Our 2nd Idolatry
In my first post, “The Invisible Artist,” I mentioned an idol in our culture called fame. Another idol in America is greed or the love of money. Being wealthy isn’t evil; money can be used for godly or generous purposes. But craving money or constantly hungering for more things? That’s bad. Greed is such a powerful idol that anyone rich, poor or middle-class can be ensnared by it. Greed is the raging inner desire for more—it’s an idol lodged firmly in the heart. A greedy man or woman is never satisfied, happy or content for very long.
Jesus’ Clear Warning
After being submerged in a constant flood of 21st century commercials, promotions and advertisements, Jesus’ words in Luke 12:15 seem to come from an alien world;
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (NIV)
Much of reality TV announces loudly that the only life worth living is one filled with “an abundance of possessions.” This idol tears our hearts away from Jesus. Also, when we run through life chasing after materialistic things, we’re chasing a mirage. A lifetime of stuff can evaporate in a day.
For New Orleans’ residents, that day was August 29th, 2005.
Clean-up Crew: Hurricane Katrina
When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and the other gulf states, roughly 80% of New Orleans flooded. Many of the houses remained filled with water for weeks, until the engineers repaired the levees and re-started the pumps. The following summer, my church sent a team of people, down to help with the clean-up. The first house we entered was bone dry. I remember seeing mold growing on the wall, marking the water line above my head, Otherwise everything looked fine; just a quiet, tastefully furnished home.
We’d been told to gut the house completely. I didn’t understand why until one of my teammates touched the dining room table and it promptly collapsed in ruins. Whenever we lifted any furniture, it disintegrated in our hands. Being submerged in water destroyed almost everything. We salvaged only a few ceramic items. By noon, my team had hauled out most of the home’s contents, heaped it up into a huge mound and watched the city workers fill a truck and cart the debris away. The possessions accumulated over a family’s lifetime disappeared forever. Even the walls and ceiling had to be ripped out. Only the home’s outer shell remained. The structure’s two by four wooden skeleton would be treated to kill all the mold; only then could the interior start to be rebuilt.
The people of New Orleans didn’t deserve this heartbreaking loss; no one does. But it illustrates my point. Any of us can lose everything we own in a day. Our electronic toys, our new car, all the money we’ve saved or invested, our house and even our clothes. Hungering to acquire more and more material things is foolish—just chasing after the morning mist.
…life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.
The Practical Cure for the Sin of Greed
If a Christian is enslaved to a greedy, materialistic mindset, what’s the cure? How does this idol of greed get overthrown? The answer is found in Ephesians.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. (Ephesians 4:28) RSV
For a thief, the sin of greed is a big part of his problem. I guarantee you, after a lifetime of stealing, earning money honestly by hard work then giving it away will be excruciating to his flesh. But if the thief keeps blessing people with his hard-earned cash, over time he’ll no longer be enslaved to a greedy, grasping mindset. He’ll become a generous man.
The idol of greed in his life will be smashed.
A Practical Way to Cure All Personal Sins: My Story
This spiritual principle works for all sins. I’ve previously mentioned my problem with pride. A proud person never admits they are wrong and never apologizes. Jesus attacked this sin in me from all directions. For one thing, He started to nudge me to go to people I’d hurt and say “I’m sorry.” “Please forgive me.” How I hated apologizing! But humbling myself repeatedly broke the fierce grip pride had on my life, because acting humbly is the opposite virtue.
I’m good at apologizing now; after all, I’ve had lots of practice.
Related to this subject, here is a very challenging scripture:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9) NIV
Let me be honest; I can’t bring myself to pray ‘give me neither poverty nor riches’ because I’m afraid Jesus might answer. Right now, I have a fairly comfortable lifestyle. If I pray this prayer and my Heavenly Father takes me seriously, everything in my life could change–up or down.
How about you? As an American Christian, can you sincerely pray ‘give me neither poverty nor riches?’ Do you want God to answer? Or like me, do you have some more spiritual growing to do?
Because this video of a Thai man’s generous deeds fits so well with this post, I have included this link to You Tube.