Summary: There are so many voices out there trying to get us to play the game of greed, but we are much better off if we listen to the voice of God calling us to be content with what we have.

The Game of Greed

I Kings 21:1-10

June 24, 2007

Now, this is my opinion. Feel free to agree or disagree. I really believe that network television programming is at an all time low for creativity. We are in an era when it is so expensive to produce programming that network executives are looking for shows that are cheap to make, yet have the potential to bring in large audiences.

Again, this is just me – and I know that there are millions of people who disagree – but I find shows like “Wife Swap,” “The Great Race,” “Survivor,” Super Nanny,” Dr. Phil,” “The Simple Life,” “The Bachelor” and all sorts of shows like that – to be mind-numbingly stupid.

But it is obvious that they have captured the attention of many people because they continue to multiply. That wouldn’t happen if they weren’t making money, so I’m probably the one who is out of touch.

There is another show that I find to be just as idiotic (again, that’s my opinion that is probably not shared by many others.) It is called “Deal or No Deal.” Many of you have probably seen it. It involves 26 models, each holding a case with a dollar amount all the way to one million dollars. The contestant gets to choose a case which becomes his or her prize. One by one, the other cases are taken off and the contestant is able to see which dollar amounts are no longer in play. The goal is to end up with the million dollar case, or at least as much money as you can get. Every once in a while, the “banker” will call down to the stage and offer a sum of money for the contestant’s case. The contestant can take that money or continue playing. They can leave with a huge amount of money or next to nothing. It just depends on how the winds of fortune blow.

Game shows like this are about as old as television itself. When I was a kid I remember “The $64,000 Question.” Then there was “Let’s Make a Deal,” the $10,000 Pyramid,” The Price is Right,”, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” and so many others.

At the heart of all of these shows is the chance to win a whole lot of stuff or a whole lot of money. We’ve all seen contestants pass up on a lot of money on the outside chance that they could win more. It all plays into our greed, doesn’t it. The way it works is that, regardless of how much you have; there is always the possibility of having more.

On July 16, 2002, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan went before the Senate Banking Committee to tell them that our national illness was infectious greed. We all remember Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, and all the others who allowed unbridled greed to sweep through corporate boardrooms and executive suites.

Phyllis Tickle is a lay Eucharistic minister in the Episcopal Church and serves as a contributing editor to Publisher’s Weekly. In 2002 and 2003, the New York Public Library invited a variety of scholars to present lectures on The Seven Deadly Sins. Tickle, who is also a widely-read writer on prayer and spirituality, delivered the lecture on greed which was subsequently published in book-form titled simply “Greed.” In it she says that it is ironic that our money has printed on it, “In God We Trust” when we spend more time counting our assets than we do trusting God.

But certainly, greed and all of its accompanying issues is nothing new to us. It did not begin in the heady days of the dot com frenzy of the 1990’s. It has been around for a long time.

With that, we are taken back to the 21st chapter of I Kings and the story of King Ahab and his neighbor Naboth. We have talked about King Ahab before. He was the one who married Jezebel, a foreign woman who worshiped foreign gods and goddesses. Without question, she was the stronger personality of the couple. She was the one who called the shots. She was the one who was large-and-in-charge. She said “jump” and the king asked “how high?”

Let’s remember what went on here. King Ahab was having a bad day. He and his army had just fought a decisive battle with the King of Aram a nation to the northeast of Israel. Israel won the battle and in an act of generosity, the King of Aram was allowed to go back home to Damascus with the assurance of safe passage.

We have trouble, in our day and age, of understanding the assumptions behind holy war. That God would command war and total victory over an enemy along with that enemy’s complete destruction, is something that doesn’t really compute with us. However, in his generosity, King Ahab of Israel was disobedient to God because he had not destroyed the entire invading army, by letting the opposing king go free.

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