The Ladder Steps 16 & 17

Step 16 On Avarice

-unfortunately Avarice is not a word often used in the English language, and it is my guess that most would not know what it means. In fact, I remember looking it up just a few years back.

Just in case you do not know, it means the love of money.

Avarice, according to St. John, is Idolatry, and the offspring of unbelief. This is obvious because it wealth becomes the substance that trust to provide for us (1 Tim 6:10). It will sustain us, and shows our lack of faith in God.

St. John, "The man who has conquered this vice has cut our care, but the man trapped by it can never pray freely to God."

Met. Bloom's book, Beginning to Pray, discusses this holding onto the material as it relates to prayer. According to Bloom, prayer is a relationship of love. And we can only understand this relationship with God through the beatitude of poverty. All that we possess as humans is a gift from God, and we must realize that we possess nothing that we can keep.

Everything that we have is a sign of God's love. When we hold on tightly to those possessions it takes us out of the realm of love, and this out of the ability to pray rightly. Our focus becomes the gifts of God rather than God Himself.

What a difficult vice to overcome in this world. Compared with other times in human history we are flooded with material stuff, and I know that I worry about my financial state. I spend too much time thinking about how to jockey for more money so that I may be more "secure".

Lord have mercy.

Step 17 On Poverty

Remember that St. John is speaking to monastic who are following the early Church pattern of renouncing all wealth, and holding all in common with other believers. So we may think that poverty is easy for the monastic because it is imposed outwardly, yet having nothing they may still struggle with this in their heart.

St John, "Indeed he is not genuinely poor if he starts to worry about something."

Could the opposite be said of us? Even though we are rich, if we do not worry over material things are we poor.

Once again John emphasizes the impact that stuff has on our pray life: "A man who has embraced poverty offers up prayer that is pure, while a man who loves possessions prays to material images."

St. John holds up Job as a model of poverty. "There was no trace of avarice in Job, and so he remained tranquil when he lost everything." Perhaps he is a perfect model for our times. Job was a wealthy man for his day, yet he lost all. God eventually restored his wealth more than before, yet Job was still considered free from stuff.

St. John's solution is "detachment" which comes from an experience and taste of God's grace. The more that we taste of God, the less attached we are to the things of this world.

There is a movement toward simplicity within our culture. Although it seems to be counter-cultural. I am not sure if its roots are Christian, but the principles can help us in our effort to become detached. Hoarding is easy. We accumulate without thinking. In our society, it is harder to say we don't need something. Recently I have been cleaning out closets and going through clothes. I felt ashamed at how much I had, and felt ridiculous at the stuff I am keeping. Do I really need 26 t-shirts? After giving and throwing away alot, there is a liberation that comes.

May be become detached from things and attached to God.
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