What is “Intellectual Greed”?

I was browsing through a new book from Servant Books called Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions and really enjoyed this piece on “intellectual greed.”

“Another vice that can deform our God-given capacity to learn: greed. Usually we associate greed with money. But we can also be greedy when it comes to knowledge. Greed is an inordinate desire for possessions, and knowledge is a spiritual possession. Intellectual greediness differs from curiosity in the sense that it usually involves deeper knowledge. But it also impedes our spiritual growth.

On the one hand, as we grow in knowledge, we can become snobbish, looking down at others for not knowing as much as we do. This is a direct affront to Christian charity.

On the other hand, it also can keep us distracted. In this case, the thirst to have new experiences and develop new areas of expertise is inordinate, out of proportion to our mission in life. The enjoyment of acquiring new knowledge, which is legitimate in itself, becomes so all-consuming that the duties of one’s state in life are neglected. I have known more than one marriage that crashed because a scholarly spouse became as overly obsessed with research as greedy business do with making money.

This can even happen with knowledge of spiritual things. Growing in the knowledge of God and his plan for our lives should never disconnect a man from his wife and children, for example. Knowledge is meant to be at the service of love, and in the end we will be judged on how we love God by fulfilling his will, not on how much we knew about Church teaching and the lives of his saints.” (p. 105)

This is a good caution. Answers is by Fr. John Bartunek. It is a paperback with 145 pages and sells for $15.99. The publisher is Franciscan Media.

Fr. John Bartunek, L.C., S.T.D., received his B.A. in history from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010.



About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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2 Responses to What is “Intellectual Greed”?

  1. Thanks, Louis, for this nugget.
    “Knowledge is meant to be at the service of love” particularly strikes me. This seems to comport precisely with Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13). Prophecies, tongues, and knowledge (the former two imply content which knowledge requires) are all temporal and means. These will cease, be stilled, or pass away (NIV). Instead, love must be the remainder or product of knowledge.

    How often I have failed at the end of my musings and readings in theology to sing from my heart…
    “My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
    For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
    My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
    I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me,
    And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
    I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
    I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
    And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
    And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
    In mansions of glory and endless delight,
    I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
    I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.”


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