The Seven Deadly Sins: Greed
In this parable, the rich man died before he could use all that he had stored in his barns. He
mistakenly believed that the wealth he had amassed was his alone. Jesus viewed his attitude as a form of greed.
When you concentrate your efforts on amassing wealth and material things and ignore God’s plan for your resources, you violate one of His key principles—a God-honoring stewardship of property and possessions. Jesus illustrates to His listeners that if you plan only for this life, you are heading for eternity empty-handed.
I. GREED IS BASIC TO HUMAN NATURE
- the prophet Jeremiah recounts the persistent problem with the sin of greed that pervaded the culture of his day
- “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.” (Jeremiah 6:13, NIV)
- greed is still a persistent problem and pervades our culture
- ILLUS. Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a little girl who accompanied her mother to the local country store. After the mother had made her purchase, the clerk invited the child to help herself to a handful of candy. The little girl shyly hid behind her mother’s skirt. “What’s the matter? Don’t you like candy?” asked the clerk. The little girl nodded, and the clerk smilingly put his hand into the jar and dropped a generous portion of candy into the little girl’s handbag. On their way home the mother asked, “You’ve never been shy with the grocer before. Why did you hide behind my skit when he first invited you to take some candy?” The little girl promptly replied, “Because his hand is bigger than mine!”
- Luke 12:15 “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” NASB
- Jesus taught the disciples that it was foolish to focus on temporal wealth
- His sternest warning against greed is in the Parable of the Rich Fool
- He condemns the smug, self-confidence the man place on his abundant crops:
- “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (vv. 20-21)
A. THE FORMS OF GREED
- there are at least three forms of greed:
- 1st, The Greed of Power—the obsessive desire for ever more material goods and the attendant power that comes with wealth
- in this form of greed, earthly goods are chiefly a means to an end—that end is power and influence
- the money, the real estate, the cars are simply things used to achieve, wield and display personal power
- wealth is frequently used to intimidate or bribe others, reinforce one's own illusions about what is important or to build up a feeling of success
- ILLUS. I think The Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12 is a good example of this kind of greed.
- ILLUS. In Tobit 4:20-21 (no, don’t look for it in your bible—you won’t find it, unless by chance you happen to have a Catholic bible with you), it reads: “And now, my son, let me explain to you that I left ten talents of silver in trust with Gabael son of Gabrias, at Rages in Media. 21 Do not be afraid, my son, because we have become poor. You have great wealth if you fear God and flee from every sin and do what is good in the sight of the Lord your God.” Tobit is the story of a Jew living in Nineveh after the deportation of the ten Northern Tribes of Israel to Assyria. Tobit writes these words of encouragement to his son. His son is not to be fearful of poverty. Though Tobit is not a canonical book, this passage helps us understand one of the forms of greed.
- fear is a poor motivator for virtue, but an excellent one for greed
- sometimes, greed is simply a desire to have much so that we can't possibly run out
- the stock market could crash, we could lose our jobs or health, we could be sued
- if we acquire enough stock, real estate, or T-bills, we think we will be safe from want
- this is an illusion
- there is no perfect preventative for want
- Jesus speaks of this kind of greed in the Sermon on the Mount where he refers to those who store up for themselves treasure (Matt. 6:19, NIV)
- the verb store up is in the present, active, imperative meaning that these are people who are right now in the process of storing up more and more as a priority in life
- the problem is that it will not last—it’ll be eaten away, it’ll rust away, or it’ll be taken away
- ILLUS. For you Star Trek ‘trekies’ these are the Ferengi among us.
- these are the people who reduce themselves to a small and cold desire to accumulate more and more and more just to have more, and more, and more
- more electronic gear
- more trading cards
- more antiques or other collectibles
- more money
- this kind of greed has no useful purpose except to become rich and to continue accumulating more wealthy
- ILLUS. An ancient Roman proverb says, “Money is like seawater; the more you drink, the thirstier you get.”
- ILLUS. Bob Russell and Rusty Russell, in their book “Money a Users Manual” say that in 1900 the average person living in the United States wanted 72 different things and considered 18 of them essential. Today the average person wants 500 things and considers 100 of them essential.
- “Whoever loves money never has money enough”; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income”(Eccles. 5:10 NIV)
- ILLUS. The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant once said, “Give a man everything he desires and yet at this very moment he will feel that everything is not everything.”
B. THE FLOURISHING OF GREED
- it's not hard to find historic examples of greed
- you can call central casting, and order up conquerors and criminals, kings and their consorts, religious pretenders and robber barons, political bosses and Wall Streeters to fill out more than one top-10 list
- what we don’t realize is how pervasive greed has become in our culture
- some of our citizens believe that they are entitled to prosperity
- there was a time in America when industry—that is, good ‘ol fashioned hard work, imagination, ingenuity, and fairness—was the means to success and prosperity
- it was not uncommon to work a life-time in order to achieve it
- today, however, we are well into the third generation of citizens who believe that they are entitled to financial support whether they work for it or not
- many of our citizens are convinced that there is some person, or some cooperation, or some government agency ‘up the line’ that has an abundance of wealth that rightly ought to be shared
- their attitude is, ‘I’m entitled to my fair share of the American pie whether I’ve worked for it or not. It’s not fair that others should have so much.”
- folks let me tell you what that attitude really is—it’s greed
- some of our citizens believe that they can borrow their way into prosperity
- the good news this morning is that many people have finally realized that money can't buy happiness
- the bad news is that now they're trying credit cards
- ‘charge it’ has become part of the jargon of American culture
- why work and save frugally for years or decades to acquire the things your parents worked a life-time for when you can have it all today by saying ‘charge it?’
- a goodly number of Americans are living substantially above their means because they’ve bought into the philosophy ‘you can have it all now’
- folks let me tell you something—that’s greed
- some of our citizens believe that they can litigate their way into prosperity
- spill hot coffee in your lap and you too can be a candidate for Forbes’s magazine 'richest people in America!’
- or smoke cigarettes for twenty years and then sue the tobacco company for addicting you even though for thirty years there has been a Surgeon General’s warning on each package warning that cigarettes are harmful to your health
- we are a sue-happy nation
- ILLUS. I once heard a story about a grocer, who while delivering orders in his station wagon, ran down and injured an elderly lady. The lady sued and was awarded a settlement large enough to drive the man out of business. After many difficult years, he managed to accumulate enough money to open his grocery again. But after just a few months of business a gentleman slipped on the grocery store floor and injured his back. Once again the grocer was sued and once again he was forced out of business. One peaceful Sunday afternoon as the grocer was sitting in his living room, his teenage son came running into the house saying, "Dad, Dad. Mom has been run over by a great big bus." The grocer's eyes filled with tears, and in a voice trembling with emotion he cried, "Thank the Lord, my luck's changed at last."
- the proliferation of states and communities that are actively encouraging their citizens to gamble is the most significant indicator that greed grips the hearts of too many Americans
- ILLUS. Last year Missourians gambled away $1.7 billion that could have bought cloths, or groceries, or automobiles, or homes or ... . Nation-wide, American citizens spent $50 billion in legal gambling alone. The report “Survey in American Demographics” reports that "Winning money is the most important reason why people say they visit a casino." Duuh!
II. GREED IS PROGRESSIVE AND SUBTLE
- ILLUS. Few there are among us who would describe themselves as Dickens described that ‘bah, humbug’ of a man, Ebenezer Scrooge: Dickens writes: “. . . he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, . . . a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!” But if you’ve every read A Christmas Carol you’ll remember that Scrooge wasn’t always the covetous old sinner he had become. Ever so slowly did the passion for wealth infiltrate Ebenezer’s life until it blinded him to all other cares. The name Scrooge is now synonymous with greed and avarice.
- greed is a trap that ensnares many believers, just as it ensnared Scrooge
- Dickens portrays a man whose life’s aim is progressively altered by greed
A. THE GRADUAL NATURE OF GREED
- the sin of greed may begin innocently enough
- you may think that because God has blessed you, you are entitled to use your financial and spiritual gifts as you choose
- slowly, you fall victim to Satan’s snare of desire for more
- there are a number of words in both Old and New Testaments which we translate as greed
- they refer to the gradually progressive nature of greed
- the first of these words is found in Col. 3:5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed,“
- the word greed here refers to a strong desire to acquire more and more material possessions or to possess more things than other people have, all irrespective of need
- here is an example of The Greed of Acquisition
- it’s a greed that buys something on sale just because it is on sale whether you need it or not, because you think that some day you might need it
- the second of the words which we translate as greed is found in 1 Timothy 3:8 “Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.”
- the phrase pursuing dishonest gain is literally shamefully greedy
- do you see the progression?
- first, there is a strong desire to have that comes from an inward love of wealth and things that we suppress and keep secret
- if those inward desires are allowed to blossom – or worse yet, cultivated – greed becomes open and obvious and one becomes shameless in his or her desire for more and more
- Isaiah 56:11 "They are like hungry dogs that are never satisfied. They are like shepherds who don’t know what they are doing. They all have gone their own way; all they want to do is satisfy themselves.” NCV
- ILLUS. Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller the question, “How many millions does it take to satisfy a man?” His candid answer accurately revealed the heart of man. “How many millions does it take to satisfy a man?” he mused. “The next one.”
- the word ravening literally means violent greed
- it’s meaning is obvious . . . it refers to a desire to gain things, even by violent means, if necessary
- ILLUS. Did you know that in some urban High Schools administrators have banned major league athletic jackets, and even certain brands of tennis shoes and blue jeans because too many teenagers are getting beat up or even shot because another student literally wants the cloths off another kid’s back?
- no one starts out as an Ebenezer Scrooge, but the potential for becoming one lies just beneath the surface in each of us
B. GREED HAS SUBTLETY INFILTRATED THE CHURCH AND MASQUERADES AS PIOUSNESS
- ILLUS. Adrian Rogers tells a story of Satan's attack on Christians. First, Satan shot a poisonous dart at his heel; but the Christian was unharmed, because his feet were shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Next, Satan shot an arrow at his loins, but the Christian repelled this easily because his loins were girt about with truth. Unsuccessfully, the devil tried a shot at the breast. But there was the breastplate of righteousness. The Christian knocked away another dart with his shield, and the helmet of salvation repelled another arrow, but the devil was not defeated. He slipped around behind the Christian and shot him in the pocketbook and killed him dead.
- the world the flesh and the devil are very subtle in their approach
- the desire to have, and the love of money has slyly entered the body of Christ and become spiritually fashionable
- many have vindicated its presence by cloaking it in the disguise of faith, but it is really nothing more than an excuse for greed
- some call it the health and wealth gospel while others call it name it and claim it theology
- it preaches that if you can just, somehow, get God on your side, that you can have everything you want
- it tells believers that if we want something, all we need do is claim it ‘in Jesus’ name (of course) and that somehow obligates God to give it to us
- it teaches that God rewards faith with pennies, and dimes, and nickels – and better yet – homes and cars and stereo equipment
- these are often the very same people who get so upset when the preacher asks for some of it back!
- ILLUS. I love the story of the pastor who had really gotten into his sermon one Sunday morning. He was preaching on the potential of the church and he got excited. Sensing his excitement, the congregation began enthusiastically and verbally responding to him. The pastor told them, "With God's help we can see the day when this church will go from crawling to walking." And the people responded, "Let the church walk, Pastor, let the church walk." He continued, "And when the church begins to walk, next the church can begin to run." And the people shouted, "Let the church run, Pastor, let the church run!" The pastor continued, "And finally the church can move from running to flying. Oh, the church can fly!" “Let the church fly, Pastor, let the church fly!” “But of course, for the church to fly that's going to take lots of money!" The congregation grew suddenly quiet, and from the back, someone mumbled, "Let the church walk, Pastor, let the church walk."/
- greed has subtlety infiltrated the church and it masquerades as piousness
III. GREED IS NOT GOOD, BUT GIVING IS
- ILLUS. Some years ago, Michael Douglas stared in a movie entitled Wall Street. In it he played an executive of a large Wall Street firm who would stop at nothing in his drive to accumulate more money and power. At one point in the film, Douglas’ character is addressing a class of young, would-be brokers who are hanging on his every word. He tells these eager young men and women, “Greed is good!”
- no it is not!
- greed is the very opposite attitude Jesus encouraged his followers to develop
- what is that attitude?
- faith in God to provide for His people
- Luke 12:22-24; 27-30 “Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! . . . (27-30) "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.”
- greed is one of the seven deadly sins because it is, at heart, idolatry
- the commandment says, Thou shalt have no other gods before me
- greed attempts to replace God with things money can buy
- greed can overpower nearly all elements of spiritual maturity
- that’s why giving is so important
- ILLUS. Tony Compolo, Sociology Professor at Eastern Baptist College and a popular speaker, has written: “There is one primary way to overcome greed, and that is to discover the joy that comes from self-giving. The nature of sin is that it blinds us to the truth that we have been designed in the image of a giving God (John 3:16), and that we therefore fulfill the purpose of our Creator by giving away what we are and have to others. When we are called upon to sacrifice, it is not only that others might benefit from our self-giving, but that we ourselves might know the joy that God wills for us to have.”
A. CHRISTIANS MUST LEARN TO BE CONTENT
- 1 Timothy 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
- one of the greatest of Christian virtues we can develop is that of satisfaction with what we have
- the Apostle Paul is our great example in learning how to find satisfaction in life
- to the believers in a town called Philippi, he wrote: “. . . I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13
- Paul wrote that statement from a Roman prison
- the genuine believer sees contentment as more than merely a noble human virtue
- for us, our contentment derives from the sufficiency of God the Father “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, NIV)
- in his parable, Jesus refers to those who “store up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
- ILLUS. William Randolph Hearst, was a newspaper publisher of the early part of this century. He was exceedingly wealthy. He was also a patron of art and spent a great deal of money collecting art treasures for his collection. The story is told that one day he saw a picture of a piece of artwork that he felt he must absolutely own, so he sent his agent abroad to find it. After months of searching, the agent reported that he had found the treasured object and that it was close to home. Where was it? In Hearst's warehouse, with many other treasures he owned that were still in their crates. Hearst had been searching for a treasure he already owned! Such is the power of wealth that it blinds us to the treasures we already have and focuses us on obtaining more, without appreciating what we have.
- the highest goal of the Christian life is to love God and glorify Him forever, not to pile up material goods
- the Scriptures tell us that, when accompanied with Godliness, contentment is a great gain
Are you content with what you have, or is greed destroying your soul? The most serious greed a man suffers from is the greed of keeping yourself for yourself instead of surrendering ourselves to a God who wants to give you the contentment that comes from knowing that heaven is your home and salvation your true treasure.