Friday, April 10, 2015

Lovers of Money

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.  For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. Colossians 3:5-7
I remember the first time I read this passage closely; I was floored.  I knew greed was sinful, but equating it with idolatry gave it a whole new level of serious.  After all, idolatry was a huge part of why Israel and Judah fell to foreign invaders (2 Kings 17, 21).  Even before the nations were punished, God very graphically compared the Israelites to prostitutes because of their idolatry (Ezekiel 16).  This is the sin that Paul says is the same as greed.  

But I'm not greedy, right?  I always let my husband have the biggest piece of cake, and I don't play the lottery.  But maybe greed is about more than being a Scrooge McDuck swimming in piles of money.  To understand if greed is a sin that I need to conquer through the Spirit, I need to know why God compares it to idolatry in the first place.  

Idolaters believed that the false gods were able to meet their needs, when it had been Jehovah God who had cared for them all along.  In the book of Hosea (another one that compares idolatry to adultery), God says this of Israel, pictured as a woman:
For she said, 'I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.' Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths. She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; and she will seek them, but will not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!' For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine and the oil, and lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. Hosea 2:5-8

God had given his bride all good things, and she not only attributes them to a false god, she gives them to Baal!  The irony, of course, is that the false gods are nothing more than bits of wood and stone that the people have fashioned.  They worship what they themselves have made. (See Isaiah 44 for a sarcastic treatise on this subject).

Would we ever do that?  I may not physically bow down to a dollar bill, but every time I hold on tight to it, thinking it will provide my needs, I am greedy.  When I follow my budget so rigidly (making sure to save 15%) that I can't give to someone in need, I am being greedy. When I worry about having enough money, I'm putting faith in the dollar instead of in God.  Even dreaming about how I'll spend the money if my dad wins the lottery and shares (I don't buy tickets, remember?) can lead me into all kinds of sin (1 Timothy 6:9-11). 

Not only is greed an affront against the God who provides for us, like all sin, it ultimately leads to unhappiness.  In his search for meaning, Solomon concluded that it did not consist in riches. 

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep. There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-13).
Jesus concurred when he said, "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 12:15), and Paul reiterated it when he told Timothy to flee the love of money and pursue righteousness instead (1 Timothy 6:9-11). 

Money that man has created cannot provide for us like our loving God can.  When we believe that it can and hold fast to our possessions, then we become idolaters. Like the Israelites, idolatry puts us on a path to destruction and to God's anger. I've been on that path, and I want to avoid it going forward.

The question is, how do we defeat greed?  Obviously, we'll need the work of our Holy Spirit in our lives, but what is our part?  On Monday, we'll take a look at Jesus's answer to greed and how we can apply it to our daily walk.


No comments:

Post a Comment