Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three-in-one.
Mahatma Gandhi once quoted, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” Of course he should have replaced God for the word earth for it is God who provides all things.
Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas said of greed, “It is a sin directly against one’s neighbor, since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them…it is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, inasmuch as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.”
“Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” A quote from Erich Fromm
Our great country has been accused of being a land of greed and there are many reasons for this. We are the richest country, the most powerful country, and seen, by even those who accuse her, as the land of opportunity. This is an amazing accomplishment especially when you consider that it was mostly poor peasants fleeing religious persecution who founded her. Eventually, those peasants would come together to form “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Sounds great… so what happened.
Things have changed. Now we have multiple God’s representing America, the God’s of money, power, fame, etc. etc. We have become anything but indivisible. Shouts of hate ring through the streets, angry about everything from racism to government ineptness. Our liberty is being challenged as government grows and freedom shrinks and don’t even get me started on justice for all. Now its justice as long as you do it our way.
I believe this is happening because we have gotten our priorities out of whack. It’s not our citizenship we have in the United States we should be most concerned with, but rather, our citizenship in heaven. As the foundations this great nation were founded on of God and unity slowly erode into a cesspool of corruption and entitlement, our concern for the souls of the people become more critical or at least, they should.
And much of it has to do with greed. Greed for riches, greed for fame, greed for rights, greed for power. We have become a land of greed. The more we get, the more we want.
Greed has become not just accepted, but expected. We have shows on television giving you a chance to become a millionaire. We have casinos that prey on the poor who want to become rich. Our heroes have become the rich and famous and many count as equal their words to the words of the wisest among us. Greed is molding this country into something God never intended her to be.
Back in the 1800’s there was once a 350# wrestler in Europe named “Yusuf, the terrible Turk.” Three hundred and fifty pounds is a fairly huge man, and there wasn’t an ounce of flab on the guy. He was formidable. And in his four years in Europe, he was impossible to beat, holding the undisputed title as champion there. Then in 1898, he sailed to America and challenged the undefeated US champion to a match -a man named “Strangler” Lewis.
Now, “Strangler” was apparently about my size, weighing in at just a little over 200 pounds. But despite his rather small size, he was the heavyweight wrestling champion in America, having defeated many men much larger than himself. Strangler’s secret was a very simple hold. He would get around behind his opponent, put his massive arm around their neck and cut off their oxygen. Thus the name “strangler”. When his opponents passed out he’d “pin” them and win the match.
But when Strangler met Yusuf, he faced a problem – Yusuf didn’t have a neck. One commentator noted that Yusuf’s body went from his head to his massive shoulders, with very little in between. Thus, Strangler Lewis couldn’t get his hold and it wasn’t long that Yusuf flipped Lewis to the mat and pinned him.
After winning the championship, the Terrible Turk demanded all $5000 (a fairly significant amount of money back in 1898) be paid to him in gold.
He wrapped the championship belt around his waist, stuffed his gold into the belt to keep it safe and boarded the next ship back to Europe. But halfway across the Atlantic, a storm struck and the ship began to sink. When Yusuf attempted to get into a lifeboat, he fell into the water and disappeared beneath the waves never to be seen again.
What do you think happened? That’s right. All his great wealth was too much even for this mighty man. He sank like an anvil, and his great riches destroyed him.
The Bible gives fair warning about the evils of greed. Solomon with all his wealth would one day forget God. The rich farmer who protected his wealth would soon die without enjoying it. The greedy farmhands would lose their lives because of it. In Acts, Ananias and Sapphira were struck down dead because they couldn’t part from their greed.
In our Gospel lesson, we here of a man who’s tried to get Jesus to justify his greed by making Him the judge over his brother’s part of the inheritance. He wanted his fair share after all. His greed for possessions had put a wall between he and his brother. So he wanted Jesus to fix everything by giving him a share in the wealth.
But Jesus was not impressed saying, “Man, who made me judge or arbitrator over you? Then He took the opportunity to teach the man a lesson on greed. He said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Jesus was telling him as He is telling us today, “watch out that greed curses you to rely on other things than God to find your salvation.” “Watch out that your possessions become your guide.”
Jesus also said that greed is one of the things that makes a person unclean In Mark 7 He reminds us:
“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Romans 1:29 declares that (godless and wicked men) are “filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, greed, malice.”
And Ephesians 5:3 warns us that, “Sexual immorality and all impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”
In fact, Paul even goes onto say that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. Sounds like something God wants us to rid ourselves of.
There are many ways to avoid the selfish trap of greediness and most of them involve the love for your neighbor. The real problem here is more the desire for power than actual greed. Like lust and gluttony, greed is a grab for control based on a feeling that, somehow, a loss of control is a loss of freedom.
To destroy our desire for this kind of selfish want, we must be generous in granting power to others. When it’s appropriate, be submissive. Avoid jobs that tempt you to want more and to do more all in the name of profit. Share the credit for things that you accomplish, never forgetting God’s role in it and claim your fair share of the failures.
Someone once said, “Vices are cured by their contrary.” Well, if that’s true, then greediness is cured with generosity. The modal was set for us in Acts 2:42-47:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 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. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Isn’t that the modal we should seek? It is! Yet we find it very hard to part with our money because greed has so entrenched itself in our hearts. Am I saying that if you don’t give all your money to others you’re a greedy person? Of course not. But I am saying that you should be looking for ways to serve others with the gifts you have been given.
If the vice of greed can only be cured through generosity, then we should give with a willing heart, praising God for the opportunity to serve Him. Sponsor a child in need, make a sincere effort towards tithing. Once a week find an opportunity to benefit someone else to the degree that it qualifies as a generous and self-sacrificial act.
God counts on it and he was never one to expect sacrifice without giving it. Though he doesn’t have to, He continues to provide for those He loves. Though we have become a poor example of His grace, he continues to care and provide for the hungry, the lame and the weak. Though He continually has to bring us back into His forgiveness, he never tires from forgiving. Though we deserved only His wrath, he sacrificed His only Son so that we might find freedom from sin and death.
To cure the disease of greed we have only to remember God’s generosity. Jesus said, “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 in the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith.” Luke 12:27-28
Then He went on, “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Verses 31-32
That kingdom is now ours because of the infinite generosity of a loving God towards His children. Not once does he think of holding back. There will never be a time when His generosity and grace cannot be found. Through Christ everything has become possible for us and our salvation has been secured. Not through efforts of our own but solely out of a love we could never comprehend because it’s impossible for us to match.
Look at your life in honesty and ask yourself if you could be doing more with the gifts you have been given. Be honest about the ways you could have helped but didn’t because you didn’t want to part with that much money. Look for ways to change this outlook you have, one that the devil continues to use against you. Find opportunity to test God in His promise to be generous toward the giver.
Our riches should not be coveted in this world, because they will never compare to the riches we will one day have in heaven. Only God can provide for you what you truly need. Only He is the source of true joy. Commit, not just your money, but your whole life into making a kingdom difference here on earth and then reap the benefits when you find yourself at the feet of Christ. May God grant you His strength. Amen.