“Do you ever struggle with greed?” This is the question I’ve been asking teenagers over the course of the past couple days, before asking them if there’s a specific area that they struggle with greed in most often. I’ve got a number of different responses, but most of them have had to do with getting the best grades, having the coolest clothes, having the thickest wallet, and interestingly enough… sharing food (I actually got this one from a couple of different people).
The first thing I would like to do in this article is define my terms. I’ll be using them for the rest of this post so it’s really important that we’re all on the same page as far as words such as greed, jealousy, envy, and pride.
As I was doing research for this post, I was struck with a sudden realisation. You see, I was looking through the dictionary, trying to get the secular definitions for the main words I would be using in this article and I noticed a trend in the definitions of these different words. A relationship among them. Let’s see how the New Oxford American Dictionary defines these words.
Greed – intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.
Jealous – feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages
Do you see any kind of connection? Yes? No? Kind of maybe? If not, don’t worry. We’ll spend a large portion of the remainder of this post establishing the connection between these two words. Let’s start by looking at greed. I think when greed comes up in conversation, the first thing that often comes to our minds is physical possessions (e.g. money). After I asked some of my friends what area they struggled with most in being greedy, I felt it only fair to tell them where I find myself struggling in regard to greed (Okay, fine… They asked). I don’t really struggle with greed in relation to money or sharing my food. Grades have been an item of greed a couple of times in the past but I wouldn’t label that as my biggest greed issue. No, I would say that the strongest temptation I have to be greedy generally has to do with the talents and gifts of others. I’m naturally a very competitive person in a lot of areas, and I find myself often thinking that I HAVE to be the best at everything I do. A certain amount of that also has to do with the selfish desire for power. If I’m the best, then I hold a considerable amount of power in that area, because who’s to contest me? When I told this to my friends, at least two of them were like, “But isn’t that jealousy?” Let’s look back at the definitions above for greed and jealousy.
Greed was defined as an intense and selfish desire for something, and jealousy was described as feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages. In the example that I listed of greed in my personal life, I said that I struggled with being greedy in regards to the talents and gifts of others. Jealousy comes into the mix because I’m envious of someone else’s talents or achievements, but greed is also involved because I have the selfish desire to be better than them, and often, to have power over them as well. But really… What’s so bad about greed? I mean, doesn’t the desire to have the most money, to be the best pianist, or to have the coolest clothes just push us to work harder? So what does the Bible have to say about greed, and jealousy?
“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15
“‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’” – Matthew 6:19-21
God is very clear on what he thinks of greed, especially if you look at the final verse above, Ephesians 5:5. Greedy is listed right along with immoral and impure. It’s a big deal to God! But why? Let’s read those three verses again. In the first verse and second verses, we find Jesus warning those that he is speaking to, and basically saying something along the lines of, “Watch out guys. Be careful. Don’t focus on collecting as much stuff as you can during this life. Because you know what? It’s not really going to matter in the end. You’re leaving it all behind when you die. You can’t take it with you. So focus on what matters. And that’s what is going to last for eternity.” Solomon illustrates this point excellently in the book of Ecclesiastes.
“Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.” – Ecclesiastes 5:15
So why is greed such a big deal to God based on the first two verses above? Because it’s a waste of our lives. God has given us the absolutely AMAZING gift of life. He doesn’t want us to waste that gift. There’s a song by Lecrae called “Don’t Waste Your Life” that I feel really resonates with this topic. Here are a few of the lyrics:
“You’re trying to figure out what to do with your life. If you make a lot of money, hope you’re doing it right because the money is God’s, you better steward it right. And stay focused. You ain’t got no ride. Your life ain’t wrapped in what you drive. The clothes you wear, the job you work, the color your skin, naw, you’re a Christian first. People get to living for a job. Make a little money, start living for a car. Get ‘em a wife, a house, kids, and a dog. Then they retire; they’re living high on the hog. To live is Christ and that’s Paul I recall. To die is gain so for Christ we give it all. He’s the treasure you’ll never find in a mall. Your money, your singleness, marriage, talent, your time. They were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is Divine.”
I feel like those lyrics really sum up this entire post. As teenagers, we’re trying to figure out what to do with our lives. We’re trying to figure out who we are. It’s tempting to be distracted by greed. To spend our lives pursuing money, power, the coolest clothes, etc. But that’s not the reason we’re here. We’re here to bring glory to God through our lives, and to share the good news of Christ’s death, and resurrection so that others might also be given this purpose of existence.
Living It Out:
So, being teenagers and all, you’re probably thinking right now, “Great, thanks man… You gave us a lot of um, information? But how do we live it out?” My challenge to you is to closely examine your life over the course of these next few days. Identify the things in your life that are causing you to be greedy (whether it’s money, clothes, etc) and put them where they belong. Don’t waste your life, but instead, use it for God’s glory. Do what you were created to do.