VIRTUES & VICES
GREED vs CHARITY
This category should give no trouble at all. Should it?
I'll start with Greed, since it seems that Sins are the most fun for us mortals.
Greed, according to the dictionary is "excessive desire." Clear enough. At least on the surface.
But then, not all Desires are Vices. Some, it appears to me, are good to go overboard on.
How about a person who has a fervent desire to help their neighbor? Or one who dedicates their life to feeding the poor? Or, a person who casts aside everything in pursuit of the Virtues?
Again, there must be more to it than just Excessive Desire.
The dictionary adds, "Especially for food or wealth." And of course that would make it fit right in with the program. But the word "especially" serves as an open door to anything else someone wishes to toss into the mix.
Let's check the languages and see what we can find.
In the Latin, the word is avaritia, or avarice, as we would call it. So let's look up Avarice.
The dictionary gives us, "Extreme greed for money or gain." That makes it clearer. No open doors there. It also adds, "Cupidity." So, in order to round out this section, I will look that word up.
For Cupidity we are given, "Greed for gain, Avarice." So we are back at the beginning, but this time with the door closed, but not locked. And since it was the Latins who devised the Seven, I think that having used their own word should suffice, rather than Greed, which is an English equivalent.
Another aspect of Greed that might be worthy of considering, is that even excessive desire for the Virtues could be considered a Vice. If a person seeks for their own value, their own perfection, their own karma to the exclusion of everyone else, couldn't that be considered a sin? Wouldn't it be more worthy a quest to strive for higher Virtues, and to help overcome the Vices, of others, rather than one's self?
Add to this the admonition of the Ancients to be moderate, that is, to be neither hot nor cold, but take the middle ground, then any extreme would be a Vice.
Now, to stir up the mix a bit, the Bible says that God wants us to be an Extremist. That a double-minded person is unstable in all his ways. That if we are lukewarm He will "Spue you out of my mouth." That He would rather that we be cold, than to be lukewarm. That the road is straight and narrow. And, of course, the road He is referring to is very high, and nowhere near the middle.
I think you will agree, unless you are just browsing; you are not going to get off this page without doing a little thinking.
On to Charity.
Charity, according to the dictionary is; giving to and helping those in need. That's clear enough. No argument could be had with that.
But is that all there really is too it? You stick your hand in your pocket or purse, pull out a dollar bill and hand it to someone -- and now you are no longer Greedy? Now you will come back in a higher form in the next life, or go to Heaven, depending on your Faith?
I can commit Vices all week, and put money in the collection plate on Sunday, and now I'm Virtuous, like Al Capone?
Robin Hood, where art thou, now?
I think some investigating is in order.
Again we look to the Latin, and we find that the word for Charity that was originally used was liberalis, which, to us would be Liberally, which the dictionary defines as, "Liberal, abundant." This explains it a little better. Now we know that a dollar in the kitty won't do -- it has to be at least two dollars. Of course, I'm being facetious, that is, kidding around.
In other words, it seems, you can't just give, you have to give a bit of yourself as well.
A point of interest; An old meaning of the Latin word used for Charity had the meaning, "Free man". Could that have had the implication that if you give, it frees you? Just a thought.
As we dig a little deeper, let us turn to the Greek, since it has a lot to say about Charity. In fact, the Greek has several words for it expressing different levels.
So, the Greek word for Charity is agape, which means, "Love, affection, benevolence."
That certainly adds to the picture. You not only have to give, you have to give a bit of yourself, (as we have already seen), and now, it appears that we have to care about the person we are giving too.
Goodness! How much more is going to be asked of us?
Apparently, quite a bit. At least according to the Bible.
Jesus, as an illustration, said of a woman that put a tiny amount of money in the collection for the poor, that she had contributed more than all the others who put in much more. He said that she had contributed from her penury (meaning destitute) all that she had, and that the others had contributed from their abundance.
She was the poor. All that money should have been going to her. Yet, she was giving instead of taking.
That's asking a lot.
And for more, if you would like to research this aspect of giving further, here is a good place you can start: 1st Corinthians Chapter 18.