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Sin seldom strides into our lives announcing its hostile intentions. It prefers stealth, camouflage, or even better, to appear friendly. As Thomas Aquinas taught, when we do evil we always will to act "under the aspect of the good."

Sin typically cloaks itself in some story or rationalization that mitigates or hides our wrongdoing from ourselves: Inordinate anger masquerades as "righteous indignation," arrogance as "standing up for my rights," retaliation as "giving them what they deserve," profligacy as "giving myself what I deserve," lust as "healthy romantic ardor," and so on. When it comes to sin, we're inveterate "spin doctors." As "The Fraudbuster" suggests, such rationalizations also accompany greed.

Greed is an inappropriate attitude toward things of value, built on the mistaken judgment that my well-being is tied to the sum of my possessions. Greed is more than mistaken belief—as if knowing a few more facts would somehow solve the problem. It also involves emotions (perhaps longing, unfulfillment, fear) and attitudes (a sense of entitlement, rivalry). Greed alienates us from God, from our neighbor, and from our true self.

Ahab only coveted Naboth's vineyard in his heart—one form of greed. But Jezebel, his queen, acting under the banner of entitlement—"Are you the king of Israel or not?" (1 Kings 21:7, nlt)—arranged for Naboth's death and seized the vineyard. When we covet our neighbors' house, car, spouse, or whatever else, we see them as rivals or impediments to our own gratification.

On one level, we see at once the errors that underlie greed. We know that the world and all that it contains belong to God, and that our immediate and ultimate good consists in being rightly related to him, not ...

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Three Faces of Greed
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In the Magazine

January 2005

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