ON THE VICE OF COVETOUSNESS
Consider first, that the vice of covetousness consists in having too great a love, desire, or concern for money, or other worldly goods and possession; so as to set one’s heart upon them; to be uneasy and solicitous about them; to cover them eagerly when absent, to take too great a complacency in them when present, and to make them the darling of one’s affections. The malignity of this vice may easily be discovered from its opposition to God and to his worship, and to every branch of divine charity: which is so great, that in the language of the scripture, covetousness is named the serving of idols, and the covetous man is declared to be an idolater, Eph. v. 5, Coloss. iii. 5, because he worships and loves his money more than God; and what is idolatry, but ‘worshipping and serving the creature rather than the creator’? Rom. i. 25. Yes, the covetous man serves mammon, the god of this world, more than the living God of heaven; for the love of mammon he turns his back upon his maker, neglects his love and service, and is ever ready to break through his heavenly law and commandments, rather than forego his worldly interests, to which he sacrifices his soul and all; and for the sake of which he hardens his heart against the necessities of his neighbours, and the cries of the poor. O, how evidently is here verified that of the wise man, Ecclus. x. 10, ‘There is not a more wicked thing than to love money, for such a one setteth even his own soul to sale.’
Consider 2ndly, the malignity of this vice of loving money, from its unhappy offspring, that is from the innumerable evils which it daily produces. It is the mother of theft and robbery, of fraud and deceit, of oppression of the poor, of usury and extortion, and of all manner of injustice; it employs innumerable lies and perjuries to support its darling idol. It is the parent of bribery and corruption, and of all the sad consequences this evil produces in the world. It even creeps into the sanctuary, and too often profanes it with manifold abuses and sacrileges. It has often brought forth heresies and schisms too, 1 Tim. vi. 10; and with them a deluge of other crimes; it has pillaged and destroyed churches, hospitals, and monasteries, and invaded and carried off the patrimony of the poor. It has even betrayed and sold the Son of God himself. O cursed love of money! How long shalt thou thus, like a second deluge,drown the whole world? When shall thy tyranny have an end? Wilt thou never cease to fill the world with all sorts of crimes, and hell with souls?
Consider 3rdly, that this vice of covetousness, besides all this brood of evils, which it daily brings forth, produces many other sad effects in the soul of man, even when it does not hurry him into those more scandalous excesses specified above; and when, in the eyes of the world, it appears more innocent. For where a person, though he covets not perhaps the goods of his neighbour, yet sets his affection too much upon riches or worldly possessions, and eagerly pursues after money, he quickly loses all relish for heavenly things, and all true sense of devotion: his heart is filled with the love of the world, and with many cares and anxious solicitudes about the things of the world, which, like thorns, choke up the seed of the word and the grace of God, and hinder it from bringing forth the fruits of faith, hope, and charity, in their due time. The love of riches overpowers his love of God and of his neighbour; the care of his eternal salvation is no longer his principal concern; he loses that confidence he ought to have in divine providence; he neglects religious duties; he does not give alms according to his circumstances; in a word he is continually in danger of breaking through the law of God, by commission, or omission, for the love of money: so dreadful are the consequences of covetousness, even when it pretends to keep itself within the bounds of justice!
Conclude to beware of this vice of covetousness, as of one of the worst of the enemies of thy soul; so much the more dangerous to thee, as it is too apt to impose upon persons, with specious pretexts of worldly prudence, and of necessity; insomuch that oftentimes they who are the most covetous, and whose heart is quite set upon this worldly mammon, are scarce sensible of their disease, however grievous and mortal. O take care, my soul, not to deceive thyself, nor to suffer thyself to be deceived. Examine well the bent of thy thoughts, and of the affections of thy heart, and thou wilt easily discover where thy treasure is.