Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Guarding Against Greed

Someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But He said to him, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." (Luke 12:13-15 NASB)

I have a notebook of verses that are my favorite and that have spoken to me at different times in my life. The last verse is one of those. "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" is my favorite translation of Luke 12:15. (Alas, I didn't note the translation but I think it's the TLB paraphrase) 

In this culture of affluence and entitlement, we can easily be swept into the current of covetousness. Don't be. Jesus gives not one warning against greed but two. Beware. Be on your guard against every form of greed. The repeated warning is a confirmation of His intent. Jesus is serious about our need to be intentional in avoiding greed.

The word translated as "beware" is horaƍ and can also be translated "to see". In this instance, the two admonitions indicate that we are to examine ourselves to prevent every form of greed. We are to be intentional about avoiding greed and the desire to accumulate things.

I look around me and am stunned by the amount of "stuff" I have accumulated over the years. There's a considerable number of items in my house that had no particular meaning for me at the time they were purchased. They serve no purpose other than decorative. I'm not sure now why I bought them, but they have become a symbol of the foolish ways I've used the money God has entrusted to me.

Therein is the problem. The money we have (much of which I have used to purchase "stuff") was entrusted to us by God. He had a purpose in giving it to us and an intended use for every cent of it. 

When I look at my income in that way, I'm shocked by how I've managed my money. If the widow who gave her mite, her last cent to God, is my example, I'm sadly lacking. Judging by the conspicuous consumption of those around me, I'm not the only one with this problem.

Despite all the possessions I've accumulated over the years, they are not my life. The people in my life are what matters. My son, my family, my friends, and (most importantly) my faith are what matters and by which I'd prefer to be defined. At the end of my life, I want people to remember the difference I made in this world, not the number of possessions I accumulated. I wonder if you can tell that from all the things I've accumulated over the years.

A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. 

It's a truth we would do well to understand. The greed that tells us otherwise must be avoided. Beware. Be on your guard. Examine your heart. Is greed there? A lifestyle of consumption? If we want to please God, our greed-filled lifestyles will have to change.

Why does our attitude about possessions matter? Jesus summed it up in Matthew 6:21.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

As we "beware", examining ourselves for the possibility of greed, let's evaluate that which we most treasure. Is it the things of this world or the next? Where is your treasure? 
Dear God, forgive me for the ways I have used Your resources and the money You have entrusted to me. Cleanse me of greed and covetousness. Create in me a clean, generous, giving heart. Help me to store my treasure in heaven rather than trust in the things of this world. In Jesus name, Amen.