An issue I’ve been struggling with lately is greed. Not that I can’t get enough stuff or money…and it’s not that I’m not content, either. All my needs are met, and I’m a cheapo. I rarely buy things I don’t need, but when I do, it’s never anything very expensive. Lately I have bought things that I “need” for video editing, and I don’t see a problem in that, either. But I do have a lot of stuff I obviously don’t need; some of it makes life easier, some of it makes life cozier, and some of it is just fun. Though I buy unnecessary things, I don’t struggle with coveting.
My problem has been in defining greed. Here are some of the things I was thinking….
Where is the line drawn? If I’m ok where I am, isn’t that unfair for poorer people? Are people in Africa who live on less than a dollar a day supposed to be content with their level of wealth? My WorldVision kid gets to eat, but I’m sure she’d like to have more than she has. Is that greed?
So here I am, having my needs met, being fed…and a whole lot MORE! I think about people in countries like Bangladesh and see how poor they’re living, and then I compare myself to them. Is it wrong that I live in a nice house with air conditioning, nice carpet, a nice kitchen, my own bedroom (most families there live in one room) with a heated water-bed, TVs, computers, game consoles…….all this luxury? Isn’t it even worse that I want an XBOX 360? How many people in third world countries could be fed for the price of one of those consoles? However, even if I don’t buy one of the next-generation consoles, I’ll be ok with that. It’s not that I covet them, they’d just be nice to have. Should I feel guilty about having one? In that case, should I feel guilty about all the other luxuries I have?
So that’s how the devil likes to drag you down. That’s how the LIAR likes to make you feel bad about yourself. All these points seem to make a lot of sense…they seem pretty convincing and convicting. The master of deceit has been at it for millenia, and he knows what he’s doing. I don’t mean to complement you, you perverter of good things! You take things God has made and pervert the uses of them. You take what could be glorifying to God and make the abuse of such things appealing…alcohol…the media…speech…sex…technology…science…money…food…the very word of God itself…wealth…things.
What God has been teaching me lately is that things (or the possession of things) ARE NOT EVIL IN THEMSELVES! It is the ABUSE of things that is sin. We are to be good stewards of the things God has blessed us with. All the things I mentioned above have been given to us by God…but we ourselves were created to bring glory to God, so we must do the same with the blessings he’s given us. We can glorify God through everything we have. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
So…I was wondering why I have all the things I have. For one, it’s not my fault I was born into this rich culture. The fact that I have so much was not my choice, nor did I earn it all. Do you see how the enemy likes to deceive us? It’s ridiculous for me to feel bad about where God has placed me in the world. However, on the same note, it would be wrong to boast about my high standard of living because I didn’t get here on my own. It’s clear what I should do. I should be THANKFUL for what I am blessed with, and GLORIFY the Lord with all of it. That’s a huge part of being a good steward.
God gave me what I have, and He knows what he’s doing. Christ came so that we can have life and have it abundantly. The Lord WANTS us to enjoy life.
“When you eat and are full, you will praise the LORD your God for the good land He has given you. Be careful that you don’t forget the LORD your God by failing to keep His command—the ordinances and statutes—I am giving you today. When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, [be careful] that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water. He brought water out of the flintlike rock for you. He fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end He might cause you to prosper. You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ but remember that the LORD your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers, as it is today.” (Deuteronomy 8:10-18)
A similar passage:
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would give you—a [land with] large and beautiful cities that you did not build, houses full of every good thing that you did not fill [them with], wells dug that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you eat and are satisfied, be careful not to forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12)
This is easy to apply to my life. My promised land is His kingdom and my relationship with Christ. I have blessings I did not earn. I eat to my fill. My Egypt, the slavery Christ saved me from, is sin. So many things from these passages apply to me. It really helps me see that God intends for His people to be content. It brings Him glory when we delight in Him. When thinking about how much the Father has done for us, it’s obvious that coveting is when we take for granted all the blessings and we still want more. It’s easy to see the selfishness in that. It’s like saying God’s grace is not enough. THAT’S greed.
There is a lone question left. Why does God give some people all of this while others starve?
“The LORD brings poverty and gives wealth; He humbles and He exalts.” (1 Samuel 2:7).
Well, that seems pretty simple. He’s pretty much saying, “because that’s just how I work”. God knows everybody individually. He knows all of our hearts, he knows what we need. He knows how to deal with us and how to teach us. Some of these verses explain that some people are more righteous when poor:
“Better a little with righteousness
than great income with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8)
“Better one handful with rest,
than two handfuls with effort and pursuit of the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6)
Perhaps some are better off when they are fully depending on the Lord for survival and resting in Him. I would think that if you depended wholly on His providence for food, you would have stronger faith. God is so powerful that he can bless people through poverty!
The subject of all these scriptures is saved people. All these passages explain why the Father blesses the children of His kingdom. But there are many nations in this world that are lost in sin. Many of their citizens are starving. Sin brings death. Some people are in poverty simply because of that fact. They are starving not only for earthly food, but for the God who created them and loves them. Part of being a good steward of all we’re provided with is sharing it with others who need it. If we keep it all to ourselves, that is greed also. This last passage not only reinforces the fact that God gets glory from blessing us, but also explains that we cannot be greedy and concentrate on the things we have while ignoring the great commission to advance the kingdom of God:
“Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”
One last thing…How do we handle all the gifts from God without being selfish or becoming greedy? Be content with what you have, glorify God with it, be a good steward of it, and do not treasure your earthly things. Rather, treasure the eternal things of God.
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6: 20-21)