This post last updated on December 28th, 2021
Greed. What does that word bring to your mind? Do you imagine characters like the Grinch, or Scrooge? Does it make you think about certain celebrities or someone in the business world?
Greed can be subtle, all consuming, and it can lead to loneliness, misery, and even destruction. Let’s look into that.
By definition, greed addresses a desire to accumulate wealth, goods, or valuable things. In and of itself, that’s not really sinful. It’s not a horrible thing to desire the finer things in life. Besides, it’s really difficult to bless others with what you don’t have.
Webster’s Dictionary says this about greed, however:
“a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed”
Did you see where a natural desire became sin? When selfishness gets into the picture, what was a normal ambition became excessive, intense, and self-centered.
Wealth Is Not Greed
It doesn’t take wealth to produce greediness. It’s not how little or how much a person has that makes them generous or greedy. It’s what’s in their heart.
In fact, those who have little become self-focused just as easily as those who have plenty. I’m certain you’ve met people from all walks of life that were incredibly generous and others who were just plain greedy and self-centered.
In other words, the accumulation of things isn’t a problem. It’s the out of control obsession and the fervor to acquiring more that takes one’s eyes off of God and others. That’s the kind of selfishness that is indicative of the sin of greed.
Greed is Irrational
One of the most irrational things about greed, especially in the Western World, is that we tend to measure the quality of our lives and the scope of our success by volume of stuff.
That stuff we measure could be education, money, votes, gadgets, toys, and even people. And we are masters at justifying having more.
You know what else is so disturbing about greed? It’s that ethics and morality are regularly sacrificed on the altar of greed. We see it all the time in business, in the workplace, in the courtrooms, in public office, and even in the church.
The excessive, obsessive pursuit of stuff in this world is an alarming thing to fall into. Greed is one nasty master that produces little else than strife, dissension, anguish, loneliness and ultimately, destruction.
Here are just a few verses to illustrate that point:
- James 4:1-2 says that greed causes some to steal, others to fight, and some even to murder.
- Jesus directly warned his disciples against greed in Luke 12:15.
- Paul’s often misquoted words on the love of money in 1 Timothy 6:10 is a warning against the sorrows that greed can produce.
- Jesus told us that excessive desire of money would destroy our relationship with God. That’s in Matthew 6:24.
By far, the most frightening illustration on the destruction that greed can produce is found in Matthew 19:16-22.
That’s the story about a rich young man asking Jesus how he can receive eternal life. The conclusion is alarming. The man’s affection for his material wealth outweighed his desire to live eternally with God (Matthew 19:21-22).
The Remedy for Greed
In Luke 12, Jesus is challenged by a man in a crowd who wants more inheritance than he would have been entitled. He calls on Jesus to command an older brother to distribute the inheritance equally. (Luke 12:13).
The trouble with that is that in Jesus’ culture, the firstborn son always received a larger inheritance to go along with the added responsibilities he would have had. That’s why Jesus told the complaining brother, “Who appointed me to be your judge or to divide your inheritance?” (Luke 12:14).
Then Jesus, seeing selfishness as the younger man’s motive, warned the brother and the entire crowd against greed when he said, “Be careful to guard yourselves from every kind of greed. Life is not about having a lot of material possessions” (Luke 12:15, God’s Word Translation).
Jesus concludes this encounter with an illustrative parable. He tells the crowd the story of a wealthy but selfish farmer who runs out of storage space to store his produce. Instead of generosity, this farmer chooses to tear down his barns and builds even bigger ones, essentially hoarding all of his crops and basking in his fortune (Luke 12:16-19).
The problem was not the success of this farmer or the abundance of his crop. It certainly wasn’t that he wanted to store his produce for later, or even that he wanted to kick back and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
The problem, as Jesus concluded the story, was that the man’s heart was not right with God (Luke 12:21). He was full of self. In fact, when you look at that passage, this farmer referred to himself not less than 12 times in 3 verses!
The remedy for greed then, is a right relationship with God.
What are some practical steps to overcoming the sin of greed? Here’s a start:
- Read the 4 Gospels. Pray that God would meet you in them and instruct you.
- Practice charity by putting the needs of others above your own. Give assistance where you can.
- Volunteer your time.
- Enjoy the things that God has given you.
- Give generously and sacrificially. Sponsor something in your church, or a child in your community, or a missionary.