Msgr. Charles Pope on "The Pain of Greed":
The sinful drive of greed will always protest unless we...learn to curb it. Greed will always make us think that we need more; that we need what we want, in the way that we want it, and exactly when we want it. And if we get all that, we are still not satisfied; we simply become more particular, fussy, and demanding. Indeed, we have never had so many consumer options, comforts, and conveniences; and yet I would say that on the whole we have never been more unhappy. In this age of comfort and convenience, psychotherapy and psychotropic medications are big businesses. Misery indexes, consumer confidence surveys, and opinion polls often show high levels of fear, dissatisfaction, and anger. It is the same with our health. We have never lived so long and been so healthy, yet we have never worried more about our health.
Yes, no matter how much we have, it is never enough; and we are all afflicted with greed to some extent. Greed is one of the under-confessed sins of our time. It is always the other guy who is greedy, the one who earns more than I do; he is the greedy one.
No, greed is common a human problem, and it takes a heavy toll on us all by robbing us of gratitude, satisfaction, and joy with what we have. Greed robs us of the ability to enjoy life and to savor what is before us.
What does our present age with its unprecedented comforts and conveniences actually afford us? Stress, overwork, and worry seem to be our common lot. We are all in a big hurry to get somewhere, to get on to the next thing. Consider a simple thing like a car or a cell phone—great conveniences, right? Yet they seem to bring more stress. Our cars raise the expectation that we should reasonably be all over God’s green acre with little care for the actual human cost of making the trip and sitting in traffic. Our cell phones make us available at any time of the day or night; there is little or no quiet in our lives; relationships are more often virtual than real.
At some point it all starts to seem loathsome to us. We have more and more, the latest and greatest, the most recent upgrade—more and more until it comes out of our nostrils. We start to long for simplicity and for a time before we ever knew we “needed” all this stuff. Yet we cannot imagine how to pull free from so much of it. Life without a cellphone? Life without Facebook? Are you kidding? All of our gadgets and advanced technology have not freed us; they have ensnared us. And still our greed drives us to want more.
Simplicity may be difficult to achieve in times like these. Living in an Amish village is not an option for most of us, but deciding what is important and then focusing on it is a step in the right direction. To an age that cries out” “You can have it all,” we must learn to respond, “No, I can’t. We have to accept that “all” is too much and that less is more.
Affluence and abundance usually seem unambiguously good to us, but they are not; they bring human costs that we too seldom weigh...In other words, in our abundance we have too much to lose and so are easily threatened. There is a paradoxical kind of freedom that comes from having and needing less.