Date published: October 19, 2012
“Then He said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15 (NIV)
Greed is one of the most often talked-about evils in the Bible. What exactly is greed, why is it so wrong and what happens to those who are greedy?
Greed is excessive desire to possess more than what one truly needs or more than what others may have. It is clear in the Bible that greed is something that is inside a person, it is an inner attitude. Jesus included greed when he said, ‘’All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean’’- Mark 7:23. Criticizing the Pharisees of His day, He remarked, ‘’… butInside you are full of greed and wickedness’’ – Luke 11:39. Since greed is an inner desire and feeling, no one is free from its temptation. It is not only the rich but the poor who can be greedy (the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. All of us have at one time or another taken more than we should have. Greed, however, is not only taking but keeping (let’s consider the parable of the rich fool inLuke 12:13-21. Often greed is the wanting of money in particular as translated in 1 Peter 5:2 and not simply of possessions in general – “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve.”
So what is wrong with wanting money? It is not the wanting of money or possession which is wrong; it is the excessive wanting of these things which is wrong. The Bible acknowledges that humankind has genuine needs – Matthew 6:32; Proverbs 10:15,but these must be kept in balance in a life lived before God. ‘’A person does not live by eating only bread, but by everything God says’’ – Matthew 4:4. The term ‘’excess,’ however, is a relative term. What may be excess in one culture or situation may be genuine need in another. How does one knows if one is ‘’greedy?’’
One way is to ask whether your actions do injury, harm, or wrong other people. Do we’’try to get rich by cheating others?’’ – “Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain” –1Timothy 3:8. Have we withheld wages from workers which are due them?–“Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who moved your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty” -James 5:4 (NIV). Do we cause unnecessary trouble around us because of greed–“A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live.” – Proverbs15:27 or bring trouble upon our families – Proverbs 28:25 (NIV). Unfortunately, some of the most greedy are found among those who profess to be religious, false prophets, and the Pharisees: ‘’Those false teachers only want your money’’ – 2 Peter 2:3. Taking advantage of weak people, false prophets lead others astray, even teaching them to be greedy – 2 Peter 2:14. They are compared to the prophet Balaam in the Old Testament who ‘’loved being paid for doing wrong’’ – Proverbs 15:27.
Although the Bible is concerned with the impact of greed upon human-to-human relationships, it is the impact upon the divine-and-human relationship which is of greatest concern. Greed and unhealthy desire interfere with our relationship to God, and this is the greatest evil. Greed is, in fact, idolatry – Colossians 3:5. Jesus said, ‘’You cannot serve both God and worldly riches’’ – Matthew 6:24. ‘’It is easierfor a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God’’ Luke 18:25. As human beings, we will always want more – “A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper – Proverbs 28:25; the issue is whether money and possessions are more important to us than God. There is nothing wrong with having possession as long as they do not possess us.
It is our attitude toward money and possession which marks us as either a believer or a worldly person. Jesus said it is those who do not know God who keep running after these things -Matthew 6:32-33. The opposite of the greedy person is the one who trusts in God – Proverbs 28:25. Like David, our prayer should be, ‘’Everything in heaven and on earth belongs to you. Riches and honor come from you’’ – 1 Chronicle 29:11-12. Like Paul, believers need to learn the secret of contentment: ‘’I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need when I do not have enough’’ Philippians 4:12. Thesedoes not mean that we should not work and work hard for a living – 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Proverbs 1423; 31:17. It means that we should seek first God’s Kingdom and what He wants us to do – Matthew 6:32-33. ‘’Honor the LORD with your wealth’’ (Proverbs 3:9). It is not ‘’money’’ which is the root of all evil, but the ‘’love’’ of money – 1 Timothy 6:10. What happens to the greedy? The Bible is clear that the greedy will have no part or inheritance in the kingdom of God – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:5.
The Bible exhorts Christians to ‘’Keep our lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what we have’’- Hebrew 13:5. When it comes to the subject of believers and money, John Wesley, an eighteenth century revivalist preacher, probably said it best: ‘’Earn as much as you can, save as much as you can, give as much as you can!’’
Culled from the Holy Bible – New Century Version
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