Greed. Avarice. An insatiable desire for wealth and material possessions. What an ugly sin. It is the Scrooge of sins. The Scrooge McDuck that is, swimming in his sea of gold coins. It is an inability to feel satisfied with what one already possesses. It is a never-ending hunger for what is already in the bank, as if it is vanishing. And a desire on top of that to add more and more to the pile.
The worst part about greed biblically is not the simple selfishness of it all, but that it is a sin that drives more sin. It drives us deeper and deeper into a willingness to bend the rules, profit by unjust means, rob, steal, and plunder what the riches of this world offer. Human beings become secondary to their materials. God’s creation gets lost in objectification. Goodness and generosity and charity are lost. The words “my”, “mine,” and “more,” predominate.
While obvious in some cases, it is also a sneaky sin. At least this is so in my life. I would not classify myself as “greedy”, especially when I can compare myself to others living a wealthier and more materialistic lifestyle. But I am greedy in the sneaky way. I cling to what belongs to me. I have the tendency to save and even hoard things that I think are mine.
Examples include: feeling unwilling to give someone an extra coat that has been sitting unused in my closet, being rigid about my time, not offering someone a ride home, not sharing my french fries, worrying about somebody borrowing my car or even my pen, counting my pennies, not wanting someone to sleep on my couch for the night. Do you hear it? “Me. My. Mine”. Yuck. This list is gross. But it is my heart at times.
Even in simplest form, greed keeps us from experiencing life the way God intended.
My heart gets concerned about what “belongs to me”. Letting someone into my space, or time, or stuff, triggers this little five year clinging desperately to a blanket that feels like its being torn from her grip. My greed is more about fear and holding on and security than just simply accumulating more stuff. Although the more I hold onto it, the more locked away it is in my vault, and the worse I feel about lending or sharing or being generous or charitable.
The first problem behind this is not seeing where all my stuff actually originated from. God made everything, me, my stuff, money, and all of creation. He created it to provide for my needs, for all of our needs and for our enjoyment. He constantly is giving to us. He gives us a heartbeat and air to breathe. He gives us warmth and shelter and work and friendship and stuff and money. I am mistaken when I see all that I have and think it is mine. It is a mistake to not see it first as His. I am a recipient of a great benefactor, an heir to the riches of a great king. These aren’t my things.
The second problem driving my greed is treasuring stuff over people. When my coat that is sitting in my closet is unused but I treasure it anyway, I am not really sure that I am understanding the purpose of a coat. When I know someone else is cold, but I really, really really like that coat (that I never wear), something sinful is keeping me from giving it away. The sin is finding value in my stuff/time/money over the value of another human’s well being. It is like when Ebenezer Scrooge lets poor Bob Cratchit freeze while he works when there is a pile of coal just sitting by the fireplace. The coal is more valuable to Ebenezer than his employee.
The last problem and a really big one for me is the avoidance of loss. When I hold something that I think I own and then treasure, it is painful to give it away or separate from it. There is some warped form of attachment between me and my junk. I do not trust the other person will care for my stuff or will return it if loaned. I fear the separation. This is a huge problem for people who struggle with hoarding. There is a fear of losing out, a fear that they will need it and it will be gone, a fear that they will be without.
For me, generosity and charity feel risky. It is pitiful in the truest sense. To be generous, to be unattached to the stuff, to feel joy in sharing with others, to feel delight in knowing my coat is providing its purpose to someone in need is an incredible way to live. And like poor old Smeagol, I am attached to the ring, and my life is smaller for it.
Even in simplest form greed keeps us from experiencing life the way God intended. He wants us to live in confidence that he will provide all of our needs. He wants us to enjoy the things he gives us, but also to enjoy when those things are shared with others. The joy that is ever increasing in a community that freely gives to one another.
Think of Acts 2:
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts 2:42-47)
Don’t you just want to dive into that moment in history? To be among those who do not feel attached to their stuff, who find joy in others’ receiving? The idea that giving away my junk would create loss is not what the Bible teaches. He challenges me to find my security in him, in his generosity.
It’s simple. God has provided everything you need in his Son, Jesus. There is no greater treasure or wealth or material possession. Jesus brings us into right standing with God, and God then provides for us as his children. We receive all we could need because he loves us. And not only that, he gives us above and beyond by his Grace that we might pass on his goodness and generosity to others. Our stuff becomes an avenue of his grace. Our money becomes an avenue of his grace. Our time and space becomes an avenue of his grace. All this “me, my, mine” bologna misses out on him, on his abundance and his joy made alive in us as we pass on his grace.
Don’t put a dam on the overflowing rivers of his grace. You will drown in piles of meaningless crap while the world around you dies of thirst. Greed is the dam, do you see?
Go through your house, anything you haven’t used or worn in 6 months, give it to charity, extend God’s grace to others.
Go through your finances, where there is excess don’t let it pile up, use it to show God’s grace to others.
Go through your calendar, pick out the days where you watch too much Netflix or play too many hours of video games, and find a place to volunteer or host a party for people who aren’t on your typical list or make a new friend in this lonely town, extend God’s grace to others.
His grace is upon you abundantly in Christ. Dwell there and pass it on.