions [one’s] poor heart fruitlessly exhausts itself, for it will never find content. It drinks deep at the fountains of pleasure, yet its thirst is never appeased. Its enjoyment of the possessions it has already acquired is destroyed by an insatiable thirst for more.” — Ven. Louis of Granada
“The wickedness of man is boundless; it seems at first as if a trifle would content him, but his passions invigorate by gratification; always indulged, always craving, and continually preying on him who feeds him.” — Aristotle
“The covetous man is ever in want.” — Horace
“Covetousness is a desire not only for money, but also for knowledge and high places, when prominence is immoderately sought after.” — St. Gregory the Great
“Covetousness makes one blind.” — St. Cyprian of Carthage
“It is not possible to take great pleasure in anything without becoming attached to it. If you lose property, and find yourself grievously afflicted at the loss, you may be sure that you were warmly attached to it; there is no surer proof of affection for the thing lost than our sorrow at its loss.” — St. Francis de Sales
“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” ― Socrates
“It is greed to do all the talking but not to want to listen at all.” ― Democritus
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.” — Mahatma Gandhi
“The avarice person is ever in want; let your desired aim have a fixed limit.” — Horace
“The lust of avarice as so totally seized upon mankind that their wealth seems rather to possess them than they possess their wealth.” — Pliny the Elder
“Rich people are greedy for the same reason poor people are greedy, because they are people. Gratitude, not poverty, cures greed.” — R.C. Sproul Jr.
“Our greatest gain is to lose the wealth that is of such brief duration and, by comparison with eternal things, of such little worth; yet we get upset about it and our gain turns to loss.” — St. Teresa of Avila
“Sufficient to say, greed is a deadly deed. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.” — St. Patrick
“Greed’s worst point is its ingratitude.” — Seneca
“None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” — Fred De Witt Van Amburgh
“Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward and learning to enjoy whatever life has and this requires transforming greed into gratitude.” — St. John Chrysostom
“In the twilight of life, God will not judge us on our early possessions and human successes but on how well we have loved.” — St. John of the Cross
“Envy and greed starve on a steady diet of thanksgiving.” — Billy Graham
“Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.” — Bob Marley
For your family, small group, or personal reflection.
STEP 1: Introduction
Example: "I'm going to play a short video on the topic of the vice of greed. After the video, I have some questions to gather your thoughts and get the discussion started. We’ll then wrap up with a closing prayer."
STEP 2: Watch Video (or listen)
Watch (or listen to) the video of the teaching (cast to your TV via YouTube). If time allows, also read the teaching, related Scriptures, and related quotes.
STEP 3: Discussion / Reflection
- The vice of greed is a disposition of immoderate desire to possess worldly things over spiritual things. Greed comes in many forms; some are greedy for money, power, recognition, friends, followers, and so on; whereas others are greedy with their time, belongings, relationships, knowledge, and beyond. What are some examples in your life where you struggle (or have struggled in the past) with greed (where you’ve put temporal gains before spiritual gains)?
- Greed is found in the rich and poor alike; for greed is not revealed in the content-qualities of one’s home—but in the content-qualities of one’s heart. What does this mean to you? (Hint: there is nothing wrong with nice things; where one goes wrong is when they become preoccupied with nice things, and grow attached to them; when their desire for things of the world steals from their desire to pursue God, and in the quest to become worldly rich, they become spiritually poor.)
- What can you do in your life to guard against greed by growing in the virtue of generosity; generosity to have a giving heart toward your time, talent, and treasure?
- What can you do in your life to guard against greed by growing in the virtue of detachment; detachment to view nothing as truly yours, but gifts from God, of which you are to be a good steward while under your care?
- What can you do in your life to guard against greed by growing in the virtue of integrity; integrity to say, “If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God” (St. Patrick), to strive to grow your character account before your bank account—to be rich from the inside out.?
- What is an example from your life (if any) where greed got the best of you but you eventually overcame it? What lessons did you learn?
- Did any of the related Scriptures or quotes stand out to you (please elaborate)?
- Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
STEP 4: Wrap Up & Closing Prayer
Summarize and wrap up the discussion. Then, conclude with a sincere and humble prayer from the heart.