Friday, August 5, 2011

Charity, Envy, and Modern Entitlement

[Note: This post is part of a roundtable hosted by the Patheos Book Club on the new book The Betrayal of Charity, by Matthew Levering.]

Modern marketers know an easy way to sell their products to our modern culture - appeal to the consumer's sense of entitlement. Think of the oft-used phrase, "you deserve" to have a certain product. We do not deserve a fancy car, some new luxury, or to be pampered; we have betrayed charity with our entitlement and envy which is why we still think we do.

Matthew Levering's new book, The Betrayal of Charity: The Sins that Sabotage Divine Love engages envy, along with other vices, by calling us to a renewal of charity, which is the antidote to vice. Levering is one of the Church's best young theologians and proves it once again with this book, which packs a lot of punch in a concise format. 

The book engages the thought of modern and ancient scholars, both Christian and non-Christian, with a focus on Thomas Aquinas. Levering asks pointed questions about modern man and wrestles with the thought of many different scholars to try and find a renewed sense of how we are to live a charitable life. 

The heart of the book lies in the search for true charity, which is lived out in the practical circumstances of life. Charity is true when it fights for the good life, even amid suffering, vice, and moral confusion. This is especially true in the chapter on Envy and God-Reliance. 

Levering argues that envy betrays charity. We suffer from envy not because we underestimate ourselves, but rather we fail to understand "the good of others as participating in the goodness of the divine giver, whose love for each of us is superabundant." The cure is found in a charity, which finds God's goodness in others, especially those that are peers whom we are more likely to envy. We do so in a concrete way with acts of service, an avoidance of boasting, helping others succeed, and praying for the success of those we might envy. 

The power to overcome envy can be found in grace of the Eucharist, where we must overcome our own self-reliance and tap into the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, we don't "deserve" this grace in any way. Which is why it is grace. This counter to envy is found in the opposite of the entitlement mentality. It is a humble acceptance of something we don't deserve. God.

Levering is a deep thinker, an accomplished scholar, and has given us a book which will challenge each of us to re-examine how we have betrayed charity in our own lives. 

1 comment:

Brandon Vogt said...

Wow, excellent review, Marcel. Looks like a great book!