Summary: Greed is a temptation that our society promotes. Christians are challenged to say "No," to greed and "Yes," to generosity.
Mark 10:17-21 “Ah, To Have It All” (Greed)
America has a love affair with cars. We like sleek, fast, and powerful. We like big and brawny. Cars define us. They tell the world who we are, or who we’d like to be. America’s love affair with cars is not new, however. Before cars there were carriages, and before carriages there were chariots. Forensic medicine has recently discovered that King Tut probably died from an infection because of a broken leg. They speculate that the young king was out cruising in his chariot when he lost control and crashed. Riches can kill you if you’re not careful.
A few years ago Faye and I led a group to England, Ireland, and Scotland. On that tour we had the opportunity to visit many castles. Each castle seemed to try to outdo the other in architecture and adornments. All were meant to impress the visitor, and proclaim that the owner of the castle was rich, powerful and someone to be dealt with. There were people who still put on their pants one leg at a time, but their riches and possessions set them apart from others, just like riches and adornments have in countless other cultures.
Today we look on the shiny, new cars, and the expensive houses of others and think, “Wouldn’t it be nice.”
THE ALLURE OF RICHES
A rich young man, who perhaps was experiencing a certain emptiness in his life, approached Jesus and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded that he should keep all of the commandments. The man responded that he had done so from childhood—he had kept them perfectly. Jesus said that he lacked one thing. He should sell everything that he had, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus. The young man sadly turned away from Jesus. He couldn’t do what Jesus asked because he was very rich.
We have an insatiable craving for riches—more money and possessions. It never stops. When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money was enough he replied, “Just a little bit more.” He wasn’t joking.
We live in a society that feeds on our greed. It constantly whispers in our ears, “You need more.” But advertisements and movies are not the cause of our greed. Greed has been around since the beginning of humanity. Greed addresses some of our basic needs.
We need to be special. The young man couldn’t give away his money and possessions because he would cease to be notable and he would become just like everyone else.
We have a need to be safe and secure. Money keeps the wolf away from the door—at least we hope that it will. In our present day situation, we look to money to give us a certain level of independence, and dignity.
We truly believe that riches and possession will give us happiness. As Lovie Howell said, “Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.” The world has fooled us into believing that money and possession can be our salvation.
The only problem with all of this is that Jesus points out that not only does money not provide our salvation, but also it may even prevent us from being saved. This should perk our attention a little bit!
THE HINDRANCE OF RICHES
The young man’s greed allowed him only to go through the motions of religion. On the outside, he kept all of the commandments faithfully. He looked like a good person, but he was far from the point of loving the Lord with all of his body, mind, soul and strength, and his neighbor like himself.
Constantly acquiring more money and possessions gave the man a false sense of security. He didn’t need God to provide for him, because he had enough money stashed away to do that. He didn’t need God to protect him, either, because he could build thick, tall walls to keep him safe. His faith became misplaced.
Focusing on riches and possessions kept him from the essence of faith. A central teaching of the Scripture and of Jesus Christ is that an important ingredient for an abundant life is giving to our brothers and sisters in need. Jesus instructed the young man to sell what he had, give it to the poor and follow Jesus. We can’t follow Jesus when our hands are full. Following Jesus will inevitably entail serving others and using our time, talents and treasures for the benefit of others.
THE VIRTUE OF CHARITY
As with all of the other deadly sins, the gospel of Jesus Christ can have a transforming effect upon our lives. Jesus did not live, died and rise from the dead so that we could be greedy, but rather so that we could be free to live life to its fullest and serve God and others. The gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to transform us from greedy to generous people.