The second deadly sin of the workplace R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung target in Taking Your Soul to Work. In the opening narrative, Ung poses the question, “I’m wondering if it’s possible to work in a highly paid job without becoming greedy?”
After defining what greed/avarice is – channeling our desires for the things God has made rather than God himself – the writers ask where greed emerges in the workplace.
And again, they pull no punches and I started to squirm:
It’s easy to become angry with high-level executives who enrich themselves with bonuses and fat salaries while their employees are paid less than a fair wage for their work … But it’s much harder to identify the ways we have become coopted by a consumer culture that makes it a norm for us to cultivate the ‘good life’. If we’re not careful, we can even use our own children as excuses to make more money for family vacations and to finance their college degrees.
That last bit hurt – just on Friday I signed up for a family vacation to celebrate 40 years of marriage and a certain other milestone with a zero in it! Maybe I have been unwittingly impacted by modern advertising that does more than just give us information to help us make rational choices about the products we purchase: its purpose is to make us discontented with what we have. Non-wants become wants; wants become needs.
Stevens and Ung provide four practical tips for overcoming greed and depending on God’s provision:
- Shop differently – see it is a spiritual discipline
- Resist advertising – television is the doorway to ‘buy me’ messages
- Expand your job scope – include social responsibility
- Give generously
And finally, they observe that, “Greed is not so much rooted out as expelled by the presence of something greater in the heart – the goodness of God.
Remember Wesley’s advice: “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”
Next time: Goodness: Unselfconscious Giving (Chapter 11)
Stevens, R. P., and Ung, A. (2010). Taking Your Soul to Work: overcoming the nine deadly sins of the workplace. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eerdmans