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Greed

By Basilea Schlink


      Whenever we see something that we would like to have for body, soul or spirit, our heart begins to say, "Give me; Give me!" Even the smallest child says that. He stretches out this hand to get it as Eve, the mother of our race, reached for the forbidden fruit.

      The desire to have can either be for "more" or for "much". But it also can be a desire for the "best"; anything less is not good enough. There are many children--and sometimes adults also--whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs. They heap more upon their plates than they can eat; they always reach for the best piece. This desire for more or for especially good food is often very strong. In time of war and famine we have often seen what a power this is. People lose their dignity and break all ethical rules just to satisfy their desires.

      Furthermore, all of us know how much we long for sleep and comfort. The bondage to sleep can be so great that we can sacrifice even things essential for life, even our prayer time, just in order to be able to sleep more. Our desires are kindled by many things--by modern clothing, more money, more comfort, and conveniences. But in all our hearts there is not only greediness for visible goods, but also often for things that satisfy the soul; like attention, respect and love from other people.

      Greed is a dangerous sin: it was the beginning of the fall. So greed can once again cost us the loss of "paradise" and the blessing of our birthright as in Esau's case. Therefore, we cannot afford to persist thoughtlessly or indifferently in greed for certain things, in bondage to food and sleep, in greed for "more"--more money, goods, talents or anything else that we desire.

      For Holy Scripture says, "Those who desire to be rich fall into a temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction" (1 Tim. 6:9).

      This is what greed leads to, not only for this life, but for eternity. The sin of greed not only makes us often sin against others, but it also causes us to lose our connection with God. Anything that we crave for or are attached to-other than God-is an idol. And God will not share His love with any of our idols. If we hold on to them, we will lose the love of God. Our joy in God will be taken from us. Jesus shows us the consequences in the parable of the rich man. After he had satisfied all his desires in his earthly life, his tongue burned in the other world due to unfulfilled desires and he was "in anguish" (Luke 16: 24).

      Everything depends upon our being set free from greed. Jesus shows us the way by saying, "Lose!". "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 16: 25). This slogan "to lose" is a weapon in the fight against desire. But beware: only if we lose things, goods, large and small, for body, soul and spirit, will we give greed a setback. We must begin to act categorically and turn away from the things we desire most at the moment. In spirit we should offer them up to God, and not spend much time thinking about them. We must not ask for them, nor help ourselves to them. And by giving them away we will no longer nourish the greed in us and it will starve to death.

      For instance, if we are bound to food, we should become accustomed to eating with discipline and to praying while eating, "You have set me free from this bondage". We should look on our palate as our enemy and not let it have any especially tasty thing until it does not matter what we eat. Then we can enjoy good food with thanksgiving for the gift of God's great goodness-but we can also be satisfied with less at other times.

      Similarly, if our bondage is to sleep. When we go to sleep, we should ask the Lord to wake us at the right time, or set our alarm clock so that we will have time for the Lord and prayer at the beginning of the day, or ask others to help us get up early. We must ask Jesus to be the Lord of our sleep, the Lord of our food, not we ourselves. Our limbs, our tongues, our eyes, our bodies, are to serve righteousness, to be used for His glory and not for unbridled desires, which will enslave us.

      That is why the Apostle Paul emphasizes this point in his first letter to Timothy; "There is great gain in godliness with contentment" (1 Tim. 6: 6). That means, we should be contented with what we have rather than desire to have more free time and vacation, a higher salary, a better house, better clothing, etc. We must not strive for perishable things, for they often bring sin and misfortune. We should choose the way of contentedness, even the way of deprivation. For that was Jesus' way. Jesus, who possessed all the wealth in heaven and on earth, deprived Himself of the glory He had with the Father and walked the earth as a poor man. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor. 8: 9). He is calling us to join Him in being content; then the promise of God's blessing will be upon us.

      No man can serve two masters at the same time. No man can strive for earthly and eternal riches at the same time. Whoever seeks earthly things will lose eternal riches. But whoever seeks the Kingdom of God will reach eternal glory above and everything he needs in the way of earthly goods will be given to him by God (Matt. 6:33).

      We have to make a decision! Jesus, who went the way of deprivation and losing for our sake, has gained this new way of thinking for us, through His sacrificial death. Therefore, in faith we must take hold of the victory banner and rely upon His victory: "I have been redeemed in the blood of the Lamb from all greed and craving". Let us allow no day to go by without looking at Jesus and being set on fire to give up something instead of craving for things. Then all our desires will be satisfied in Him.

      My Lord Jesus! You have been deprived of everything
      for me. Your joy in being content and satisfied,
      Your willingness to give away everything is now
      mine. You have paid the price on Calvary. I am free
      from the powers of greed. Your love will only let
      one desire live in me-the desire to reach the
      heavenly, eternal glory.

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