In the past few months studying the Philokalia, I eagerly looked for the three lead idols in my life: gluttony, avarice, and the desire for the esteem of others. Gluttony cropped up first, easy to find. Similarly, I caught myself falling into the lull of wanting people’s admiration, praise or approval. I really struggle with those two.
But avarice? I pondered greed, studied its forms. Eventually, I concluded that it perhaps, just wasn’t the one of the three that wormed it’s way into my life as easily.
Being here in Atlanta, without a job, our own house, or a plan, punctured that image. I got a small contract writing for a digital communications company.
But there I was (and am), still worried about money and time. Unwavering, fear around our finances, calling, and time have followed me.
So now I know – of the three, my idol is actually most likely Avarice. Contrary to my earlier belief, this season has led me to suspect that Avarice, in fact, is the idol most deeply embedded inside me. Upon reflection, it’s made sense. Of course it was the one I thought I struggled with least; it’s the one most integrated into my assumed habits. Questioning it would be like questioning my arm, and so of course I don’t see it. It’s just my arm.
Perhaps this is part of what Jesus means by “if your right hand causes you to sin.” If something so close to you, so familiar to you, so much that it seems to be part of you, causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s a warning: the thing inside you, attached to you, is much more likely to make you sin than the enemy you see coming.
Similarly – does the person with a log in their eye know they have a log in their eye? Almost certainly not! Because we become so accustomed to the way things look from our eyes, we can’t even dream of questioning the vision we perceive.
Here’s Jesus’ brilliance: chortling, he informed us that we all have a log in our eye. But how capable are we of identifying, let alone removing a log ourselves? Certainly we need the Holy Spirit and community to do so.
Avarice, then. For me, I want to be able to do, to get what I want. I want independence, to be able to choose. I don’t want to be limited, tied down, denied freedom afforded to others that I have equally “earned.”
Therein emerge my issues with money. I don’t want to have to rely, to scramble, to beg. I hate being at the mercy of others’ kindness of evaluation. I hate others having power over me. I want to be able to get more, to get once next freely, on my own terms. Hello, dear sweet Avarice.
Steps I’m Taking to Cut it Off:
- Giving – all this stress about money is making me realize that I need to let it go. We’re upping our giving in this season.
- Gratitude lists – I’m consciously writing out lists of things I’m grateful for.
What other ideas do you have? What practices have you undertaken when dealing with gratitude?