OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
We all have our wants and desires. We want a house. We want furniture in our house. We want a car. We want a good paying job. We want to go on vacation. We want enough money to be able to enjoy a ballgame, a movie, and a meal from at a restaurant from time to time. We want enough to retire when it is time to do so. We want new clothes. We want the newest iphone, ipad, computer, and other electronic devices. From birth to death, we find ourselves wanting.
The wants of our society drive our economy. The marketplace seeks to fulfill the desires of the consumer. In turn, companies and corporations reap big profits from the things they produce. In so doing, they become larger and more powerful. Employees are paid more. The executives are paid more. The stockholders are paid more. Everyone benefits from the wants and desires of our nation’s citizens.
As we look at our desires, the fulfillment of them, and the riches they produce, we often associate them with greed. Interestingly, the consumer never views himself as the greedy one. Oh no! It is the corporations who are greedy. It is the executives at the top of the corporate ladder who are greedy. It is the wealthy stockholders who are greedy. The members of the public, however, are just innocent victims of the greed that is manifest over them.
Let’s take a few minutes and study greed. Greed is defined as “the excessive desire for wealth and possessions.” Greed is an evil state of a man’s heart. Both poor and rich alike can be greedy. How can we determine is a person is greedy? First, if a person puts his trust in riches instead of the living God, he is well on his way to heart of greed. Money becomes his god. This individual lives for gold, silver, cash, and gems. He accumulates as much of them as he possibly can. His wealth “protects” him. His wealth seems to make him secure. Paul warned about this kind of a mindset in I Timothy 6:17. He writes: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” Even churches can possess this type of a view toward wealth. The church at Laodicea made these boasts in the first century: “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17).
Second, a poor man can display greed when he will disobey the law in order to increase his riches. This individual may cheat on his taxes. He may seek to rob and steal from others. He might involve himself in unethical business practices that will increase his wealth. The Law of Moses set forth this clear prohibition to all of Israel: “Thou shalt not steal” (Exo. 20:15). In the New Testament book of Ephesians, Paul wrote: “Let him that stole steal not more…” (Eph. 4:28). A thief is classified as being unrighteous and shall not inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9-10).
Third, a heart of greed can also be detected when individuals would rather seek material things than God. In Matthew 19:16, a rich man approached Jesus, and asked: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?” He had kept most of the Ten Commandments (Matt. 19:18-20). However, there was one thing he lacked. “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven” (Matt. 19:21). The response of the rich man is extremely sad. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matt. 19:22). His love for his wealth would not allow him to follow Jesus. This can happen to Christians as well. It can happen to Christians who are not necessarily wealthy. They can become so greedy for the things of the world that they fall away from the Christ. Jesus referred to them as the “thorny ground” in The Parable of the Sower. “And they which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14).
Fourth, greedy individuals also have a tendency to take advantage of others. They will cheat and swindle their employees. They will charge extravagant prices for their goods. They will take from the poor and widows. The Jewish leaders were doing this in Jesus’ day. Jesus saw their corruption and cleansed the temple. As He drove them out, He said: “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise” (John 2:16). James gives a scathing rebuke to rich men who had defrauded their employees in James 5:1-6. “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourer who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.”
Dear reader, desire is one thing, extravagant desire is another. Too, money is one thing and the love of money is something completely different. Greed is a heart problem. It causes men to do evil things. It separates man from God. One of the most powerful deterrents to greed is contentment. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have…” (Heb. 13:5). Paul had learned how to be content in every situation of life. In Philippians 4:11-12, he writes about this ability. “Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where in in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Few of us really need the things for which we yearn. Instead of earnestly desiring to have, may each of us seek to be content. Let’s conquer the monster of greed.