Earlier this week I saw a local news segment about an elderly woman who has been cheated out of $ 18,000 (essentially all she had) by mail and phone scams. It was a sad story and one designed to warn about these lottery and contest scams to which the woman had fallen prey.
Don’t misunderstand me – there is no excuse for those who prey on elderly or other vulnerable people. We need to protect those who cannot make protect themselves. But as I listened to this elderly lady she seemed coherent, even rational to me. The story left me wondering what in us makes us prey to quick money schemes and promises of great reward for a little investment? What opens us to these frauds?
God has been teaching me this Lenten season about my hungers – physical and spiritual ones. And they are not unrelated. This news piece has made me think about greed. There is something essentially greedy in our desire to win the lottery, to inherit a fortune, etc. It opens us to all kinds of hurts and problems. And to the exploitation of others (like this poor woman experienced). Again I am clear that someone took advantage of this poor woman. But they took advantage of a defect, a flaw in our human hungers that many of us share.
The Lenten discipline of fasting is about understanding and taming our hungers. What do we crave? What do we long to have? What makes us petty and irritable and angry when denied us? Are there things that, no matter how much we get, we never have enough? Affection. Food. Appreciation. Money. Acceptance. Praise. Stuff. Power. Love.
My hungers often control me. They lead me to places where I should not be, where God has warned me not to go. What hungers are eating away at my peace and joy this Lenten season? What chains still bind me, chains that Jesus the Great Liberator wants to break? What about yours?