Sunday, August 1, 2004

Covetousness: The Root Of All Evil


What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
James 4:1-2
The 9th and 10th commandments state:
  • You shall not covet your neighbours wife.
  • You shall not covet your neighbours goods.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that all sins against the 10 commandments should be confessed specially those against the 9th and 10th commandments which are more deadly than the others. I was surprised to read this because if we look at it, these two commandments are sins of the mind. The person has done nothing outside of his body YET. But the Church teaches that these are the most dangerous of all sins! Why?
Because these two sins lead a person to commit the other sins. Coveting a neighbours wife leads to adultery, which leads to lying, which leads to stealing and sometimes murder. Coveting a person's goods leads to stealing and lying, sometimes slander and murder.
Covetousness is not limited to material things. It could be non-material things like prestige and power. I agree with the Church when it speaks out on moral issues like abortion and same-sex marriages. However, I believe that her leaders should also speak out against graft and corruption and cheating, which are also evil.
How many times do we see people cheat, lie and sometimes kill to gain what they want? This does not only happen in secular politics. Sadly enough, this also happens within Christian Churches, perhaps not the killing part, I hope!
In a community, there is bound to be disagreements. Sincere disagreement is expected and should be encouraged. Paul and Peter had a disagreement. Paul and Barnabas quarreled over Mark. Jesus himself had disagreements with the leaders of his time. These disagreements are good because these are moments of teaching and learning.
James clearly shows us three signs that we need to be watchful as a community:
  1. Pride or arrogance. If a leader demands submission and believes that they have all the answers, this is a clear sign of danger. This was how cults start, where hundreds of the members were killed by their leaders. If the person's heart is right, there will always be submissiveness towards one in authority. Although he had disagreements with Peter, Paul presented his case to Peter and the apostles in Jerusalem. We also read that he visited Peter, James and John to confirm his teachings.
  2. Intrigues and gossip. When there are lies or confidential matters are leaked out, that is another danger signal. Intrigues happen because the people who start them know that they cannot stand when confronted. So they act like the devil, who works in secret and who loves secrecy.
  3. Little or shallow prayer life. A community that is not centered on the Word of God and on the Bread of Life is not a Catholic community. Leaders should be committed to praying the scripture and adoration of the Eucharist. The question is simple, how can one preach if one does not know Jesus? How can one lead if one does not know where to go?
I pray that our community will continue to grow in holiness. I pray that our leaders will continue to have humble hearts to learn and listen to Jesus. I pray that we all will have devotion to Jesus in the Word and the Eucharist so that we can indeed grow in holiness for the glory of the Father.

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