Will all of us who are greedy, please stand up! What? Not one of us is standing? Let’s take an honest look at this…
In Chapter 57 – The Artisans of the Monastery Benedict cautions against the evil of avarice in setting prices
of goods sold by the monastery. They are to be a little lower than people charge outside the monastery and are not to be motivated by avarice, i.e., by extreme greed for wealth or monetary gain. Lower prices are to be set “so that in all things God may be glorified” (RB 57-8-9 and I Peter 4:11).
Now some of us may make things to price and sell. But this caution against extreme greed isn’t just about money for we live in a culture soaked with greed. Each of us can take actions motivated by avarice in a plethora of different ways: greed for the latest in technology, for security, greed for self-indulgence, for the good opinion of others, for that snazzy sweater or pair of shoes that we just must have, greed for recognition of the super-fabulous things we can do, for instructing our children in ways that make us look good, greed for a chorus of “Isn’t she wonderful!” when we do a good work, greed for telling everyone else what to do, for having everything under control, for having the longest to-do list, and greed for completing everything on that list, greed for having a big cushion of cash in the bank, for etc., etc, and puff, puff.
Let’s pause a moment to reflect. Where does greed and even avarice personally play out in our own lives? (“Surely, not I, Lord?”) In his book Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps For A Fulfilling Life, Benedictine Abbot Christopher Jamison writes, “…we tend to see greed as a quality in other people rather than in ourselves.” “Greed,” he explains, “is a thought that exists on a spectrum from weak to strong, but it affects us all.” So I ask must myself “Where am I bitten by the avarice bug?” Where are you smitten by greed? (This is hard. Maybe you and I need to step it down a bit to “What do I always really, really want?”)
(Example of Greed-In-Action: Jane thinks, “This article needs to be rewritten until it’s perfect so that people will be helped and inspired by it.” Or does Jane really mean, “…so that people will acknowledge me as a good and knowledgeable writer?” Hmmmm….)
When you and I are motivated by greed our motivations and our actions come from ourselves and point to ourselves. Even if these actions seem harmless, they keep us enclosed in our own narrow world as we busily arrange things to pump up our glory, shutting ourselves off from the presence of grace, beauty and glory of God around us.
If we are intent on following Benedict and his Gospel-focused path, we must set aside as best we can ANY and all forms of greed, “so that in all things God may be glorified.” RB 57.7-9 Living to the glory of God is offering all we do to God and acknowledging that all we do is with God and for God. We can hold ourselves lightly and point to God instead of to ourselves in all we do and all we are. Here is one great example of this. At the end of his compositions eighteenth century Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach would write Soli Deo Gloria – To God Alone the Glory. And he really meant that!
Can we set our obsessions aside and do ALL we do for the glory of God? Can I cook this meal, write this newsletter, clean this litter pan, sing this anthem, make this decision, shovel the driveway, solve this problem, be patient in this contentious situation, have a conversation with my husband…ALL for the glory of God?
What do you think? Is it possible to do even the smallest task to the glory of God and not to ourselves alone? Yes! Give this a try! If you would like some help on bringing this Benedictine practice to your life, click on the link to the Tool “To God Alone the Glory” below.
What happens when we practice this spiritual discipline? I experience gratitude and a greater ability to live in the present moment. I think what we experience will be different for all of us, yet a common thread among us is that we draw closer to God. Perhaps our prayer could be that we are being and doing all to the glory of God, so that God is glorified in and through us. Like J.S. Bach wrote in his manuscripts, might you and I write the same on our hearts?
Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone the Glory
To help you give all to the glory to God, check out the Tool by clicking here.
I thank and give credit to the following websites for the pictures used: www.sodahead.com, www.astrologyunboxed.com and www.risasreading.blogspot.com.
© February 2014 The Rev. Dr. Jane A. Tomaine