Thursday, May 04, 2006

# 144: In Greed We Trust

Why are so many people greedy in our world? Webster’s definition for greedy: “wanting or taking all that one can get, with no thought of others’ needs; desiring more than one needs or deserves; covetous, implies greed for something that another person rightfully possesses.”

What is/are the underlying reason/s for greed? This is a difficult question which will be examined in this post. Before that examination, let’s look at the many camouflages Americans use to legitimize their greed by using desirable euphemisms: “the good life”; “ambitious”; “the American dream”; “having our needs met”; “well-off”; a disguise wealthy “christians” use: “resources for world evangelism”; “prudent”; “having it made”; “necessary security for old age”; “financial independence”; “a great source of happiness”; “prosperity”; “life is good when one has money”; and many more. It could be that potential insecurity of one sort or another is most likely the underlying reason for greed—or is it? On the surface, many want to be looked up to by others, and therefore believe excess wealth (material or financial) will make them feel and look successful and important. If that is the case, why do some, like myself, feel secure with little substance, while others feel insecure with much?

Without a doubt, America, with its desire for excess riches, is the greediest and wealthiest nation that ever existed. Are we aware that greed is the driving force behind wealth, which makes us the richest and most looked-up-to of all nations? That is the type of role model we have been presenting to the world. Of course, we wrap our greed into things that seem beautiful, appealing and necessary. Are we as Americans aware of this ungodly though ecstatic situation we are in? I don’t think so. We have given greed a pleasant connotation: the go-ahead sign. I do know that greed, with all its desirable disguises, is insidiously contagious.

Let’s see at what age greed starts to set in: most likely, when the child is old enough to recognize the difference between a big piece of apple pie from a smaller piece, and therefore wants the bigger piece. At that age, a child feels as if he/she is the most important person in the family and even in the world. Could that be what we humans secretly believe about ourselves? If that is the case, I can understand why we feel we deserve the best and the most of whatever.

This is where genuine humility may be the cure-all. A truly humble person will automatically put him/herself at the bottom of the totem pole. If humility is the answer to greed, where does humility come from? I would love to say from God, but there is one problem with that answer: There are many extremely humble people that don’t believe in God. Could humility also be a genetic trait? I think that would be a more plausible answer. The reason I say that is because in the animal kingdom, we see dominant siblings at birth, taking control—wanting the biggest piece of the goodies mom or dad brings into the nest/den.

Does that mean that if one is born dominant, he/she is prone to being greedy all his life? I am sure nurture can play a part in greed, in that greedy parents may propagate greedy offspring. (Monkey see, monkey do). No matter if it is nurture or nature, a feeling of innate insecurity can/does contribute to the situation.

Now to the spiritual implications of greed: When one sees a greedy person that claims to be a Christian, something is out of whack. Greed and love for God and neighbor cannot coexist, which tells me a greedy person is not a Christian, regardless of how loud he/she shouts it from the rooftops. The New Testament attests to that statement with at least 12 verses that tell of the consequences and danger of being greedy. I will quote only two: 1st Corinthians 6:9-10 says, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the GREEDY nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” [emphasis added]. Ephesians 5:5. “For this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or GREEDY person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of God.” [emphasis added].

Jesus Christ is the Christian’s exclusive role model for godly humility. How can Jesus be called humble after the way he treated the religious leader of His time, as presented in the 23rd Chapter of Matthew? Jesus rightfully called them every nasty name under the sun, so to speak. That is what Christ-like humility is all about. To be humble while in a position of power is quite different than humility resulting from a feeling of being inferior because of defects or shortcomings. Christians are endowed with godly power; that power is to be used to SHOW and TELL their immediate world what Christianity is and IS NOT, while refusing material or financial compensation; lack of self-interest displays Godly humility. And when the gospel message is rejected, quietly and humbly walk away. In short, having a coercive attitude is not in the Christian constitution (the Bible).

Let me tell my experience of how my greed was overpowered by Christian humility. At the time, I was aware of my greed but never believed it was harmful, nor did I call it that. As I grew into the likeness of Christ, I felt a great amount of security from being one of His. For some reason, I didn’t seem to need financial or material security anymore. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight. Slowly but surely, I needed and wanted less and less material things and self-centered attitudes. The closer I drew to Jesus Christ, the less concerned I was with my material security. For me, it is hard to believe I now am where I am. Greed in my life has gone. Of course, humans are a bit lenient when it comes to self-examination, and I may be no exception. In fact, I am much more content, appreciative, and thankful with the little I now have than with the plenty I had as a younger man. Along with that, no one could pay me big bucks to return to that life of wealth and greed; it mostly was a life of annoying stress and unnecessary responsibility, which seemed normal at the time.

I need to drive this point home: As one can see, I was there. I know firsthand what money/greed cannot buy or do. That type of life of ALWAYS WANTING MORE is of no more value than a mirage (something that falsely appears to be real). I’m not just blowing smoke. In the end, it will display itself as not being able to produce what it is chalked up to be. Another allegory: The pot at the end of the beautiful rainbow will turn out to be filled with fool’s gold. Remember the song the Beatles sang in the sixties? “Money can’t buy me love.” Truer words were never spoken. Think about this: When you love someone, they are your business, and when someone loves you, you are their business (of course, if there is a response—otherwise it is a different story). Who do you love? Who loves you? An unfailing love is what we all desperately need—God’s love—and from that love comes genuine security; at that point, greed has been defeated.

A newborn baby feels secure in its mother’s bosom. As the baby grows, still the mother’s arms are a secure hideaway when he/she faces pain, hunger or other distressing circumstances. As children grow up, and mother’s arms are not available anymore, they look for another place to feel secure. That is when greed sneaks in and forcefully whispers, “Come to me and I will make you secure.” At a young age, greed is most likely not financial wealth, but can be position, wanting to be smarter than others, wanting one’s own way, peer pressure, etc.

What God freely gives, above and beyond Salvation, love, etc. is a secure place to get away from the rat race of the asphalt jungle. That place is in the arms of Almighty God. Could there be a more secure place? Although wonderful, security that is given by God is only a fringe benefit (windfall) and not the essence of belief in God through Christ.

Only thing, even though we receive Salvation free of charge (by grace), it is not cheap. It is an arduous journey; it will cost us just about everything we once valued as important. That statement is in conflict with what conventional religion has taught us. SINCE THE TRUTH HURTS, that is the reason this blog is vehemently hated by most, if not all, organized churches. Organized religion is an institution where the word “greed” is never mentioned. In its place, the treasured word “prosperity” is used.

As in the Old Testament, God wanted His people Israel to prosper. Problem: The prosperity the Lord gave Israel sinfully acquired two tagalong bedfellows: greed and pride, two attitudes the Lord hates. God is showing Christians in 2006 that prosperity is not conducive to Godliness. The Lord God speaking through His holy Prophet Hosea in the Old Testament says this in Hosea Chapter 13, verse 6: “When I fed [prospered] them, they [Israel] were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.” Listen to what the apostle Paul says about the Old Testament: 2 Timothy 3:16. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness . . .” Of course, much of the Old Testament teaching has been superseded by the teaching of Christ, after the revealing of God's Grace. Greed and pride were, time and again, the downfall of Israel, and most likely, will be ours.

What an abrupt shock the Jews got when The Lord Jesus Christ came on the scene. He announced that it was not those dressed in purple with excess money or material goods that were blessed by God, but the poor that were more viable candidates for eternity. This new teaching by Christ could be one of the main reasons the vast majority of Jews–who love wealth and power—never, to this day, accepted Jesus Christ as their coming Messiah. Also, the organized christian church per se, wanting the best of both worlds, accepted Christ in word, but rejected His new teaching, although they will emphatically deny it. The clergy's verbal defense is this: “What you say is in error; it is a matter of interpretation. Being prosperous does not mean one is greedy. We now live in a totally different culture, to the point where being prosperous, not greedy, is not only accepted but necessary in this dog-eat-dog world.” Jesus’ response: “Sure; what else is new?”

In conclusion, it could be said that greed, more than one needs, is the damnation of humanity, even when the majority of the world’s population would give their right arm to have the wealth and prosperity that greed can produce. Try to imagine a world without greed. It is possible now in one’s own personal world. But sad to say, words have little or no power of expressing the joy and contentment that is produced when living without greed (always wanting more).

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