It’s possible to work too much for the wrong reasons. It’s possible to be motivated by what Bill Hybels labeled “the monster called ‘More.’” Another word for it is greed, a desire to acquire and possess and accumulate far beyond our basic needs.
Greed is not a uniquely American problem, but it’s clearly one of our problems. Greed happens when we go over the top with our work ethic. We work at good projects for a good organization. We take care of our family. We advance in our professions. We’re amazed at all the stuff we’ve acquired. But we still want more.
Greed is not a word you expect to see listed among the top ten rules for good living. You won’t hear a preacher in the midst of wedding vows encourage a couple to pursue greediness. You won’t hear any eulogies listing greediness as one of the deceased's most endearing qualities.
In one of the better-known passages of the Bible, God talks about greed in what’s often called the “Parable of the Rich Fool” (Luke 12:13-21). In this story the rich fool celebrates his riches not with praise to God but with a bold declaration to build even bigger barns for his goods. Then he issues his infamous cry of excess: "Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry."
But earlier in the story, Jesus offered this divine warning: "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
Greed displaces the joy of work. Greed is a form of idolatry. Greedy people worship both conspicuous consumption and accumulation of assets more than God himself.
Greedy people do not acquire-to-live; they live-to-acquire. What do they want? More. How much more? Just one more.
Greed equates life with what Jesus called "the abundance of his possessions." Greedy people define themselves based upon how much they have and how much more they can acquire---this could be money, personal property, net worth, corporate kingdoms, real estate, a greater inheritance . . . things. For men, it could even be wives (plural), “trophy wives,” girlfriends, or just conquests. For women, it could be husbands (plural), boyfriends, and more.
Howard Hughes was a brilliant man who wanted and seemingly attained it all. Greed warped his work and legacy. He died a spiritually bereft and psychologically disturbed man, lonely and alone.
For all this, greed isn't about "things" as much as it is about perceived stature or power. We want, not because we want the possession—we want because of what we think the possession can do for us or what the possession makes of us. This can be true whether the greedy person is a pauper or a tycoon. For a greedy person the amount is always relative.
Or, we want because of insecurity . . . in ourselves . . . in our lives . . . in God.
Greed enslaves; it doesn’t liberate. Under the guise of giving us more, greed instead exacts a price. Ironically, what we want to get actually takes from us.
The remedy for greed is to replace this form of idolatry with a right expression of worship. Pursue God, not greed. Pursue work to the glory of God not the accumulation of possessions, power, or position. Pursue God not money-for-money’s-sake. Pursue God and he will bless you according to his sovereign will.
For all greed promises, it only results in emptiness. For all God promises, He fills our cup to overflowing.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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