Matthew 6:24 (NKJV)—You Cannot Serve God and Riches—“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Luke 12:15 (NKJV)—“And He said to them, “‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’.”
Editor’s Note: This article is an update of the chapter entitled “Give Generously“, excerpted from the book I wrote entitled The New ABC’s of Life for Children and Adults: Short Stories, Essays, and Poems Promoting Christian Concepts (ABC’s Ministries, 2016).
Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC, Author
“Yes, they are greedy dogs Which never have enough, And they are shepherds Who cannot understand; They all look to their own way, Every one for his own gain, From his own territory”(Isaiah 56:11, NKJV).
Greed, known as “avarice” among the ancients, is the inordinate desire for wealth and possessions. It is “an excessive love,” according to Rebecca DeYoung, “for money or any possession that money can buy.” [DeYoung, 2009, p. 100] Biblically, greed is largely synonymous with “covetousness,” which typically craves things or possessions. This covetousness is the last thing expressly forbidden in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:17, “You shall not covet”), communicating some of the grave seriousness of greed. (Mathis, 2015, pp. 61-62)
What is God’s perspective on greed? “ For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.” (Psalm 10:3, KJV). Obviously, God hates greed, one of the seven deadly sins (Segal, 2015).
Greed is idolatry (Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:5). It is unbelief in the heart directed toward money and possessions. We don’t believe God and his goods are enough, so we turn elsewhere, and thus “the contentment that the heart should be getting from God,” writes John Piper, greed “starts to get from something else.”[Piper, 2012, p. 221] Greed makes a god of something other than God—which means it is not only a breach of the tenth commandment, but also the first (Ex. 20:3). (Mathis, 2015, p. 63)
What are the consequences to being greedy? The first byproduct of greed I found in the Scriptures is great sorrow: “Woe to him who covets evil gain for his house, That he may set his nest on high, That he may be delivered from the power of disaster!” (Habakkuk 2:9, NKJV). Greed also brings on God’s wrath, unfruitfulness, want, trouble in one’s family and society’s disapproval.
Being greedy is one of the ways man disobeys God. Thus, resulting in God’s punishment. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6, NKJV). This reminds me of how parents punish children for being selfish with their toys.
How can we display the fruit of the Holy Spirit whenever we are greedy? Christ said, “and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires of other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19, NKJV). Greed cannot be a part of an authentic Christian’s life. This vice does not mix with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.
I have heard and read stories of misers who lost everything in an instant. House fires, car wrecks, major medical problems and business deals gone bad wipe out people’s bank accounts every day. “He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches, And he who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty” (Proverbs 22:16, NKJV).
Have you asked someone to loan you an ink pen or something else you might need momentarily? If they said “no”, how did you react? “The people will curse him who withholds grain, But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it” (Proverbs 11:26, NKJV). Thus, I believe greediness or selfishness can be classified as a social sin; besides, being sinful in God’s eyes.
Obviously, individuals closest to a person more concerned over accumulating material possessions than with spiritual or intellectual goals will be affected negatively. Proverbs 15:27 (NKJV) says “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house, . . .” An example might be when a greedy individual becomes a workaholic. Through the workaholism, the individual neglects his family, possibly resulting in a divorce from the spouse. Children of workaholics also can be negatively affected by a greedy parent feeling neglected and/or learning greediness from the parent.
The previously listed potential by-products of being greedy is enough for me to want to
avoid this sinful behavior. However, the greatest loss to being greedy for me would be not being a part of God’s Kingdom. Inheriting God’s kingdom is impossible for the greedy, according to I Corinthians 6:9-10 (NKJV):
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
Antidotes to Greed
What are antidotes to being greedy? Growing one’s faith, learning to be content, and having a generous heart are three ways to overcome a problem with greed.
Faith takes the frontline in the assault against greed, targeting it at its root of unbelief—in particular, faith as contentment in Christ, faith that is seeking its ultimate satisfaction in God. Such faith—such contentment in Christ—is greed’s
great nemesis. (Mathis, 2015, p. 66)
Why should a person be content? I found three reasons in the Scriptures. The first reason deals with the longevity of material items. According to I John 2:16-17 (NKJV),
For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
A second reason to learn contentment is because “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Timothy 6:7, NKJV). What happened to John D. Rockefeller’s millions? Did he take it with him to eternity whenever he died? Have you known of anyone taking personal possessions with them to eternity?
The greatest reason I believe for being content is God’s promise for provision: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV).
Whenever I am in God’s will and trusting in God’s Word, I am never left in need. For example, I remember a time when through prayer a need was met.
“Pam, what are we going to do about food?” my temporary roommate said. “I need to eat.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. I looked at the dangerously obese woman across the room. I thought, I don’t think missing a meal or two will hurt either one of us. I looked at my left ankle in a cast. “Maybe the storm will quit soon. Then I can go across the street to my neighbors’ to use the telephone. I can’t go out in my cast with the rain pouring so much.”
“I’m hungry. I have to eat to take medication.”
“All I can tell you to do is pray. There’s nothing I can do about getting any food,” I said as I prayed to myself, “Lord, would you please send Diane or someone here? I can’t do anything about this situation.”
Within a short period of time, what do you think happened? Someone knocked on the door. I maneuvered to open the door with the use of my crutches.
“Jim, I’m so glad you’re here.” A friend stood in the doorway holding an umbrella. I smiled at him.
“Diane is in the car,” Jim said. “She wanted to see if you need anything.”
“That’s awesome! I just prayed that God would send one of you here. We need groceries.”
“We’ll go get them for you.”
“Have Diane come inside while I get my money and make a list for you.”
“No problem.” Jim motioned for Diane to come inside.
“Diane, you won’t believe,” I said. “I just prayed that the Lord would send you here.”
“That’s awesome,” Diane said. “I was sitting at home without any plans when I felt a nudging to come here to see if you needed anything.”
“God sure answered my prayer,” I said to my friends later whenever they returned with groceries.
“He sure did that,” both Jim and Diane said smiling and nodding in agreement.
“But whoever has this world’s good, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him” (I John 3:17, NKJV)? Jim and Diane displayed God’s love referred to in this verse.
What are the Biblical principles on giving? “You reap what you sow,” I have heard so many ministers preach from the pulpit. This point comes from II Corinthians 9:6 (NKJV): “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Verse 7 of the same chapter in the Bible instructs us to give as every man “purposes in his heart, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver”.
Whenever we help less fortunate individuals, we need to be careful not to let pride creep into our hearts. Giving to gain recognition is contrary to the Scriptures, according to Matthew 6:1-4. These verses instruct us to give to the poor secretly.
Breaking a Bondage to Greed
How does one break a bondage to greed? Besides the obvious prayer and repentance required to overcome any sin, I offer four additional suggestions: focus on God’s Word; walk in love; give thanks; and, stay away from other greedy people.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in
and steal. (Matthew 6:19, NKJV)
I suggest that a person trying to break a bondage to greed stay away from greedy individuals for two reasons. First of all, Christians are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11, NKJV). Secondly,
Christians are to flee evil, according to II Corinthians 6:17. Personally, whenever I spend any substantial amount of time with another person, I am tempted to let that person’s habits and attitudes rub off on me. How about you?
In concluding this article, I want to challenge you to look around in your family and community. Ask: Who needs help? Do I have resources to help them? Lend a hand or give a gift to someone today.
Simple Acts of Kindness
Questions for Reflection
1. What is God’s perspective on greed?
2. What might be negative consequences to being greedy?
3. What are the fruit of the Holy Spirit?
4. How can a greedy person’s family be hurt?
5. What are the biblical principles on giving?
6. What three reasons did the author find in Scripture to learn contentment?
7. How does the author recommend an individual break a bondage to greed?
DeYoung, R. K. (2009). Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies. Grand Rapids: Brazos. Available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Glittering-Vices-Seven-Deadly-Remedies/dp/1587432323
Mathis, D. (2015). Greed. In M. Segal (Ed.), Killjoys: The seven deadly sins (pp. 59-72). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.
Orgeron, P. K. (2016). The new ABC’s of life for children and adults: Short stories, essays, and poems promoting Christian concepts. Madison, TN: ABC’s Ministries. Available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/New-ABCs-Life-Children-Adults-ebook/dp/B01FGRFGIC/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
Piper, J. (2012). Future grace: The purifying power of the promises of God. Colorado Springs: Multnomah. Available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Future-Grace-Revised-Purifying-Promises/dp/1601424299
Segal, M. (Editor), (2015). Killjoys: The seven deadly sins. Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God. Available for purchase at https://www.desiringgod.org/books/killjoys