Greed. It’s popularized on TV and all over the business world. But what does the Bible say about it? What does it mean? How can we avoid it? In this week’s episode, Robert explains practical ways to overcome greed in our lives.
ROBERT >> Television ads appeal to it. Big business takes advantage of it. People fight because of it. They’ve been led into crime. It’s caused all kinds of trouble in our world today. What is it? Another problem of the heart: Greed.
SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.
ROBERT >> What is greed?
What do you think about when you think about greed in your heart?
Well, greed is covetousness. It’s a selfish desire for what belongs to others or for something you should not have. But can you think of some examples of it in the Bible?
I remember Achan in Joshua chapter 7 who had a desire for the devoted things of Jericho. Though these spoils of Jericho belonged to God because it was the firstfruits of the conquering of the cities in the land of Canaan, Achan’s greed caused him to take what belonged to God. And as a result, many of the nation of Israel died in the next battle at Ai. And eventually his greed caught up with him as Achan and his family were put to death because of his sin.
And then there was David. King David, who desired Bathsheba, a woman that belonged to another man. David committed adultery with her and had her husband killed so that he could take her for himself. And his sin too caught up with him. He was found out by the prophet Nathan. And David confessed his sin and found the forgiveness of the Lord, but it caused much trouble to come into his family.
And then there’s Ahab and his desire for Naboth’s vineyard we read about in 1 Kings chapter 21. Ahab cried like a baby because he could not obtain Naboth’s vineyard. Naboth didn’t want to give it to him. But old Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, found a way to have Naboth killed and the vineyard turned over to king Ahab. What a sad story. When greed’s involved, it never turns out good. So what does the Bible say about this problem of the heart called greed?
What can we learn from God about that, and what can we learn to deal with this in our own hearts? Well, we might begin in Exodus 20:17. You remember when God gave the ten commandments to Israel on Mount Sinai, the last of those ten commandments deals with this problem of the heart called greed. The Bible says, And you shall not covet. God realized that greed would be a big problem among his people, and he wanted to keep them from transgressing his commandments. And if they could take care of that problem, of that evil desire, that greed, that covetousness, it would keep them from transgressing the other nine commandments. We need this same warning today not to be covetous or greedy.
There’s another passage in Proverbs 21:26. “He covets greedily all day long; but the righteous gives, and does not spare.”
That evil desire of greed can really get ahold of our hearts and our lives so that we continue in it, as the Proverb writer said, all day long. But the righteous, he’s able to turn that around. And the way he does that, instead of being greedy and wanting more for himself, the righteous gives and does not spare.
Another passage in Luke 12:15 teaches us how that greed changes our whole perspective on life. In this passage here in Luke chapter 12 we see that there were some who were arguing about the inheritance that they had received. And how many times have we seen families bickering about what was left behind and fighting over those things? It’s right here that Jesus interjects this thought: 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.”
You see, the problem, the underlying problem among these family members who were fighting over the inheritance was the problem of greed. That covetousness, that greed can change our whole perspective on life.
Another passage in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, we see the things that are associated with greed, and we come to realize how bad greed really is. Here in this chapter, the apostle Paul spoke to the church at Corinth, and he talked to them about unrighteousness. He says here, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetousness, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Did you notice covetousness here in the middle of this list of the unrighteous?
It’s one thing to be a fornicator, an idolater, an adulterer, a homosexual, a sodomite, a thief; but Paul says that the covetous are to be numbered among these very ones like the drunkard and the revilers and the extortioners. None of these are going to enter into the kingdom of God. That’s just how serious our subject is today. Many would say, oh, I’d never steal or I’d never commit adultery, I would never do any of these other things; but how often do we allow greed to come into our heart and into our life?
The practice of covetousness, if we refuse to turn away from it and deal with it in our own lives, can keep us out of heaven just as surely as these other things. Just as these other things needed to be cleansed and forgiven, so if we want to be right with God, we must seek his forgiveness and his cleansing for the sin of greed.
In Ephesians 5:5 and also in Colossians 3:5, in both of these letters the apostle Paul associated covetousness or greed with idolatry.
He said in Ephesians 5:5 that a covetous man is an idolater, and in Colossians 3:5 how that covetousness is idolatry.
Now, most of us would say, I would never worship another God, I would never go and get involved in idolatry; and yet when we become covetous and greedy, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re putting something or someone else above God. And that thing or that one becomes the real desire of our heart.
1 Timothy 6:10, the apostle Paul reminds us of the real problem of greed. He tells us here that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
Yes, the very nature of greed is to produce all kinds of evil in our heart and in our life.
And then James 4:2-3. James warns us here, “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
James contrasts the greedy man with the one who’s really trying to live for God. There are those who let these evil desires of their heart rule their life. And it gets them into all kinds of trouble. But if we are those who are really seeking to live for the Lord and calling upon him for his help for the things that we need to accomplish his purposes in our life, and that’s what prayer is really about, then we will truly be blessed by God and we’ll have the things that we need, and we’ll be a fulfilled and a whole person. So from these many passages of scripture we learn a great deal about greed and covetousness. Hopefully you can see the importance of studying this subject together, of dealing with this problem in our