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Commentary: Today's David vs. Goliath? Faith against sex, greed

  • Story Highlights
  • Humans are in a constant battle with the flesh as opposed to spiritual desires
  • People of faith must stop being so rigid when it comes to sex and money
  • Churches, mosques and synagogues should engage in healthy dialogue
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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(CNN) -- I've heard thousands of sermons over the years, and a ton of them were about sex and money (or substitute: lust and greed). It's as if the two issues are synonymous, and in a way, they are.

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Find peace with what you have, advises Roland S. Martin.

I can't think of any two other topics that dominate the focus of the three major religions -- Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

It seems that human beings are in a constant battle with the flesh -- money and lust -- as opposed to their spiritual desires.

Now let me be clear: I like money and sex. No, I LOVE money and sex! But what happened to the notion of restraint or doing things within boundaries?

For instance, it's never been my desire to have all of the latest clothes, gadgets and cars. The key is being content with what you have.

I find it mind-boggling that some people will work themselves to death in order to buy a $700 pair of shoes or a leather jacket. A few years ago the New York Times had a story about low-paid assistants starving themselves to buy the "in" handbag. That's dumb.

God, Sex and Greed
A rabbi, a millionaire, an evangelical and a porn star discuss sex, greed and religion with CNN's Roland Martin.
Friday, 8 p.m. ET

When I turned 14, my parents bought me and my brother a pair of Jordache jeans and a Polo shirt. Now at the time, Jordache was all the rage in America. It was one of the hippest designer jeans. But I politely asked my parents to return the items and buy me a few pairs of Levis. It made no sense to me to have one pair of jeans when I could buy three for the same price!

Call me "old school," but I also don't understand why you would spend $200 for a pair of Nikes. Now, if you have the means -- meaning your house note, car, life insurance and light bills have been paid -- then go right ahead. But, really, what's the difference between a $200 and $50 pair of sneakers? The box?

We all want to make enough money so we don't have to pinch pennies. But when we cross the line into greed, when no amount of money is enough, when we keep pushing and pushing till we're willing to sacrifice our integrity for a buck, then we all have a big problem.

And that's also what people of faith preach about sex.

There's an "inner voice" in most of us that says sleeping with multiple partners isn't healthy. (But are you listening?) It may make you feel good physically. But there's an underlying problem with that kind of behavior, and that's what you really want to address.

Last year, my ordained minister wife and I held a workshop at a marriage conference. I made the point to the few men in the room (that's another story!) that I don't want to work all day and then dream about bedding Halle Berry, Salma Hayek or some other starlet. God has blessed me with a gorgeous wife, and she should be the one that I desire.

That requires both of us to see each other as sexually appealing, and not just say, "Oh, well, that's my wife or husband." Dismissing your partner is never a good thing.

But people of faith are also going to have to stop being so rigid when it comes to sex and money. Don't label me "greedy" because I make a good living. If I earn $1 million a year, and I tithe 10 percent (or $100,000), what is the problem? If someone's heart is in the right place, making them feel bad about getting paid and living well is counterproductive.

We should also stop this nonsense about admonishing open discussion of sex. If your religious convictions tell you that sex is off limits before marriage, that's fine and good. But that doesn't mean you can't talk about this wonderful creation of God, Allah, Yahweh. So many people are confused when it comes to sex because we don't want to discuss it.

When churches, mosques and synagogues engage in healthy dialogue about sex and money, we are all better off for it. But when they force the issue underground, it allows non-spiritual forces to gain a foothold. That's why we have a culture that promotes promiscuity and materialism.

Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning, multifaceted journalist and CNN contributor. Martin is studying to receive his master's degree in Christian Communications at Louisiana Baptist University, and is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." You can read more of his columns at www.rolandsmartin.com

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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