Ebeneezer Scrooge learned it the hard way: The only way to escape the slavery of greed is with the antidote of giving.
It took one seriously unpleasant Christmas Eve for Scrooge to see just how much his greed had come to control his life, and how much of an impact it was having on the people around him. Once he finally realized the folly of his ways, he understood that the best way to escape from greed was to give. And so the final scenes of “A Christmas Carol” are all about generosity.
In many ways large and small, money can make slaves of us. Greed is one of the most obvious ways to become a money slave, but there are plenty of others. For each of these heart diseases, though, there is a cure. In this series on The Antidote, we’re going to examine practical ways to escape the grip of money slavery. Today, we start with giving, the antidote to greed.
When we talk about money, we’re often dealing with facts, figures and other intellectual ideas. And yet when we encounter money problems, the issues rarely lie in the mind; money slavery is a matter of the heart. So to solve these problems and to escape this slavery, we have to address things at the heart level. Escaping slavery isn’t just a matter of doing something different — it’s about creating new habits that change the attitudes of the heart.
So it goes with greed. Greed is that most basic of all money problems, but its scope is much broader than money. You were greedy as a toddler, before you ever knew what money was. You can be greedy with money, certainly, but you can also be greedy with your time, your possessions and even your relationships. Have you ever met someone who was only able to talk about themselves? That, in its own way, is greed.
At its heart, greed is simply the compulsion to take: take money, take things, take attention, etc. Greed wants to own, to hoard, to control. Greed seeks to reap what it did not sow, to acquire what it did not earn, to control what it did not create.
In order to escape greed, we have to reverse this heart attitude. The best way to do it is to begin to practice habits that run contrary to this reflex. And nothing is more contrary to taking than giving. If you want to escape greed, start by becoming a great giver.
How does giving free us from greed? It changes the direction of our hearts’ focus. A greedy heart is focused on self, and acquiring as much money and influence for self as it can. But giving forces us to look outside ourselves. When you give to a person, you are focusing on that person and their needs instead of your own self. When you give to an organization, you’re paying attention to the good work that the organization does. And when you intentionally seek out opportunities and places to give, your heart is constantly looking beyond itself for the next giving target.
Now here’s the catch: When you first start, it’s not going to be easy. After all, giving runs contrary to the orientation of your heart, and it contradicts attitudes that you’ve likely held since childhood. At first, giving is going to feel totally wrong. But soon, you’ll discover the truth that the Bible has taught for centuries: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Like any antidote, giving is a drug, and one that can become addictive. Once you start giving, you realize that it feels really good, and you want to give some more. The more often you give, the more often you want to give. You eagerly look for opportunities to give. Before you know it, you’re hooked on giving. And just like an addictive drug changes the neuropathways in your brain, giving changes the attitudes in your heart.
The path from greed to giving may not be easy, but it is certainly rewarding. At one end lies a bitter life of slavery; at the other end waits a kind and generous heart. Let Scrooge’s life be a lesson to you: The only way out of greed slavery is to start giving.
Photo by JD Hancock. Used under Creative Commons License.