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Need or Greed?


It's a tough issue, isn't it? Every day we make choices based on whether we need something or whether we desire it out of greed. It's a subtle but very slippery slope. Clothes are no longer made out of feed sacks, but feed sacks filled the need for bodies to be covered. Along comes greed and we crave the latest fashions and designer label apparel. This picture speaks volumes, doesn't it? The apple is good for our bodies, the donut, not so much. But which do we want more? How much in our lives is driven by greed rather than by an essential need?

It's mostly mindset. When Wendy's came out with "biggie sizing" its menu, it tapped into our sense of "gotta have." If we would spend more time considering what went into our bacon cheeseburgers, we might consume less of them. No, this is not about calories. Or fat. Not about our individual health. It's about planetary wellbeing. Population survival. The invisible cord that links us all together on this orb spinning in space. And it's a pretty simple equation: when we consume, who goes without?

And, of course, it's way more than clothes and food. It's goods of every kind. Resources of all kinds. Warmth. Light. Physical care. Education. Safety. Appreciation. Ethical nurturing. Love. All of which adds another layer to the equation. Are we interacting in the world primarily in reactive fear or in active awareness? Do we worry about not having enough for ourselves or are we concerned that others have virtually nothing at all? Do we shrug our shoulders and say it's not our problem or do we understand that we are all bound up together in this precarious and precious life?

Later this month the season of Lent will begin. Some people think of it as a time to forgo some activity or food deeply cherished and enjoyed. Almost a punishment for enjoying something so much. But the exercise can help us examine our need and our greed. We call the forgoing "fasting." Years ago, at least in youth ministry circles, we promoted a "technology fast." Yeah, no computer, television, or (gasp!) cell phone. Could we do it for a day? Does all that noise and stimulation feed our greed or fulfill a need? Whose pockets are we padding as we consume? Whose stomachs are we depriving?

It's not just an issue to take on for the forty days of Lent. It's a minute-by-minute mindset, a daily way of life. Before we buy, before we take, before we consume, before we use, ask: is this choice based on an essential need or driven by greed?

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