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Summary: A common sin ... more

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As we come to the end of this series of sermons about vice and virtue, our topic is one that many would not say is a sin. In fact, for many it is a laudable characteristic. What am I talking about?

Let’s start with a story that Jesus told about a greedy man- (Luke 12:13-21, NIV)

" Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

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.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

If we’re honest, a lot of us scratch our heads at Jesus’ condemnation of the choice which that successful man made. What he did, is exactly what we are taught to do. He built his wealth, stored it up, and retired to the good life!

We are left with some questions ...

Is saving wrong?

Hardly as the Bible praises thrift and preparation.

Is wealth a sin?

Not at all. In fact throughout the Old Testament, God blessed many who loved Him with wealth.

So, what’s Jesus issue? He sees not just stewardship in this man’s choices. He sees GREED.

Greed that makes ‘stuff’ into what defines us, when our possessions own us, instead of us owning our possessions.

How do we define greed?

It is a disordered desire for money and/or the things that money can buy; an attachment to wealth.

Greed can show up in a miser who refuses to spend to meet anything more than his basic need or give anything to anyone. It can also show up in bloated credit card balances and an uncontrolled desire to buy more stuff!

Greed may be revealed by a person’s love of his investment portfolio,

a closet jammed with clothes that were purchased on credit because they were ‘on sale’;

Or as a refusal to show any generosity toward others for any reason.

When I think about money and things, my real question is -

“How much is enough?”

We know we need a home, a car, money to support our families, to make the machine of life operate.

But we also know that there is something called, ‘too much.’ But how do we define ‘too much?’

We know that greed is defined at that boundary, but it is a hard line to draw, isn’t it?

“Enough” differs from person to person, really. Jesus told a story about three guys that were given treasure to manage. One received 10 units, one received 5, and yet another just 1 – each according to his ability. This helps me to understand just how wrong it is to judge another person based on what he has or even the way he uses those resources. A person who is entrusted with great responsibility for many people, will need greater resources to fulfill his calling!

And, still - I know, you know, that GREED is a real issue, a persistent spiritual problem. One of the things that we wrestle with is the principle that ‘demand increases with supply.’ In other words, the more we have, the more we need.

DeYoung uses an illustration from her first house purchase. It is about the size of the closets in that old place. I read her story with interest, because Bev and I had a quite similar experience.

Early in our marriage we lived in a very old house and one of our frustrations was about the size of the closets. Each bedroom had one, but it was just the width of a door and only about a foot or so deep, just about enough space in which to hang a couple of outfits and a two pairs of shoes! I remarked about this to my father, who looked at me with amusement. He explained that when he was a kid, he was born in 1934, he had shoes for the week and church shoes, and a pair of overalls for everyday and an outfit for Sunday wear. Bear in mind that Dad was not from a poor family. His father was a farmer and livestock dealer who owned 4 farms. That was the norm!

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