Illustration results for Greed
I love the opening scene from the movie: Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson. As the movie opens a dying father leaves his inheritance to his son after making the son promise that he will be very generous to his sisters. On the way home from his father’s deathbed the son’s hard-hearted wife gradually convinces her newly rich husband to keep the vast majority of his inheritance for himself and give his sisters only a token. We watch dumbfounded as good intentions are overwhelmed by greed.
What chain letters, many multi-level marketers and pyramid schemes have in common is this. They appeal to greed. It is the theology of Wall Street. In that film, Michael Douglas’ character, Gordon Gecko delivers this speech,
“…greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit… …and greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save (this company), but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”
The problem is, though that philosophy is popular, and even pervasive, it is fundamentally false. Greed leads to incredible evil. “Wall Street” was prophetic.
Ivan Boesky, David Brace and Faith Metro Church in Wichita, ENRON, EXXON, AIG, WORLDCOM, HALLIBURTON, MORGAN STANLEY - you fill in the names of the companies and individuals who have been indicted.
On the other side of the theological equation is the Gospel, as practiced by Jesus and circulated in a different kind of chain letter by the Apostle Paul.
Two thirds of the New Testament comes from him, from his Missionary Journeys and his, for lack of a better phrase, “Letters and Papers from prison.” His letters, which we count as Biblical truth, circulated from prison. They changed the world and the people in it. He wrote to places like Philippi, Corinth, Thessalonica, Ephesus, and Rome. I have been there.
“Pray for me,” he wrote from prison, “so that when I speak, I may make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.”
And he did make the Gospel known, sometimes at great cost. He was imprisoned multiple times for his witness to Christ -- in Jerusalem, Caesarea Philippi, in Rome, under house arrest and then again in Rome at his death.
"What do you want on your Tombstone?,"
Do you remember the 1995 ads where an executioner asks a condemned man. "Cheese and pepperoni," the man replies in a memorable television commercial for the fastest-growing frozen pizza manufacturer in the United States. Seriously what do you want on your tombstone? If your life could be boiled down to a phrase what would it be? Anger, Greed, Kind, Love, Selfish, etc.
In the film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, we are introduced to a frightening creature named Gollum. He lives in the area known as Middle Earth and goes about with a croaking throat muttering. At one time he possessed the ring of power and it corrupted him with its evil.
As the film, and the book, progresses we discover that Gollum is not so frightening as he is pathetic. It turns out that he once was a Hobbit named Smeagol, much like Bilbo Baggins, one of the heroes of the story. But the ring corrupted him in mind, spirit and body. Now he is a little, slimy, twisted animal-like creature with haunted eyes and frog-like shape. His greed and sin have done this to him.
But through the friendship and grace shown to him by Frodo, whom he now calls “Master,” a change begins to take place. At one point in the film Gollum becomes two persons arguing with himself: the old Gollum telling him that he is worthless and unlovable, and the new Gollum who refutes those arguments and refuses to believe them.
It is a struggle, but Gollum finally says, “Go away! We don’t need you!” “What?” asks the old Gollum in disbelief. “Leave, and don’t come back!” the new Gollum says firmly. Suddenly the old Gollum is gone. He is free of his bondage. Gollum begins to jump and dance. “Gone! Gone! We told him to go...
There’s a powerful drama by J B Priestley, "An Inspector Calls", which tells how a young women died in tragic circumstances. The story revolves around a wealthy home. A police inspector calls and asks to see the members of the family, everyone denying any involvement with the victim. But each of them, in different ways, through callous behaviour, exploitation, pride, greed and selfishness had contributed to her misery and eventual death. They are eventually reluctantly forced to admit to a guilty conscience. They were "my brother’s keeper", just as we are if the "Cain spirit" is in our hearts.
Remember the show, “To Tell the Truth?” There would be one person who did something strange or different perhaps for a living while two others would try to pretend to be that person. The object was to try and fool the panel of stars and the audience. Sometimes the person would be something strange like a “professional nose picker.” At the end the real person would stand up.
As I thought about this passage from Matthew 6:24, I thought about loving one master and hating another. And I thought about some alcoholics that I know both practicing and recovered. I thought about the effect that addictions have upon people. They end of hating this “master” because they are enslaved and can’t get out. Usually end up hating themselves and everyone around them.
Jesus talks about the master of Mammon. I like the word “mammon” as a translation rather than money. For mammon is more than just money. It is greed. It is desire. In fact, the connotation is that this greed for money goes beyond just money but includes the power and privilege. It gives us the sense that this mammon is almost alive. That this particular sin because alive and begins to devour us. Paul uses the same type of imagery. Thus the darkness within us because exceedingly great! Just a little more. Gambling has that affect. Deal or No Deal is a great example. The show is about gambling. How far can you push it and what is the most that you can walk away with.
Runaway desires. Tithing and fasting are ways to work against these desires. To train them. Tame them! Tithing, fasting, and even baptism act out a different reality. A new reality of God’s Kingdom. Baptism is a symbolic way to act out the new reality of being a follower of Jesus--that God is now the Lord and King of our lives not mammon. By being baptized we align our lives toward the Kingdom life and Kingdom values, which are opposed to the values of mammon. The memory of one’s baptism (one Lord, one baptism) can then become a marker to "tame" our struggles with rampant materialism. It can become a sort of litmus test.
All these actions are revealing a change of masters.
Alcoholics know that one of the most effective way to maintain sobriety and recovery is to tell on their disease. Take ownership of their difficulties, their character defects, their sins. To tell the truth.
To Tell the Truth
• On our masters
Who are your masters? Jesus says we can only have one. Anything but God will consume you. Job, business (e-myth), health care system, money, shopping, gambling, drugs (prescription and illegal). Tell on the truth. This is what I struggle with.
• On ourselves
This is me. I’m not perfect. This is who I want to be. In terms of the specifics of the passage, admitting that I am not as generous as I should be. There can be only one.
In one of readings for today from Luke 12:13-21, Jesus is first asked to make a judgment. It is a cry for justice. Tell the story.
Generosity towards others is generosity towards God.
As much as some of us struggle to please two masters and we try, we cannot. “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.”
Col. 3 talks about putting to death things that want to rule us and as I translate can become or are our masters: fornication, impurity, evil desires, greed, anger wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth, lying. Put on these clothes: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, forbearance, love, gratitude.
How? Daily examination. Teaching others. Admonish which means to encourage while gently correcting. Being thankful not condemnation. To tell the truth of first ourselves. Confession.
Van Gogh. The use of yellow in his later paintings were a sign of hope: of starting over with a new master. We can start over with a new master. We all need that hope. We need that assurance that we can start over.
This is what worship is about. A new start. To a new creation. To a new week. To a new life. No matter who or what is your old master: stress at work, conflict with a boss, conflict with a family member, divorce and struggling to glue pieces back together, overwhelming bills maybe because of overspending, illness that never seems to end, the joys and trials of raising children, death of a friend or family member, houses and cars and other stuffs that “never end,” a family member that is in the throes of addiction. To tell the truth is to say I don’t have the answers so I resolve to start afresh in trusting God. Some of us constantly need that hope that I can start again today and that these trials and such will not last forever (even when we can see no end in sight). God can.