Greed at Christmas - Why Priest?
One day when I read an article online about a little girl’s Christmas list, I couldn’t help but think of Michael Douglas’ famous line in the 1987 movie Wall Street: “Greed is good.” I thought of that because that is exactly what this online article seemed to be saying: greed is good.
The article talked about the Christmas wish list that a 7-year-old girl gave to her parents, and (since it seems to be the norm these days) her father posted it online for the world to see. The list was filled with numerous items, such as: $1,000, five North Faces, “all of the Beanie Babies,” an iPod Touch, and a pet puppy, to name just a few.
What struck me was not that the little girl was asking for things; after all, that’s what children do at Christmastime (although I myself never contemplated asking for $1,000 when I was 7 years old). So, I’m not writing this article because of the girl; I’m writing it because of her parents. I couldn’t believe how her parents celebrated her – well, let’s call it what it is – her greed. The article concluded by saying this: “When asked how he [the father] reacted to being handed the list, he said, ‘Oh, I laughed! I thought it was great,’ adding, ‘she’s very matter of fact about this stuff. “This is what I want. Go get it for me.”’ Although she clearly won’t be receiving the vast majority of items on her list, he commends his daughter’s frankness and early ability to know exactly what she wants in life. ‘I love her,’ the proud father said.”
Again, my words here are not directed at the 7-year-old girl. My words are directed at a parent who would proudly tell the world that his child is learning to be greedy. Couldn’t this Christmas list have been a teaching moment for her? Perhaps the parents could have said, “You don’t need everything on this list, and let us tell you why.” Again, children are supposed to ask for Christmas gifts, of course. But when they ask for $1,000, five North Faces, and all the Beanie Babies, wouldn’t that be a good time to let them know that some children in the world are lucky to receive just one toy at Christmas, and some are lucky just to get a warm meal at Christmas? Instead, this father goes online to tell the world how proud he is that his daughter is bold enough to ask for everything that she wants in life.
My point here is: greed is not good. Pride is not good. These two things are found on the list of seven deadly sins for a reason. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “[These seven sins] are called ‘capital’ because they engender other sins, other vices. They are pride, avarice [greed], envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia.” So instead of celebrating greed and taking pride in it, a better thing to teach our children is the virtues – the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance; the theological virtues of faith, hope, and the granddaddy of all, charity. For as St. Gregory of Nyssa said, the goal of a virtuous life is to become like God. And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather see more online stories of people who act like God.