Week three in our series about the Seven Deadly Sins - Greed.
Our OT story (Joshua 7) is Achan whose coveting of a forbidden Babylonian robe which was a violation of God's command got him killed. Greed kills...it is a deadly sin.
It is clear how coveting killed Achan, but how does greed gouge out our life in this age? Achan was given a clear command, and he knew it - he fessed up when confronted. He saw the items, he coveted them, and took them into his own possession, a robe, silver coins and a bar of gold. In this case, Achan coveted forbidden items, and that transgression resulted in his stoning.
We covet, but not necessarily forbidden items. Our greed doesn't normally get us killed as quickly as Achan...but our greed is still deadly, if only in degrees rather then kind when compared to Achan. His story is so tragic because he comes across as just a regular guy...we could be him...what is sad is that out of the tens of thousands of soldiers, he is the only one that gave in to his greed. Nowadays it seems the opposite percentage, now it seems like there is only one in tens of thousands who does not give in to greed.
Jesus (Luke 12) instructs us about greed, rooted in a real life situation, dealt with in a vivid parable, followed up with a revolutionary way of living.
Two men, brothers, are arguing about inheritance, and one of them implores Jesus to convince the other one to split it evenly. Jesus avoids getting snaked into this thorny issue, and thus reprimands the brothers for their blatant greed. He implores them:
"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."
He says, guard against all kinds of greed...what are those? The ancients and the moderns understand greed through words like: avarice, covetousness, theft, cupidity, hunger, anxiety, dread, fraud, sleeplessness, thriftiness, miserliness, cheating, treasuring...these are a few "kinds". One ancient writer caricutured the "kinds" with these words: "the brood of their mother Greed's black milk" - (Tickle, pg26-28).
You can be greedy and not know it! One of the first steps in breaking away from the deadly vice-grip of sin is to Name It.
How do you know if you consider life to consist of abundance of possessions? How do you know if you are greedy? And if you are greedy, what can you do about it?
Do you have more then you need? Do you have a two car garage, with two cars, and one has to be parked on the driveway? Do you rent out a storage unit? Do you worry about theft? Do you worry about your retirement plan? Do you love shopping for "stuff"? Do you resent others' purchases? Do you buy compulsively? Do you have trouble sharing? Do you pity the poor?
If you are a Protestant Christian (meaning you are not Catholic or Orthodox), then you are part of a tradition that gave birth to Capitalism. If you are a Protestant Christian residing in a Capitalistic Economy (like North America...), you are part of a system where greed is necessary to our understanding of a healthy national GDP. Greed is actually considered good in our capitialistic society, for it is what fuels our business production, greed compels us to purchase and thus keep our neighbor hired. We are so enmeshed in greed, it seems almost impossible to not act out of greed in any part of our purchasing life.
It is almost too hard to watch pro sports where players can sign 100 million dollar contracts; to hear about oil executives dole out about a billion dollars in profits to themselves, too painful to watch so many Hummers and BMWs pass by on the other side.
Our American Dream is partially a contributer to our complicity in greed: the dream is that each generation would be better off then their folks, we'd own more, have better, more convience, better luxuries, more wealth, better health...how does that not foster greed?
To be ungreedy is almost to be unAmerican. What to do?