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“A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.” (Proverbs 28:25)

As I was conversing with my neighbor, he was telling me about all the outdoor improvement projects he had planned for the warm weather months.  He concluded by stating, “We’re going for the whole nine yards.”  It was an expression I had not heard for some time, and it got me to reflecting about what that phrase meant years ago, contrasted with what some might interpret it to mean today.  Back when, those who said it basically meant they wanted everything that was coming to them, and they were willing to work hard to get it. Compare that with today’s prevailing attitude that we “want it all, and we expect it for little or no effort.” Back then, we wanted everything that went with the meal which we had undoubtedly paid for.  Nowadays, the expectation is that the meal will be provided for little or no cost. This boldness is pervasive throughout our society, and it is only heightened by the rhetoric of our politicians who promise all kinds of free stuff. But those of us who have been around for a little while remember and believe in the once popularized phrase – “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

More often than not, the more we get . . . the more we want. We have become a culture of gluttony that refuses to be satisfied. The subjects of money and greed are discussed throughout God’s Holy Word.  In fact, Jesus talked about this issue more than any other, except for the Kingdom of God.  Greed is a strong and selfish desire to have more of something. Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15) in his illustration if the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21). Money or wealth is of itself not a problem, but rather – it is our attitude toward it. When we place our confidence in wealth or are consumed by an insatiable desire for more, it is usually accompanied by failing to give God the glory for all of His provisions. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day when He stated: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!” (Matthew 23:25). Jesus also mentioned a long list of sins, including “deeds of coveting,” which He says come from our hearts (Mark 7:21-22).  So greed is not necessarily defined by amount, but rather by our attitude and motives. This would imply that even those who are poor can become subject to greed just like those who are rich.

The story is told of a financier who was visited by an angel who said he would grant him one wish. The businessman asked for a copy of the financial news one year in advance. As he was greedily scanning the stock prices and drooling over the profit he would make on his investments, his eye glanced across the page to the obituaries where he saw his own name. Suddenly his earthly wealth didn’t matter quite so much. This example begs the question: If you knew that you were to die in one year, would you do anything different in the management of your resources? Greed places a false value on temporal things, treating them as though we will be here forever. But we could die today, or all of our ‘stuff’ could instantly be taken from us as a result of some tragic event. One of the wise authors in the Old Testament wrote that “some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give” (Proverbs 21:26). In his day, John D. Rockefeller, Sr. became one of the richest persons in the world. Rockefeller also had a deep sense of God-given responsibility for the generous use of his wealth to improve life for others. But according to legend when asked the question, “How much is enough?”, he replied, “Just a little more.” Each of us make greedy choices from time to time, but it can become far-too-easy to become complacent with our own lack of effort to personally define what is truly ‘enough’ in our own lives. When we become fixated on storing up treasures on earth instead of in heaven, when we shrug off our own greed by comparing ourselves with those who are richer than we . . . we might want to take a step back and ask how eternally happy we would be even if we are fortunate to somehow achieve the whole nine yards.

REFLECTION: How much do you mourn the loss of money and things?  What can you begin to accumulate less of today? In what areas of your life do you have to work especially hard at controlling your appetite for material possessions? In light of eternity and the brevity and uncertainty of this life, dare to ask the question – “Am I managing what God has entrusted to me so as to be rich toward God?”


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