13 Oct Three Reasons to Guard Against Greed
Even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that North Texas Christianity is not New Testament Christianity in relationship to how we view wealth & possessions. North Texas Christianity tends toward building bigger and bigger barns on earth while New Testament Christianity moves toward building bigger and bigger barns in heaven. North Texas Christianity tends toward accumulation while New Testament Christianity moves toward a life of simplicity. North Texas Christianity tends toward super sizing while New Testament Christianity moves toward downsizing. North Texas Christianity tends toward keeping as much as we can for as long as we can while New Testament Christianity moves toward giving as much as we can to whomever we can.
At the root of North Texas Christianity is what the Bible calls covetousness and greed. In Luke 12:15 Jesus responds to a man’s request to issue a ruling in his favor to settle a dispute over he and his brother’s inheritance with the warning, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Jesus sees under the man’s request for a legal ruling regarding the division of the inheritance to the greed in his heart which prompted the inquiry. Essentially, covetousness and greed is wanting more than we need & God has given and there are several reasons why we must guard ourselves against it.
1. Greed is the natural bent of the human heart.
From the time my kids could express themselves with words, there have been two little words that make frequent appearances in their vocabulary: I want! I have heard this nearly every trip to the store, during every commercial wedged into a cartoon, and following nearly every one of their friend’s birthday parties. We may expect this from our children as they grow and mature but the problem is that we don’t just naturally grow out of this incessant desire for more, newer, shinier, and better. In fact, this desire just gets more culturally acceptable because we are no longer throwing tantrums or having pity parties in the store because we can buy whatever we want with a debit or credit card. Our latest toy may be a bigger house, a shinier car, the latest electronics, or newer clothes. Greed is the natural bent of the human heart and there is not a single human heart that is exempt from it’s pull.
2. Greed is the fountain of all kinds of sin.
In his exposition of Luke’s gospel JC Ryle once wrote, “It would be vain to decide positively which is the most common sin in the world. It would be safe to say that there is none, at any rate, to which the heart is more prone, than covetousness. It was this sin which helped to cast down the angels who fell. They were not content with their first estate. They coveted something better. It was this sin which helped to drive Adam and Eve out of paradise, and bring death into the world. Our first parents were not satisfied with the things which God gave them in Eden. They coveted, and so they fell. It is a sin which, ever since the fall, has been the productive cause of misery and unhappiness upon the earth. Wars, quarrels, strifes, divisions, envyings, disputes, jealousies, hatreds of all sorts, both public and private, may nearly all be traced up to this fountain head.” All kinds of sin, from cooking the books to sharing a bed can be traced back to the fountain of covetousness: wanting more than we need and more than God has given. Greed is the fountain from which flows all kinds of sin and folly as we try and feed our insatiable desire for more.
3. Greed is the root of false teaching.
One of the most prevalent false teachings circulating in and being exported from the American church is the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel appeals to our natural fallen bent toward covetousness and greed by promising financial prosperity and freedom from sickness. Prosperity preachers speak of how this physical and material prosperity is “the will of God for every believer” and is to “always be associated with God’s purpose for our lives.” They try to build this errant teaching on texts like 2 Corinthians 8:8-9 where Paul writes, “8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Where to start? First, the proponents of prosperity theology mistakenly jump to the conclusion that Paul must be talking about us becoming rich in material terms. Jesus did not leave behind the riches of heaven to voluntarily take on the poverty of our flesh, have no place to lay his head, and be tortured and crucified so that we could buy a bigger house, a newer car, or more stylish clothes. Rather Jesus did all this in order to move us from moral and spiritual bankruptcy to grant us the riches of knowing God, even in material poverty, and an eternal home with God in a restored heaven and earth. Second, this verse is not set in the context of a promise but in the context of a call. Paul is not promising health and wealth to the Christians in Corinth. Rather Paul is writing to the church in Corinth to call them to open their pockets, whether they have much or little, to address a need in the church at Jerusalem. He is not promising prosperity but calling for generosity. Greed is the root of false teaching and the motive of false teachers.
We must guard ourselves against greed because it is the natural bent of every human heart, from it flows all kinds of sin and folly in our lives, and if we don’t we will be prone to being taken captive by false teaching and teachers who, “have hearts trained in greed.” [2 Peter 2:14]
For audio of the full sermon entitled “Choosing Generosity over Greed” visit our podcast.