The humorous video below well illustrates some of the following lines from the Book of Ecclesiastes:

The fool folds his arms and consumes his own flesh. Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and a chasing after the wind….Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is vanity. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. (Eccles 4:5-6, 5:9-11).

Yes, it is too easily a sad truth that the more we get, the more we want. And even though we begin to discover that our greed robs us of our peace, and brings many discomforts and inconveniences, still we run after it! Too rare are those who learn to be satisfied with less in order to enjoy it. And too many are those who crave more and more, but in their pursuit, enjoy what they have less and less.

Consider how some, in their pursuit of the “American Dream” crave the big house in the suburbs: Ah the “great-room” with cathedral ceilings, the tray ceiling in the master bedroom with its “on-suite” master bath, jacuzzi tub, double sinks, granite counter-tops, the his-and-her walk-in closets….well you get the point.

But having all this comes at a price. The suburbs bring nightmarish commutes. Hefty mortgage payments erode income. And even those who can afford the payments, often did not factor in the cost of maintenance, insurance, security, the cost of commuting, and the cost of heating and cooling the 2500-4000 square foot “dream home.”

Bills mount, debt increases, fears and sleeplessness sets in. Arguments about money and upgrades multiply. Perhaps a part time job must be taken, or a young mother must work to afford the “dream.” Commuting parents working extra hours barely know their children who are raised by strangers, daycare workers, school officials, and the media. Concerns multiply, sleep decreases, anger and strife flare.

And though the “dream” is clearly a nightmare, greed demands still more. The thought of selling, and buying a smaller home and being satisfied, seems quite impossible for too many.

The thus, as the biblical text above says, “the fool folds his arms” that is, he doubles down and stubbornly refuses any true assessment of the vanity of riches, and the inconvenience and headache they bring.

This video below humorously illustrates this biblical insight. A man walking the street sees a valuable 10 Pound note stuck beneath the tire of a car. And after several attempts to free the money, he realizes that he will have to wait for the parked car to be moved. So, as the biblical text above says, “He folds his arms” and is determined to wait.

Hmm… Is it really worth the wait? All that time, inconvenience, and uncertainty? Greed says yes! He spies a more comfortable spot in the window of a nearby coffee shop and enters, seats himself at the window, and starts spending his money in the cafe, wasting his time, and anxiously waiting for his moment to get more. In his wait are many anxious moments when he worries that someone else may get the money instead of him.

Yes, his desire for more not only has him anxious, it also has him in contention with others who might get what he wants. Suddenly everyone seems like an enemy or a competitor.

And here is a pretty good picture of too many of us today, anxiously waiting in traffic, in shopping lines, wasting time, all to get more. We look nervously to others and worry they might have more than we do, or get what we want. Tempers flare and suspicion too.

The humorous end I will not give away, but us simply say it fulfills the biblical text above with says, As goods increase, so do those who consume them.

A final note. The cafe he enters is called the “Punch and Judy Cafe.” No time to develop all the history here, but simply to note that Punch and Judy shows were an old form of entertainment using puppets (See photo, above right). The shows were a kind of dark comedy that gave a kind of sideways look at the less attractive aspects of culture and people. The main character “Punch” often violently lashes out at the other characters as if to say, “Life and the darker side of things and people tend to hit you where it hurts.” In the “Punch and Judy” Cafe of life, our darker side, in this case greed, often deliver a real gut-punch, a sucker-punch, a punch where it hurts.

Enjoy this video, but take seriously its message. If the embed code doesn’t work for you here is the URL: http://gloria.tv/?media=474475

17 Responses

  1. Donna says:

    So true, so true! We tend to think that peer pressure is only for the young. Not so, as you so precisely point out. Keeping up with the Joneses can be all consuming. We waste much of our time thinking about it, chasing it, worrying about it and altering our lives because of it. The virtue of being totally content with what God has given to me is a lot like the virtue of patience in my life….I’m always praying for it! The video was laugh out loud funny, but your litany of what the “American Dream” house should contain made me smile too, thinking that you are watching way too much of HGTV’s house hunters! :) (only kidding, couldn’t resist that one). That show is a good example, though, of what we have become and how selfish a people we really are. Very sad! Great Post!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Oh my gosh, the term “great room” makes my skin crawl! A modest life is so wonderful and fulfilling without coveting a bunch of expensive junk.

    Oh, and speaking of junk, an elderly friend of mine used to say something funny about cars. “There are only two kinds of cars–shiny new junk and old rusted junk.” How true!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I love this post! You know, I once knew a devout Catholic who was also an extremely successful business owner– easily the most affluent man in the town. He could have afforded to buy the best of everything, but instead drove around in a 15-yr-old Chevy, lived in a modest, 1600 sq ft house, and owned maybe 3 or 4 suits. People who didn’t know him well assumed he was just a “cheapskate” and that he must have “hoarded” his wealth. Yet those acquainted with him in the parish community knew firsthand how unfailingly generous he was to anyone in need. It was only after he died that the pastor told tales of the man’s munificence, because he never wanted praise for it while he was alive.
    Two other things really stood out about this gentleman, even to the average observer: 1)Though he lived frugally and without waste, he was clearly very content and fulfilled. 2)Though some people mistake the “simple life” as a type of careless disregard for all material goods, in this man’s case, it wasn’t so. He didn’t have/retain a whole lot, but he took great care of what he DID have. He’d meticulously mow the lawn and trim the hedges in his front yard; his suits and shoes were always clean/polished, and he’d always have a tidy appearance. He demonstrated by example that part of being a good steward is also being grateful enough to God for what we have to care for it, rather than let it needlessly fall to ruin. I wish more people thought and acted that way– I certainly pray I will fully internalize that lesson in my own life.
    Many Thanks, Msgr. Pope, for another very timely and insightful post!

  4. RichardGTC . says:

    I don’t think the guy in that video was being too greedy. I heard once that priests were kept in seminaries for so long to ween them off of punch (booze) and Judy (women). Funny video.

    • RichardGTC . says:

      I see now that the Catechism defines greed as a sin against the 9th Commandment. I would have spoken more precisely if I had said said that I didn’t see guy in the video wanting anything that he is forbidden to want or doing anything against his neighbor to get what he wants that he is forbidden to do.

  5. Thomas says:

    It would be good if the suburbs were cheaper. The problem is that it is too expensive to live in the suburbs or in the city.

  6. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    Back in the 1950′s and 60′s there was a writer named Vance Packard. He wrote books that back then became best-sellers. The books looked at how advertising was making us greedy, selfish, etc. even against our will. One of his books was titled “The Hidden Persuaders.” It was about how advertisements are frequently created with the help of psychologists and psychiatrists. The way we are swamped with ads today is even worse, but where is our modern prophet uncovering the tricks and strategems used now to make us all hedonists who are miserable unless we are able to gorge ourselves on material goods from beer to autos.

  7. Aloysius Duque says:

    Greed is a sin against the 1st commandment!

  8. TaillerHews says:

    Now that really does teach us the truth about the anxiety and unwitting puppetry of greed. Excellent use of media Msgr Pope. Thank you.

  9. chukwubunna says:

    Father you said it, but that wonderful video explained it all. I have seen how greed can make a man think that everyone is against him, even the innocent. With greed, we see problem where there is peace and we spend our time finding solutions to problems that don’t exist.

  10. Steve says:

    I would like to mention that on all that has been written about greed I do not believe I have ever read anything on what a persons greed can do to those around them.

  11. EJCM says:

    Anyone who wishes to expand on this might like to read “Happy Are You Poor” by Father Thomas Dubay. I am approximately two thirds through it and it is very thought provoking to say the least.

  12. Ryan says:

    If your point is that people should live within their means, then I agree. I resent the vilification of those who seek to expand their means. This disdain of work is the reason Catholic countries (Ireland, Portugal, Italy) tend to be poorer and always need bailouts from Protestant countries (Great Britain, Germany). As a Catholic, I find this embarrassing.

    • Why resent it, why not just disagree? Also why use the word vilification when the tone of the post is a light-hearted consideration of Greed which is a human problem, common to all classes and races? Is having these visceral responses indicative of some personal issue for you? Of course I cannot say since I do not know you, but methinks thou dost protest too much and I wonder why?

  13. Pedro says:

    The video reminds me a lot that of the Old Whishing Well, by Benny Hill: wheen, as Father Pope has frecuently said, the best is enemy of the good. http://youtu.be/jkU9FAxUE1Q

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