Alas! We have come to seventh deadly sin: greed. I didn’t intentionally leave this one to the last. However, I think it’s a fitting end. I, for one, think the financial woes we’ve been experiencing as a nation and its global impact have been at least a generation in the making. A slow unraveling of values and regulations perpetrated by greed. The slow, numbing process that gradually seduces us until we finally awaken to a stark reality.
Sin is like that. It’s a fine line between what’s OK and what’s not. It’s rarely blatant, otherwise we’d be more attuned to resisting its temptation. It’s what happens when we fail to pay attention to what’s going on in us and around us.
Greed, like its siblings lust and gluttony, is about excess. Greed is a restlessness of the heart that craves more power and possessions. Greed is insatiable, each acquisition bringing less fulfillment, and the unrelenting cycle continues. It is also self-serving, without regard to the impact or consequences for others.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Apart from the open bar by the swimming pool, the main attraction at parties held at the Houston home of John Schiller, an oil company executive, and his wife, Kristi, a Playboy model turned blogger, is the $50,000 playhouse the couple had custom-built two years ago for their daughter, Sinclair, now 4.
Cocktails in hand, guests duck to enter through the 4 ½-foot door. Once inside, they could be forgiven for feeling as if they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.
Built in the same Cape Cod style as the Schillers’ expansive main house, the two-story 170-square-foot playhouse has vaulted ceilings that rise from five to eight feet tall, furnishings scaled down to two-thirds of normal size, hardwood floors and a faux fireplace with a fanciful mosaic mantel.
The little stainless-steel sink in the kitchen has running water, and the matching stainless-steel mini fridge and freezer are stocked with juice boxes and Popsicles. Upstairs is a sitting area with a child-size sofa and chairs for watching DVDs on the 32-inch flat-screen TV. The windows, which all open, have screens to keep out mosquitoes, and there are begonias in the window boxes. And, of course, the playhouse is air-conditioned. This is Texas, after all.
“I think of it as bling for the yard,” said Ms. Schiller, 40.
Some people might consider it “obnoxious” for a child to have a playhouse that costs more and has more amenities than some real houses, she conceded. But she sees it as an extension of the family home. “My daughter loves it,” she said. “And it’s certainly a conversation piece.” (from the July 20, 2011 New York Times article ‘Child’s Play, Grown-Up Cash.’ )
For real?!? If you read the rest of the article, you’ll see that some pay upwards of $200,000 for a playhouse! Bling for the yard?!? A conversation piece?!? The slideshow in the article is well-worth a gander just to sear one reality of greed in your mind.
But sometimes greed isn’t quite so blatant and in order to get to its roots we have to ask ourselves some difficult questions: What is the motivation and is it at someone else’s expense? Who ultimately benefits? What are the long-term consequences of this decision and what impact will it have on others? Is it a need or a want? Even if I don’t benefit personally, is it still good investment for the greater good?
An oft-misquoted verse comes to mind: The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (I Timothy 6:10). Money, in and of itself, isn’t evil, but the misplaced devotion to, of, and about it is. Misplaced devotion of anything leads us astray and causes us to be myopic in our view of ourselves and our circumstances. Money and power notwithstanding.
Sin is often equated with cancer. It starts out as a small, almost innocuous growth, and if unchecked and untreated, can metastasize until it completely poisons and shuts down our vital organs. The result is death.
Sin doesn’t always result in physical death, but it does deaden us to ourselves and others. When left unchecked, the effects of pride, envy, anger, sloth, lust, gluttony and greed, will fester in us until we become dead to ourselves and completely disconnected from others. Treatment means examining our motivations and actions and being willing to make changes in our lives. It may be unpopular and it will take courage, but it is always life-enhacning.
The good news is is that we can break the cycle. Not necessarily on our own, but certainly with the grace of God.