One of the hardest things for you and me to believe is that we love money.
We will admit to a lot of secret sins before we will ever admit to the sin of greed. Why? Because we just don’t believe we could be the ones who love money too much.
One day during our Lord’s earthly ministry he was teaching outdoors in a crowd of thousands (Luke 12:13). From within this crowd a man suddenly shouts out to Jesus: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Now that’s very a strange interruption, but Jesus goes on to make it a prime example of greed's blinding power.
When the man asked Jesus to get involved in this family dispute, he spoke out of a specific cultural context. In ancient Jewish society an inheritance always went to the oldest son, the firstborn. The firstborn would presumably use the money like a family trust. He would make sure none of his siblings fell through the cracks.
So this fellow who calls out apparently does not trust his older brother. He is anxious and worried about his own well-being. Maybe his older brother is a scoundrel. Maybe not. We don't know because instead of humbly asking Jesus to deliberate the case, he asks Jesus to enforce a predetermined verdict - "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus has two things to say. One to the man and one to crowd who is listening. To the man he says: “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then to the crowd Jesus says: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:14-15).
A double imperative of impending danger. Did you hear it? “Watch out" ... "Be on your guard" … "against all kinds of greed.” Why the double warning? Because greed is one of the sneakiest of sins. It tiptoes into your heart and you don’t even know it. Jesus doesn’t have to say, “Watch out for adultery!” He doesn’t have to say, “Watch out for stealing.” We know when we’re committing these sins. Greed, however, easily goes undetected.
Think about the difference between sexual sins and money sins. What do we do with sexual sins? We vigorously hide them. We keep them secret but they become the very sins we most often confess. We tell our families. We tell our friends. We tell our pastors. Why? Because we knew we were hiding something shameful and by God’s grace we want to come clean and be healed.
But now consider money sins. Nobody confesses money sins. It is extremely rare. Our friends do not come to us and say, “Pray for me, I am really struggling with the love of money. Pray for me, I am so stingy. Pray for me, I am hoarding. I am materialistic.”
Why don’t we hear this? Is it because nobody struggles with the love of money? No. The Bible talks about money sins twenty more times than it does sexual sins. Why then don’t we hear people confess to money sins more? Because nobody confesses to these sins because nobody thinks they are guilty of them. Nobody thinks they are greedy.
How then can we possibly discover the truth about ourselves? Well, we can not discover the truth about ourselves by asking ourselves. We will deceive ourselves every time. We only discover the truth about ourselves through God’s Word. It alone illuminates the souls under the ministry of the Spirit. "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Psalm 19:8).
Only a large dose of prayerfully swallowed scripture will show you how much greed has a grip on you.
How often and how much do you give to the poor (Prov. 14:31, 19:17)? How often do you replace what you already have with new and better (Heb 13:5)? Do you always consider the rich to be other people and not yourself (1 Timothy 6:17)? Do you think you will have a long and prosperous retirement because of how large your investments are (Luke 12:19)? Do you keep storing up more and more each year and giving away less and less as a percentage (James 5:3)? Do you crave the gaining of wealth even though you do not have much - buying lottery tickets and filling out every get-rich-quick sweepstakes (1 Timothy 6:10)?
Only the sword of the Lord, which pierces to division of soul and spirit can reveal the full size of greed's tumor.
What will cure our greed? The cure is contentment through God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 13:5 says: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
As children of God you are given the privilege and the permission to be content in your Father’s house. God looks at each of us, puts his hand upon our heads and says: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” This is our peace. This is our hope. Wealth will leave us. Money will forsake us. God will not. If He is our only lasting refuge in death, then He is our only refuge in life. When this truth grips your soul – by faith – your soul is at rest. That rest is called contentment. The gates of greed will not withstand it.