Greed and Nature

JI311For centuries there has been a list of sins known as the Seven Deadly Sins.  There is certainly a sense in which all sin is “deadly” but the church has historically recognized some sins to be especially deadly.  One of the Seven Deadly Sins is greed.  You hear a lot about greed these days.  Many people feel that our country’s current economic crisis has greed at its roots.  Greed, however, has been a problem for humans ever since the beginning.  The Bible warns of its dangers repeatedly.

JI329Basically, greed is the selfish desire for more than one actually needs.  We probably think foremost of money when it comes to greed but there are many other areas where greed raises its ugly head.  Recently I came across some insightful words that reminded me of the role greed has played in the environmental crisis.  In his classic work, The Nature and Destiny of Man, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, “Man’s sense of dependence upon nature and his reverent gratitude toward the miracle of nature’s perennial abundance is destroyed by his arrogant sense of independence and his greedy effort to overcome the insecurity of nature’s rhythms and seasons by garnering her stores with excessive zeal and beyond natural requirements.  Greed is in short the expression of man’s inordinate ambition to hide his insecurity in nature.”

JI361Human greed is revealed in our hoarding and overusing nature’s resources.  The result is that we now find ourselves in a precarious situation.  We are quickly learning that there is no endless supply of natural resources.  Much of our energy usage comes from nonrenewal forms of energy.  We are also learning more and more that there is a price to be paid for the way we have garnered nature’s “stores with excessive zeal.”   Greed truly does come with a high price tag.  When you consider how greed has led rich nations to hoard natural resources, which has in turn caused strife in poorer nations who struggle to survive, that price tag gets even higher.

JI549It is imperative that we all root out the greed that is in our lives.  Greed is destructive and deadly on many different levels.  In Colossians 3 the apostle Paul told the church at Colossae to “put to death” such sins as greed, lust and anger.  He then went on to encourage them to clothe themselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (v. 12)  If we are going to avoid the “death” that greed brings to our lives and to the natural world, we must replace it with virtues like those Paul spoke of.  We have got to learn to live unselfishly, to practice love and self-control.  It won’t be easy, nor will it always be the popular thing to do, but it is by all means the right thing to do.


(I took the four images shown here at Jekyll Island on my recent trip to Georgia.)