THAT UGLY WORD: GREED
By DANNY MINTON
I remember a story from my childhood about a magic ice cream bowl. Some of the facts are vague, but the moral of the story has remained with me over the years. There was this young boy and his mother, who had helped a person with magical powers. They were poor and could barely take care of themselves, but still helped the person in need. In appreciation, they received the gift of a magic ice cream bowl. The little boy would hold the bowl and taking his finger circle the rim clockwise three times, saying a unique phrase. The dish would begin to fill with ice cream until the boy circled the bowl three times counterclockwise with the words at which time the magic would stop.
There happened to live in the village, a very greedy and extremely overweight couple. The couple would spend their day eating, eating, and eating. One day as they passed by the boy’s house, they saw him circle the magic bowl with ice cream beginning to fill. In their greed, they decided that they must have the bowl and so devised a plan to steal it so the greedy man and woman could have as much ice cream as they wanted. The couple succeeds in obtaining the bowl and rushes home to fill themselves with ice cream. They circle the bowl, saying the magic words and watch as the ice cream begins to fill the bowl. The problem was that they had failed to stay long enough to know how to stop the magic bowl. Ice cream overflowed the edges of the bowl, eventually filling the house with ice cream. It ran out the windows carrying the couple on top of the waves of ice cream, moving down the street until it floated the greedy couple atop the mound of dessert and out of town where they were never heard from again.
As we have gone through the pandemic, we have seen greed take place in the lives of many people. I read the story of a couple of men who went to every Costco in their area and bought up all the hand sanitizer with the intent of selling it online for a considerable markup. One lady bought up a huge quantity of toilet paper and was selling it for $5 per roll from the back of her car. There are already scams trying to bilk people out of their stimulus check. There are even small acts of greed that have taken place as people panic in buying up supplies, more than they need, leaving those who are in need out in the cold.
Greed is one of those things about which we don’t like to talk. Maybe because it is too close to home for some of us, I see it often, especially when someone passes away and the family fights over the person’s possessions. I’ve seen families torn apart over who gets what from a person’s estate. It’s amazing how good people can turn on each other when money and things are involved.
Jesus gave us a warning in answering a situation where a man wanted Jesus to intervene in an inheritance issue. He admonishes the man and us as well, not to put our trust in things of this world.
“Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” Luke 12:13-15 (NASB)
God’s word encourages us not to be greedy, but instead to learn to be caring, compassionate, and generous. John writes in the book of 1 John, “We know love by this that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3:16-18 (NASB)
As Christians, we are called to be givers. We are called to look out for the need of others, not being greedy, but generous. Greed, on the other hand, is something that Paul condemns as being both earthly and sinful. It is one of those acts that we are to remove from our lives. “Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Colossians 3:5 (NASB)
Fortunately, I have seen many more acts of generosity than greed during this time. I’ve seen people share what they have, lend a helping hand, and being Christ to people in need. That’s the world of which we should want to be a part.
Jesus pointed to a widow at the temple as she put in a few cents into the temple treasury. He uses her as a lesson as the proclaims, “And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” Luke 21:3-4 (NASB) There was no greed on her part to keep what she had or to want more. Her heart was one of love for God.
We have a choice during the pandemic. On the one hand, we can think only of ourselves, hoarding our possessions, looking for ways to make a quick buck, and thinking only of “me.” The other choice is to look for ways to be Christ, share what we have, and help those who are needy.
A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson. She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for the church “Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself,” she told the girl. When they were coming out of the church building, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given. “Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the dollar, but just before the collection, the man in the pulpit said that we should all be cheerful givers. I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter, so I did.”
Many of us will find ourselves, much like the little girl, having to make a choice when it comes to giving and keeping of our material possessions. What will be your choice? Will you choose the dollar or the quarter? Will you be generous or greedy? If Jesus were to see us as we really are, who would he see?
“The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it. He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him. He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” Proverbs 11:25-28 (NASB)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ