There is a section in Luke’s gospel (12: 13-21) which tells of Jesus warning against avarice.  The dictionary definition of avarice is “excessive or insatiable desire for wealth or gain.”  A synonym is greediness.  The words “greedy” or “avaricious” have strong negative connotations.  We certainly would be reluctant to think of ourselves in that way.  But the temptation to greed is peril we must face.  It is part of our make-up as human beings to want what we perceive as good.  Because our nature is wounded by original sin there is a certain disorder in our natural inclinations. We can want the wrong thing.  We can want a good thing in an inordinate way. It is a human tendency to always want more and when we have more, to want better, and when we have better, to want   different.

We live in a consumer society.  We are bombarded with appeals to buy, to consume.  As an example think of the Sunday newspaper.  If all those ads weigh less than the rest of the paper it can’t be by much.

Following the warning is a parable illustrating the peril of avarice.    Two things need to be noted about the rich man in the parable. First he never saw beyond himself, his own needs and wants.  His attitude is the exact opposite of the true Christian.  Instead of finding happiness in giving he tries to assure his happiness by hoarding.  The man is completely self-centered.  That is something we all have to struggle with, the challenge to become less and less self-centered and more and more God-centered.

The second thing about the rich man is that he never looked beyond this world.  In a way he reflects a dilemma we all face.  We must live in the world without making it our center.  At the same time we must look beyond this world without neglecting things that must be done in this world.  It seems a paradox that the greatest saints who focused intensely on God and the world beyond actually made some of the greatest contributions to this world.
In the words of Jesus we are challenged to be “in the world but not of the world.”  That certainly is not easy.  It is like walking a tightrope.  We can learn from tightrope walkers.  They don’t look at the ground below.  They don’t look to the right or the left but focus on the wire leading to the goal, the opposite platform.  We would do well to focus on Jesus as the wire leading to our final goal.