How to Get Rid of Greed?

If we open the Holy Scriptures, we will not find the word “greed” there, although this does not mean that the Book of Revelation does not expose this vice. The holy fathers also did not particularly favor this term with their attention. But dictionaries often define the concept of "greed" with the help of such synonyms as avarice, stinginess, and covetousness.

All this suggests that the vice of greed is heterogeneous and includes a number of additional categories. That is why the fight against greed must be a fight against its manifestation, which is characteristic of each individual person. Let's make a few comments on each of them.

Covetousness and Avarice
These two vices are very similar and imply greed, the pursuit of personal gain. Let's turn to the Holy Scriptures. The essence and aspirations of greedy people are well described by the prophet Amos: “Hear this, you who hunger to devour the poor and destroy the poor, you who say, ‟someday the new moon will pass to sell us bread, the price of the shekel and deceive with the wrong weights, so that you can buy the poor for silver and the poor for a pair of shoes, and sell the grain from the bread”. (Amos 8: 4-6) 

The Tenth Commandment is also directed against greedy people, it is also called the boundary commandment between the Old and New Testaments. The first nine commandments talk about what should not be done, and the tenth - repeats several times, “Do not covet your neighbor's house; do not covet your neighbor's wife”(Ex. 20:17), - thus, it refers sin not only to the sphere of actions, but also to the sphere of inner desires and aspirations. The selfish person, as the Psalter says, “pleases himself”. (Ps. 9:24)

These vices concern not only the area of ​​a person's personal life, but cause significant damage to their neighbor, therefore we see that the Lord is angry with them, strikes (Isaiah 57:17) and even takes revenge (1 Thess. 4: 6). It turns out that covetousness and avarice are so disgusting and pernicious sins that the punishment for them is directly spoken of in both the Old and New Testaments. This very fact should make those who are prone to them refrain from committing such crimes.

In confronting passions, it is important to remember one patristic ascetic principle: every vice is eradicated by its opposite virtue. But, as we know, sin always begins with a thought, therefore St. Isaac the Syrian, and after him our compatriot - St. Nil Sorsky said this principle is transferred to the sphere of the mind. They say that if we notice a thought filled with greed, greed for the amount of a coveted object, then it should immediately be replaced with a good thought.

It is interesting that as a good thought the saints do not mean the thought of mercy or alms, but the awakening in themselves of the memory of malice, which will fill us immediately after the satisfaction of passion. One clarification needs to be made here. If a person discerns a vice in himself and thinks about the struggle with it, it means that he has a sinful experience that weighs upon him and from which he wants to get rid of. Let everyone remember himself.

Until the passion is satisfied, it looks attractive and sweet, but as soon as we go about it, then we are immediately covered with a feeling of spiritual filth and regret for what we have done. At such moments, our conscience simply incinerates us, but after some time, the sharpness of its "gaze" dulls, and passion gains strength again. We are sick with sin, and therefore are not able to immediately, by an effort of will, to stop the action of passions, but we still have a memory - the memory of how bad it was when the last time we again went on about our own vice. It is this recollection that the Reverend Fathers propose to extract from our minds as a substitute for a passionate thought. Thus, sinful experiences can be, so to speak, processed and used for good.

It differs from greed and self-interest in that it is not aimed at acquiring profit, but at the scrupulous preservation of what is already there. Often the basis for stinginess is lack of faith. We forget that all our hairs on our heads are numbered (Matthew 10:30), and therefore we try to somehow protect ourselves, play it safe, especially when there are constant if not crises and wars around us, then quarantine falls. But let's listen to the words of the apostle Paul: “With this I will say: whoever sows sparingly, he will reap sparingly; but whoever sows abundantly will reap abundantly. Give each according to the disposition of your heart, not with grief or compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver ”(2 Cor. 9: 6-7).

Miserliness fights with its opposite, generosity. Even if we cannot give some material resources sincerely, even if we have to force ourselves to donate a mere dollar — the loss of which will not change our life in any way — even if at first it is like this, we still need to share, and help the poor, because otherwise it's a sin.

If we constantly save for a "rainy day" and do not interfere with this accumulation in any way, then it will devour us. Among Christians, stinginess in this regard sometimes manifests itself in a special way. I witnessed how, due to the talk about the end of the world and the end times, some Orthodox Christians began to procure non-perishable food and other food products. Then I had a question: “Why all this? It turns out that in case of hunger, when people around will suffer, we will quietly, from under the floor, eat buckwheat prepared in advance?" The fact that this is not a Christian attitude, I think, is not worth discussing.

Love of Money

In a conversation about greed, it was impossible not to mention it, since the apostle Paul calls the love of money “the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10) - therefore “the covetous person, who is an idolater, has no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5: 5).

Here again we return to a conversation about the substitution of good thoughts for evil thoughts. Only now, menacing apostolic words play their role. In general, turning to the Holy Scriptures helps to fight any passions. It not only gives food for thought, distracts the mind from sinful inclinations, but also in some special, mysterious way has a beneficial effect on the soul.

St. John Chrysostom once said: “I am surprised at those who do not neglect money. This is a sign of a soul filled with extreme laziness, a soul ... not imagining anything great" — it turns out that attachment to money is directly related to what we fill our minds with, which is why, as I said, just reading the Bible itself can change a person. You need to remember the instruction of St. Maximus the Confessor, that in the sacred texts it is necessary to clearly distinguish between the letter and the spirit, because only in this case it can be beneficial.

It should be added to this that one should not neglect the reading of patristic and other literature, which is capable of making us think about deep and important topics. If you entertain your mind all the time by watching movies, flipping through tapes in social networks, playing computer games, then the result of the struggle with passions will be zero.

And if our mind is always thinking about ways to improve, then step by step we will begin to notice the changes that have begun in our soul. The Lord is waiting for action, activity. He will come to the aid of the one who is struggling. He will support, prompt, direct. But He will in no way help the one who does not care, who is ready to lose a blissful eternity for the sake of fleeting and temporary pleasures.

Greed is born from spiritual emptiness, loss of meaning, and a lack of goals extending beyond the horizon of death. The methods of dealing with greed mentioned here are not difficult in theory, nor in the mechanics of implementation. The difficulty is always associated with an effort of the will, and though a passion may only erode gradually, over time we can overcome it.