Home > John's Blogs, Temptation & Sin > Seven Capital Vices, Part 5: Avarice

Seven Capital Vices, Part 5: Avarice

This post continues looking at Rebecca Konynkyk DeYoung’s book Glittering Vices, which is a look at what we commonly call the “7 deadly sins” and she calls the “7 capital vices.”  We’ve looked at Envy, Vainglory, Sloth,  and this post will look at Avarice.  All of the vices are internal habits of the heart that reveal themselves in outward actions.  Avarice is no different, and it makes itself known through unhealthy collecting of money and stuff.  But also, surprisingly, through unhealthy spending.

First, DeYoung defines avarice:

The inner condition of the heart is what give rise to greed’s outer manifestations, which are typically categorized as excessive acquisition and excessive retaining of money or possessions… In all of its varies expressions, however, greed is a perverted love.

That is, avarice is greed that comes from love of things rather that God and others.  It makes itself known when we become too interested in collecting money and things that are acquired with money.  But it also makes itself known through unhealthy spending.  In other words, we spend so much that we have to get more and more to keep up the spending.  (Think of a person deep in credit card debt who plays the lottery regularly and you get the idea.)

The opposite of avarice is generosity. But we need to understand generosity properly.  DeYoung says,

Generosity’s measure is not how much is given away, in terms of the flat amount, but rather the way it is given: the manner of giving reveals the inner desires and attachments of the giver.

So it’s not a matter of simply giving things, but how and (I think) why we give.  This is where the prosperity gospel falls flat; it says to give so that we will get from God.  True generosity gives whether or not we get something back.  If avarice is unhealthy collecting and spending, generosity is healthy giving.

So why do we fall into avarice?  The problem, as with all the capital vices, is pride.  Says DeYoung,

Prideful greed is the desire to take over God’s role and make sure we get enough for ourselves – or better yet, to make sure we get what we want.  it is the desire to be able to provide fully for ourselves, and therefore not to have to depend on God.

We collect because we want to be responsible for our own well-being, rather than letting God be responsible for it.

In order to fight avarice, DeYoung makes three suggestions.  First, spend a month tracking all your expenses so that you understand the extent of the problem.  Dave Ramsey disciples have already heard this, and those who have tried it give good results.

Second, take a rest from consumerism by spending a month without the mall, catalogs, online shopping, etc.  I really like this idea.  Our culture is so highly consumerist that we don’t even notice it anymore.  Every website seems to have shopping ads on it, every magazine is two-thirds full of things I’m pretty sure I’ve got to have, and the mall – well, you get the idea.

Third, tithe.  Tithing enhances our relationship to God by reminding us of who is responsible for our wealth.  Hint: it’s not us.  When we tithe, the act reminds us of God’s provision.

Any other suggestions?

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  1. Kenneth England
    April 8, 2010 at 12:59 am

    I think these blogs fit almost all of us at one form or another.

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