Dear Christian, Greed Is a Slippery Slope That Has Nothing to Do with God
The first thing to be said about greed is that it’s not from God. The second thing to be said about greed is that it’s entirely inconsistent with the desire for the truth of God. And the third thing to be said about greed is that it’s a tremendously dangerous trap for the Christian to fall into.
Greed takes what we are supposed to embody as followers of Christ and flips them upside down. Generosity becomes selfishness. Humility becomes pride. Joy becomes jealousy. Love becomes hate. The meek become power-hungry. I could go on. But why is this the case? Because greed is built on a foundation that nothing is enough. Hardly anything else is more toxic for those pursuing godliness.
2 Corinthians 11:14 says, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” In part, this means he looks like everything we desire. Or at least everything we think we desire.
He comes as fame, wealth, power, or temporary numbness through earthly pleasures. He’s disguised as whatever he thinks is tempting to give into, and what better picture of greed is there than to be tempted by the things we crave? Yes, we are born again into a new creation, but we are going to battle the flesh daily until sin is completely gone on the other side of glory. Greed is not from God, and it often manipulates the believer. When greed tempts the Christian, they’re tempted with jumping into a canon that shoots them in the opposite direction of righteousness. The thrust into the air may be thrilling, but the landing will be devastating.
Mark 8:36 asked the question, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” But greedy eyes gloss over the fact that, to “gain the whole world,” one must “forfeit his soul.” And yet, nothing is gained at all.
Greed chases after what will not be found in eternal paradise. As such, the victims of greed are dragged away from it as well. Why else do you think the Bible warns against it so often?
- Luke 12:15 – “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’”
- Ecclesiastes 5:10 – “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.”
- Proverbs 11:28 – “Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”
Remarkably, I could list over 100 passages directly on or related to the topic of greed. Jonathan Leeman, the editorial director for 9Marks Ministries, wrote, “[T]he Bible could hardly be more severe in its condemnation of greed.” And “yet I dare say that … greed is to sin what North Dakota is to U.S. states — it’s easy to forget that it exists.” He continued, “We confess lust, anger, maybe pride, maybe self-righteousness. But greed? It’s whitewashed. It’s camouflaged.”
Like a disease, greed can spread throughout the soul and corrupt one’s ability to walk in a “manner of life … worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). As Leeman emphasized, it’s easily masked by the terms “ambition,” “lifestyle,” or “dream.”
Don’t misunderstand me. Ambitions and dreams aren’t inherently evil. But 1 Corinthians 10:31 says in all we do, do it “to the glory of God.” Ambitions and dreams can glorify God. They can also do the exact opposite. But don’t be discouraged, because there are several ways to notice when greed pokes its head and even more ways to fight against it.
Space does not allow a full list of ways greed can have an effect, but it may have crept its way into your life if you feel jealous when someone has something you don’t have. This can be as simple as the friend who has a spouse when you’re still waiting for someone to go on a date with. Or the longing you have for a newer car or a better house. It’s the difference between wanting more money to put food on the table versus buying more clothes.
These can all be considered perfectly normal desires. And in many cases, they are. But when it comes to noticing greed, you must take your desires and deeply analyze them. Is what you want absolutely necessary, or is it just nice to have? The more important question is, without said desire, could you still be content? If the answer is no, then it’s likely greed. Or worse, it’s idolatry. Perhaps those are closely linked.
Keep in mind that greed is often centered in a lack of contentment. “Oh, if I just had this then I’d be good,” or “Well, I just want to update or refresh (fill in the blank).”
Any of this interpreted as me claiming aspirations are bad is a misunderstanding. But I will say, with boldness, that Christ calls us to be content in Him alone. So, yes, anything causing you to feel like you couldn’t be content, smitten, or at ease unless you had it, if not the Lord Himself, is something I’d heavily warn you to be wary of. After all, “my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
Jonny Ardavanis, the President of Dial In Ministries, said, “No one lives a godly life on accident, it must be pursued.” To guard against greed, my first suggestion is to pray to the Father that He guides your heart in the paths of righteousness. Don’t think you can do it on your own. But it’s just as pivotal to urge you in the aim of spiritual discipline. Without it, you will inevitably stumble.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:22, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” As my study Bible eloquently commentated, “The good eye looks to God as its ‘master’ and fills the person with the light of God’s will. The bad eye looks to ‘treasures on earth’ and admits only the darkness of greed and self-interest. The person’s whole life will be determined by the kind of light the eye lets in” (emphasis mine).
If you want to pursue righteousness, and have the humble, loving, joyful spirit God calls us to have, then the only way is to keep your eyes fixed “on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 23. It’s a poem of contentment, hope, endurance, and promise — what we, believers in Christ, those who keep our eyes fixed on things above, receive in Him. It’s the opposite of greed in every way. This Psalm reminds me of humility, and that there’s nowhere to turn but the Lord.
So, in closing, I encourage you to rest in these beautiful words, written by David, from our heavenly Father; our Lord and Savior; our everlasting life:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.