Being called “greedy”, by Jesus or anyone else, is not a compliment. In the dictionary, greed is defined as an extreme, excessive desire for something, often more than one’s proper share. We have been studying what Jesus said about giving. Now we will study what Jesus said about the opposite trait: greed. This is generally not a positive trait to have, so it is in the Jesus Said Don’t category of The Jesus Said Project.
When I evaluate myself in this area, I have sinned. Jesus said, ”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). He was speaking to me! I followed the world’s path, a dead end path full of endless, constant desires for _______. You can fill in the blank, but for me, it would be:
- A house (then, a bigger house)
- A new car (then, a bigger car with better options)
- More money in the bank
- A promotion and higher salary at work
- A real vacation at a warm, exotic location
- Blah, blah, blah…….does the list ever end?
There is nothing wrong with wanting nice things. The problem is when the desire is constant, excessive, and never satisfied; or, when it is satisfied, it is quickly replaced by the next desire. Do you spend more time wanting, dreaming about, and planning for _______ (you fill in the blank) than you do wanting a deeper relationship with God, time with God, and a deeper understanding of God and His Word? When we want anything more than we want God, you can see how the sin of greed walks hand in hand with the sin of idolatry, as Paul said in Colossians 3:5 (Note: Idolatry will be discussed in a later post as part of what Jesus said regarding each of the 10 Commandments).
Greed and Hypocrisy
In Matthew 23:25 Jesus said of the Pharisees, “You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” In Luke 11:39, a similar teaching is recorded as, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” Jesus was more interested in what was going on inside a person than what others see on the outside. He knows the heart (read 1 Samuel 16:7), and the sin of greed is not a pleasing sight to Him.
In Luke 11, Jesus went on to talk about the opposite trait of giving. In verses 40-42 Jesus said that, instead of greed, the Pharisees should give to the poor, give their tithe to God, and practice justice and the love of God. I would agree that practicing these things is a step toward eliminating greed.
In doing so, we must not overlook an important spiritual truth: We cannot change ourselves. That is God’s job. It is imperative that we humble ourselves and embrace this fact! Praying in faith for a new heart, asking God to remove our greed and its underlying causes, is essential. It is my firm conviction, based on experience, that God CAN and WILL “clean house” in a disciple’s heart, removing sin and whatever displeases Him, but only AFTER we are tired of being what we are and desire ABOVE ALL ELSE to BE something else; something holy, pure, and pleasing to the Master.
This is why Psalm 51:10-12 is a regular prayer for me: praying for God to “create in me a pure heart”. I no longer try to change myself, fail, and then pray to God, asking Him to help me. No! I pray to God first, tell Him I cannot change myself on my own, beg him to change me, know in faith that He can, and humbly ask Him to take away the sin and the underlying, unholy traits within my character. When my prayer is in faith, and in agreement with His will, it has always been answered, in God’s time, as promised in 1 John 5:14-15! Sins like greed, which I once struggled with on a regular basis, are now passing events in which I slip up and sin, ask for forgiveness, in faith receive that forgiveness, and then move forward. This is grace, and it is a beautiful thing!!
The sin of greed can be subtle, masquerading as a desire for something that, on the surface, appears good and noble. For example, has your desire to provide your children with a college tuition fund resulted in greedy behavior, like being stingy or failing to tithe? We are to place all our desires before God, trusting with faith that He will take care of them in His way, in His time. He is big enough to do so.
Call to Action
My motto is, “Be happy with what you have, and you will always be happy.” If you cannot say this, about anything, and mean it, then ask yourself if you are truly ready to let go of the sin of greed. If you are, then follow the outline above and begin to pray daily with faith, asking God to change you. Also, put your faith into action by deliberately doing something to counteract the tendency to be greedy: pay for the person in line behind you at the coffee shop; give extra this month when you tithe; or maybe fast one day. Show God you are serious. If you pray to God with faith, asking Him to change you, and you are willing, He is able. Our Father is waiting to hear your earnest plea…