Part 1 – Pride and Greed
We are taught to hide dirt. It begins innocently enough. Haven’t you pushed stuff in the closet or under the bed when guests are coming over? Haven’t you dusted around the vase rather than move it? Have you ever only ironed the front of the shirt because you knew that the coat would cover the unironed back?
So we cover up. Our obsession with covering dirt, the unsightly, and the blemish has brought about tide sticks and plastic surgery. We want to look right, look pure, and look clean at all costs. No smudge, no smear, no snags allowed. We cover up the dirt. We play the part. We aren’t as concerned about being clean as we are as keeping up the pretense.
We learned to do this by the examples set early on – Adam and Eve – the patriarch and matriarch of our race tried to cover up and hide their dirt. However, what their account reveals to us is that dirt destroys our relationship with God. This lesson and the serious implications of dirt is driven home in Leviticus 21:21-23. This passage shows us that dirt can keep us from approaching God.
21no man of the seed of Aaron the priest, that hath a blemish, shall come nigh to offer the offerings of Jehovah made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. 22He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy: 23only he shall not go in unto the veil, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I am Jehovah who sanctifieth them.
Dirt disqualifies and interrupts our priestly duties.
Our dirt has been the subject of study for centuries. Dirt is old! Satan’s bag of tricks may get shaken up a bit, but the contents are the same. We have come a long way since Dante penned his Divine Comedy, in 1308, in which he examines the 7 Deadly Sin and then again by one of Popes in the 6th Century. But the more things change the more they stay the same. We still have the same dirt they had.
Dirt even captured the attention of MTV. In 1990’s MTV aired a show called the Seven Deadly Sins. Of course their take was a little different. The narrator, Kurt Loader, told us in the roll in of that program that what we are dealing with are compulsions. He said, "The Seven Deadly Sins are not evil acts but rather universal human compulsions that can be troubling and highly enjoyable."
Is he right? Maybe nothing is wrong with dirt. Maybe we should just dwell on the positive. Why not think of only the good things and preach your OK and I’m OK messages? Like it or not, what the early theologians understood and MTV failed to admit is still true, man has a tendency to sin.
We must examine dirt because in Ephesians 5:27 we are told that Jesus desires to be able to present us, the church, to the Father as a bride that has no spot or blemish.
25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; 26that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Without blemish! Are we without blemish? Are we spotless?
We are told that Jesus will do that by washing us with the water of His Word. As hard as it may be over the next few weeks, as much as it goes against our training and our nature, as painful as it may be and as deep as we must dig to find what we have buried for so long, I want us to bring the dirt into the light. We should know that we can’t hide it from God anyway. He tells us this repeatedly:
Psalm 44:21 – “he knoweth the secrets of the heart.”
Psalm 90:8 – “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence”
Ecclesiastes 12:14 – “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
Romans 2:16 – tells us “God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ.”
I Corinthians 4:5 – “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.”
Ephesians 5:12 (Message Bible) It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see.
Hebrews 4:13 - Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
So as much positive as there is in the Word about destiny, plans, glory, anointing we must also be willing to allow the washing portions of Scripture deal with our filth. We voluntarily expose it now and change or it will be exposed painfully on God’s terms.
The list of the sins as follows:
Today I want us to look at Pride and Greed.
Just before takeoff on an airplane, the Stewardess reminded Mohammed Ali to fasten his seat-belt. "Superman don’t need no seatbelt," replied Ali. "Superman don’t need no plane, either," said the Stewardess. Ali fastened his belt.
Pride may not only be the most common sin of our day, but it is may also be the most common sin illustrated and committed in Scripture. (Eve’s desire to be like God, Naaman’s refusal to dip in dirty water, Samson’s “I above the rules” mentality, Peter’s “I will never deny you” stance.) Pride is considered to be the sin from which all others arise. Pride is far reaching. In fact, it has even reached into heaven’s halls itself. It was at the root of the downfall of the worship leader in heaven. It is the cause of every sin. (Slide 14b) "The mother of all sins... the thin line between righteousness and self-righteousness." It is also called Vanity.
Pride is defined as “excessive belief in one’s own abilities that interferes with the individual’s recognition of the grace of God.”
And yet our society scoffs at the seriousness of pride.
Queen Latifah, a rap singer, said, “Pride is a sin? I wasn’t aware of that!”
Actress Kirstie Alley took it a step further, “I don’t think pride is a sin, and I think some idiot made that up.”
Rapper Ice-T said, “Pride is mandatory. That is one of the problems of the inner city, kids don’t have enough pride. I got into a gang because of pride.”
We even name magazines Vanity. Pride is applauded. Pride is rewarded. Pride is paid and pictured.
Pride takes many forms and has many faces. It comes in the form of superiority. I am better than you. It comes in the shape of prejudice. I am white, I am rich, and I am more skilled. It produces white pride and black power. It comes clothed in the white sheets of the KKK and the bow tie of a Louis Farikans. It divides and it conquers. It comes wrapped in ego. It comes shrouded in comparison.
Scripture is vicious on pride. We say God is a God of love. However, one of the few things that we find that God hates is pride. We find this in Proverbs 6:16 when we are told, “16These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:” and in verse 17 topping the list as the very first thing God hates? “17A proud look”
Have you ever been in a fight you can’t win? If you have the dirt of pride in your life you are in a fight that you cannot win! You are squared off against an opponent that you cannot defeat. His name is God. We are told in James 4: 6 that God actually resists, fights against, literally means He is opposite to you. Scripture guarantees us that failure will be part of our life if we have pride.
Proverbs 16:18-19 says it best –
“18First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. 19It’s better to live humbly among the poor than to live it up among the rich and famous.”
The great Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar found out what is like to have God on the opposite side of you. The king suffered from the sin of pride and lost his kingdom for it. Hear the pride in his boast. "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" Pride raised him up, God knocked him down.
Jesus was no less blunt about pride. He told a story about pride in Luke 18:10
10Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get. 13But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be thou merciful to me a sinner. 14I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
He reprimanded his disciples for pride. You will remember their argument over who would get the best seat when he came into his kingdom? His response was clear and carried in it the cure,
Matthew 20:26-28 – “26Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; 27and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant: 28even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Jesus went one step further and illustrated the cure for pride when He wrapped a towel around His waist, the Son of God, the divine in the flesh, the prince of the entire universe, the royal one, the creator serving the creation, and washed stinky, nasty, ugly feet. It would do some of us good to get our eyes off of the mirror and onto those in need around us. It would do some of us good to reflect upon the grace of God that has been given so freely to us. We don’t deserve it. It shouldn’t make us proud. It should make us thankful.
Humility is the answer to pride. Humility is not weak, duck your head, I’m a nobody, lack of self esteem demeanor. Rather is confidence in who we are and more importantly whose we are. We are who we are by grace not by our own worth, works.
God responds to humility. After his great fall, Nebuchadnezzar changed his tune. He became humble. Hear the removal of dirt from his life and his heart when he says, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down."
A.W. Tozer, wrote about humility: “A humble man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time he is in the sight of God of more importance than the angels. In himself, nothing, in God, everything.”
Humility is a pride killer. We are indeed all created equal. I want to challenge you this morning to become like these children.
The children worked long and hard on their own little cardboard shack. It was to be a special spot; a clubhouse where they could meet in solemn assembly or just laugh, play games, and fool around. As they thought long and hard about their rules, they came up with three rather perceptive ones:
1. Nobody act big.
2. Nobody act small.
3. Everybody act medium.
Let’s act medium. Maybe we need to get shirts that say I’m a medium. Not to big filled with pride. Not to small filled with poor self esteem. Let’s act medium and prefer others, serve others, and love others.
Michael Douglas as corrupt corporate raider Gordon Gekko, in the film "Wall Street," stands before a group of stock holders and thunders out,
"Greed is Good . . . Greed works, greed is right. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all its forms, greed for life, money, love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
Donald Trump trumpets that sentiment when he said “you can’t be too greedy.” Really?
We find out how good greed is when in a recent survey we find the average American would in exchange for two million dollars.
Twenty-five percent said they would be willing to abandon their families.
Twenty three percent said they would become prostitutes for a week.
Sixteen percent would leave a spouse.
Three percent would put their kids up for adoption.
Greed is closely related to Pride and often stems from Pride. A good connecting example in the Bible is Ananias and Sapphira found in Acts 4. They were proud. They walked in with a swagger. They wanted to make a good impression, name for themselves. They made a show of their great offering. They went to the bank and exchanged their bills for coins so that they could drop their offering in the bucket so that everyone would hear their great sacrifice. But, they were also greedy – oh and they were dead!
Greed is defined as “the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Covetousness.”
Greed causes us to be stingy, mean, selfish, proud, driven, but perhaps the most telling thing about greed is found in that definition. It causes us to ignore the realm of the spiritual. We get our eyes off of Godly things and become wrapped up in the material things.
Doesn’t that sound like the America we live in? We spend more money on taking care of our pets (av. Over $1000 a year) than we give to charities or church (av. $600 a year). We are greedy! We have clothes in our closet that we can’t wear and won’t wear while millions of people around the world have nothing to wear. We throw away food without a second thought while hundreds of thousands die daily due to lack of nourishment. Some of us spent more on coffee than we did on God this week. Some of us spent more time working for that dream car or house than we spent with our family this week. We are greedy.
We have more than anyone needs and yet we still want more. Job describes this and the result of this in Job 20:18-29
“18They spit out their food half-chewed,
unable to relax and enjoy anything they’ve worked for.
19And why? Because they exploited the poor,
took what never belonged to them.
20“Such God-denying people are never content with what they have
or who they are;
their greed drives them relentlessly.
21They plunder everything
but they can’t hold on to any of it.
22Just when they think they have it all, disaster strikes;
they’re served up a plate full of misery.
23When they’ve filled their bellies with that,
God gives them a taste of his anger,
and they get to chew on that for a while.
24As they run for their lives from one disaster,
they run smack into another.
25They’re knocked around from pillar to post,
beaten to within an inch of their lives.
They’re trapped in a house of horrors,
26and see their loot disappear down a black hole.
Their lives are a total loss—
not a penny to their name, not so much as a bean.
27God will strip them of their sin-soaked clothes
and hang their dirty laundry out for all to see.
28Life is a complete wipeout for them,
nothing surviving God’s wrath.
29There! That’s God’s blueprint for the wicked—
what they have to look forward to.”
Pretty vicious. Pretty blunt! Greed leads to tragedy and pain. Jesus had the same attitude towards greed. (Slide 34 - 38) In Luke 12:15-21 he addressed greed through a parable:
15Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”
16Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. 17He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ 18Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, 19and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’
20“Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’
21“That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
Nelson Rockefeller – was asked how much money is enough? His answer was “Just one more dollar.” Greed grips us until we can never have enough. Ask the Rich Young Ruler – the love of things can cause you to walk away from Jesus completely. It could be the love of a lake house, a car, a bike, a set of clothing, the need for more and more until God is gone. We have become greedy.
It is bad enough that most of us want what we cannot have. It is worse that we become driven and obsessed by what we do not need! We have a good wife we want a better one. We have a good car we want a nicer one. We have a nice home and we want a more expensive one. Greed is greedy!
My goal is to draw attention to these sins again so that we can allow Jesus to wash those things out of our lives. However, we must also take some practical steps to break the power of these things in our lives. So here is my challenge this morning and our homework.
1. Pride – Pride is revealed by how you treat others. So, let humility be revealed by letting someone in line ahead of you. Let someone cut in front of you in the car. Hold the door for someone else even when it means you will be one spot back in line. Spend time with someone who isn’t as well off, gifted, or as good looking as you. Serve in some capacity (clean a toilet, pick up trash) or role that is beneath you and do it with no chance of recognition, thanks or applause.
2. Greed - Get rid of greed. Give something away. Something nice. Not your cast offs. Not your hand me downs. Get with your family and make a decision this week to find something that you love or can’t live without and give it away. Maybe an unused car. Maybe a nice toy. Maybe a meal. Find someone with a need and help them resolve that need. Do it anonymously so that pride doesn’t set in. It will break the power of possessions on your life. It will make you thankful for what you have.