Greed – The Appeal of Affluence
According to Gordon Gekko, a stock market investor worth in excess of $650 million, “Greed is good. Greed works." Cultural analysts defined the ‘80s and ‘90s as “decades of greed” -- making greed not only acceptable, but encouraged. In an outrageous attempt to romanticize greed, thousands of contestants recently competed to marry a man they never dated or even met, simply because he was a “multi-millionaire.” Does the accumulation of money actually lead to happiness? “We consistently find that people who say money is most important to them are (the unhappiest),” says Kennon Sheldon, a psychologist at the University of Missouri at Columbia. Researchers find that there are “many elements that [lottery winners] want that don’t really bring lasting happiness once obtained...clinical depression of megabuck lottery winners.”1
Greed is never good, nor does it serve to work any good purpose. Since we will never be able to attain everything we desire, greed offers us dissatisfaction. Our greediness ultimately destroys us as we harden our hearts, ignoring the needs of others. Ultimately, greed motivates us to pursue poor choices that plunge us into destruction (Proverbs 28:20, 22, 24–25, 27).
Greed – A Materialistic Malignancy
While few of us are millionaires, it is easy to fall victim to greed. When our yearning for another’s possessions takes seed, we produce covetousness. Our materialism becomes insatiable as we attempt to acquire objects that are upgraded or more impressive than our neighbor’s. In Tim Kasser’s, The High Price of Materialism, he presents evidence of how insecurity breeds materialism.2 Advertising targets our feelings of inadequacy to provide that custom home, a 5-star family vacation, or simply possessing every high-tech gadget. Kasser suggests that materialism, i.e. greediness:
- Works against close interpersonal relationships – “We became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated others and they hated us” (Titus 3:3).
- Works against authenticity and autonomy – “Then [Jesus] said, ‘Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own’” (Luke 12:15).
- Works against the health and happiness – “For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, the pride in our possessions...this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever” (1 John 2:16–17).
Greed – A Sea of Stench
Without knowing, we habitually practice greed through selfishness. Even preachers can be guilty of greed (1 Timothy 6:5–6). By redirecting our ambitions and desires towards benefiting others, we overcome our greedy nature. The apostle Paul said, “I have never coveted anyone’s money or fine clothing. You know that these hands of mine have worked to pay my own way, and I have even supplied the needs of those who were with me” (Acts 20:33–34). Paul habitually practiced generosity rather than covetousness.
The practice of generosity also protects us from the deadly effects of greed. Israel’s Jordan River remains a source of life as it flows into the Sea of Galilee and then travels to the Dead Sea. In all likelihood, Paul witnessed first hand the Sea of Galilee’s generous irrigation as well as abundant fishing resources. In contrast, the Dead Sea has no outlet, greedily robbing the arid region of moisture. Both man and animal refuse to drink from its acrid waters. It contains no life of any sort, except a few kinds of microbes -- sea fish placed into its waters die rapidly. Greed causes our lives to also become foul before God. But a life that flows abundantly shares all that God has given us. When we give, we truly prosper and are refreshed (Proverbs 11:24–25).
2 The High Price of Materialism, Tim Kassar. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002. 149 pages.
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