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The Insidious Vice of Greed

 

“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evils, and some by aspiring to it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”

1 Timothy 6:9-10

When you ponder that you need more and more, you feel an unease in your present means, and you buy unnecessary things to keep up with the vibe of the age, trying to live your version of the American dream. You keep adding comfort over comfort, but the thirst for more does not seem to be quenched. Rest assured that you are deeply engulfed by this insidious vice of greed.

Greed is not always so evident, and in a lot of cases it is hidden. It has a blinding effect; it is not unveiled until the person has sunk deep into it and is drunk by the wine of material goods. It is not like sexual sin, which can be easily identified. Greed is subtle. It can be depicted in some people’s lives like this: Maybe you do not like giving money or meeting someone’s need, like the rich man who denied Lazarus help (Luke 16:19-31). Maybe you are very big on saving money and are not giving to your church. Maybe you keep on cutting your offerings and alms. What brings you some momentary pleasure is instead seeing a full bank account, striving to climb the corporate ladder. Perhaps your time at church or with family is reduced, and most of your time is spent in making more of those dollar bills. These attributes, if found in you, can be evidence of your fall into the sin of greed.

Greed is idolatry, according to Colossians 3:5. Although all sins are idolatrous in nature, greed is explicitly mentioned as idolatrous in the Scriptures. A greedy man fashions a God of material possessions. In his mind his savior is mammon. The rich young ruler serves as a great example for us in this matter: he held riches dearer to himself than the living God (Mark 10:17-27).

The Scriptures speak often about money, but in many of those cases in which monetary matters are mentioned, greed is being discussed. For instance, God says: “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evils, and some by aspiring to it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10).

These are explicit warnings in the Scriptures, and these verses offer a guideline and define for us what greed actually is. It is the love of money and the desire to get rich. We all want a comfortable life and to have whatever we cherish, and God also wants us to have things. He is the ultimate provider, but he does not want our provisions to have us. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

Our hearts can be overtaken by thoughts of riches and the stock market. The Bible recognizes these sinful tendencies. When our thoughts are more about monetary matters than God, His work, and His service, then let us do some heart-searching. Let us investigate the deep caverns of our hearts and ponder long and hard, prayerfully seeking to find out who we love more: mammon or God. After all, you cannot serve both. God is a jealous God. and He loves His people jealousy. He cannot stand that an idol takes over His place of worship, which is our heart, since the Bible calls us God’s temple. God told the Israelites to not have any God other than Him (Ex. 20:3).

In the same way, He tells modern-day Christians to not fashion idols out of their sins. Whatever controls you is your God. If money controls you to such an extent that your heart is captivated by riches rather than the Lord, then you are a greedy man and you need to repent.

The pagan culture with materialism as its god wants Christians to bow down at the altar of mammon. Satan has blinded the eyes of humans such that they cannot look past their selfish ambition. Selfishness is glorified like a golden calf, pampered like every other god fashioned by humans, and whose very existence depends on human desire. It pulls you towards hell by its very weight. The self wants more for itself. Hence you become greedy. You are told through media and entertainment that life is all about you, your purpose, and your feelings. Since you are told that existence is all about you, you strive to gain power and influence, trying to acquire as much money as possible so that you can more effectively serve this false god.

Greed is a companion of self; both cater to each other’s needs. They aid each other’s growth: the greater the god of self in your life, the greater will be your greed. Life is depicted to us as a race to the top of the corporate ladder. The culture creates a mindset in us that everyone deserves to be a millionaire, and that if you are not wealthy or striving to increase your possessions, then you are a human who is living an insignificant life. Such is the impact of social media, entertainment, workplace, and family pressures, which together comprise our culture. These circumstances make it very easy to fall into the pit of greed.

On the other hand, God wants us to be content and thankful. He through His Word continuously presses upon our hearts the need for this grace of contentment (1 Tim. 6:6-9; Heb. 13:5). Jeremiah Burroughs, in his book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, indeed refers to contentment as a rare jewel. People simply do not seek contentment, and this virtue can only be found in a very small minority. People desire and pursue riches, but hardly anyone desires contentment.

A jewel is something precious that our heart yearns to make its own. Do you consider contentment as a jewel? Have you sought it as such? Be honest! If you have not found and pursued this God-glorifying virtue, then you need to repent and make it your great ambition to achieve this diamond that is worth chasing. It is a worthwhile goal to seek contentment because God desires it from His elect. This should be enough of a motivation for a believer.

Here are some ways in which we can conquer this great evil of greed.

Pray.

Prayer is one of the most basic tools that God uses to conform us to the image of His beloved Son. God has designed prayer as such that it forces us to look away from our own wretched personality and toward the living God. Pray for contentment earnestly and get on your knees before God, asking Him to unveil to you the condition of your heart. Greed takes a firm hold of its captive. Our relationship with money and possessions might not look so bad from afar, but when you fall into greed, this sin shows its true colors. Pray to God that He may break the grip of this grievous sin on you and explicitly reveal to you its true nature and effects on your life.

Seek God’s Word.

Study the Scriptures diligently, and make it your habit to not only read but to meditate on and obey the Word of God. Read carefully all the verses in the Bible that mention greed and the consequences thereof. Strive supremely to not simply read, but to obey with the willingness to pay the cost of obedience. Do not harden your hearts when reading the Bible. Ponder long and hard where you are in life as you compare yourself to God’s Word. See how God desires you to use your time in serving Him.

Seek Accountability.

Have an accountability partner who can keep secrets and is a faithful, wise believer. Since greed has a blinding effect, you need to have somebody close to you so they can keep an eye on your words, actions, and conduct. This person should know as much about you as possible. While seeking such a person, also keep your heart open to receive rebuke and correction. Accountability from another believer will be of no use if you are not working on your heart to create an openness that welcomes reproof.

Give.

Giving is one of the many ways by which God makes His people holy. Giving shows that we look beyond ourselves and our own interests toward the betterment and progress of others. God is a giving God, and He desires His people to be cheerful givers (2 Cor. 9:7), as He is a cheerful giver to all of creation, and especially to His people. Giving frees us from the love of money and hoarding. It shows that we are not relying on our own riches, but on God’s sovereign providence when we give beyond our comfort zone at the necessary times. God does not always command us to give some small amount of our money. He sometimes desires for us to give such amounts that will make us uncomfortable and make us rely not on our riches, but on His power to provide. It is also evidence of our contentment.

In conclusion, our chief purpose in life should be living for God’s glory and not for money. Be ready to kill the sin of greed if you detect this lethal sin in yourself. Remember that sin promises pleasure, but only produces fleeting happiness that soon fades away, with the ultimate end as nothing but shame and condemnation. True joy is only found in God.

For further reading
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel
Contentment by Melissa Kruger
The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson
Joel Riaz

Joel Riaz

Joel Riaz lives in Abbottabad, Pakistan, with his wife, Irum. Having grown up in a Christian community, Riaz is well-acquainted with the Christian Faith and is the first person in his community to embrace Reformed Baptist Doctrine. He serves as an elder at Jesus The Holy Lamb, a Reformed Baptist Church. Additionally, he is currently pursuing his studies at The Master’s Academy International in Los Angeles, California.

December 18, 2023

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