Seeking Real Treasures
When I was a kid, our parents bought us books of stories for children. One of the stories I would often read is the story of King Midas. Though there are several versions of the story, here is one I would like to share.
King Midas was a greedy monarch. Though already rich, he still craved for more. One day he commanded his court magician to find him a spell that can get him more and more treasures that he already had. The magician told him: “Your majesty, I can give you the power no one else in this world has – anything you touch will turn into gold!” The eyes of the materialistic ruler sparkled when he heard those words. “Then give that power to me!” he delightfully declared. Thus King Midas’ touch became a touch of gold. He turned trees, tables, flowers and chairs into gold. “Yes, I’m the richest king in the world!” he boasted.
That evening, he felt so tired. When he sat down for dinner his plate turned gold; so also the tables and spoon. Even his soup and all the food offered to him. He couldn’t even sleep because his bed was a bed of gold! Now he got concerned. Waking up tired in the morning he came out of his room. When her beautiful daughter saw him, she ran to embrace him. But alas! His beloved daughter became a statue – hard and cold.
His sadness turned into despair. He has lost the love of his life. This really alarmed him. He called his court magician: “Please help me. Take this curse away. I don’t want to get rich anymore. I just want my beloved daughter back!”
Thus the magician broke the spell and everything came back to normal. King Midas realized that love and relationship were more important that wealth and gold.
This Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 12:13-21) speaks about greed. Jesus warns us to guard our heart against greed. It is dangerous. It can ruin one’s life. It makes a person feel complacent and insensitive to the plight of others like the Gospel parable. The rich man told himself after gaining so much: “just relax, eat, drink and be merry.” According to the educator and writer Horace Mann “doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”
What, then, is greed? It is an overwhelming desire to have more of something such as money or what money can buy than is actually needed. In other words, an excessive lust for things. Money is neither good or bad. It really depends on how one uses it. Scripture further reminds us that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10).
Regarding greed, let us consider 3 things:
1. Greed is a human weakness.
It is a virus that infects anybody. Greed is not only the problem of the rich; also the poor. The rich, however, has the greater capacity to own. Just consider the recent standings of the 50 richest Filipinos according to Forbes Magazine. Their total collective wealth is $65.8 billion (rappler.com report). Meaning, only 50 families out of the Philippines’ population of 94.85 million (2011 data) actually control a big chunk of the country’s wealth. Could it be called “hoarding?”
It is also a weakness of politicians, as well as ordinary working Filipinos. The hot issue in the papers these days is about the P10 billion pork barrel scam with Janet Napoles tagged (allegedly) as the brains behind it. In her affidavit she denied any involvement to it, yet her daughter flaunts their wealth in social media. In her instagram account, she boasts of expensive cars, watches, jewelries, clothing and shoes she received from her parents during her birthday and college graduation. In a blog, she shows-off a clutch bag costing roughly P400,000 and 9 pairs of shoes costing P360,000 each. It also alleged that her watches alone cost P1 million each.
The laity – ordinary catholics – are not only the victims of greed. Even the priests and bishops can be affected. Pope Francis in one of his July message noted “it hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car.. pick up something more humble.” He is merely echoing the warning of Jesus.
2. Greed is a symptom of a deeper “need”
A psychological root for greed is an insatiable appetite for something that’s missing; a craving needing to be satisfied. As greed grows, so the desire grows. It can be a consuming drive for more whether its wealth, achievement, praise, appreciation, alcohol, or sex.
Worst, it becomes an addiction difficult to control. Bo Sanchez writes: “at the core of every addiction is a ‘hunger for love.’ It is an empty love tank.” Meaning: you don’t really love yourself in a genuine way when you engage in self-destructive behavior.”
3. To overcome greed, Jesus teaches us a “wisdom of the heart” (cf. Psalm 90)
Jesus insists that we focus on what is important. He wants us to have a proper perspective of things. Prioritize on what really matters. The Gospel says: store up for yourselves real treasure. Be rich in what matter to God.
King Midas realized that love and relationship were important. Wealth, in the end, is vanity. To overcome greed, make a choice. Take a stand. Make it a personal choice, a personal creed to value integrity over wealth; principle over profit. Otherwise greed will consume your heart and will control your life.