Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Spirituality of Sin: Greed

A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the LORD will be enriched.

--Proverbs 28:25

If the root of flattery is a lack of trust in God, I think that the root of greed is also a lack of trust in God. Why do we hoard our possessions and store them up selfishly? Greed. Why would we act in such a way? Because we don't trust God to provide for us in the future. We somehow convince ourselves that God is not going to bless us in the future, and so we hoard what we have. Greed produces parsimony, or a lack of generosity. At the root of stinginess, then, is greed; at the root of greed is a lack of trust in God.

You can tell whether you trust God by measuring how generous you are. No one would define generosity by foolishness, of course, that is, by a level of giving that is heedless of the future. It's biblically wise to invest what you have, to save for a rainy day, as the saying goes (or to save for a rainy day in which your children go to college). However, there's wise saving, and there's parsimonious saving. Those who give very little show that they don't fundamentally trust God to provide. The combination of inherent sin and Satan's temptation causes them to come to the illogical conclusion that though God has richly provided in the past, for some inexplicable and sudden reason, His provision has now dried up, and there is subsequently no reason to trust Him for the future. This is a sad and unbiblical way to live.

The center of our lives is God, and trust in Him. If we remember that faith in God is the great gift of this life, then we will avoid idolizing the blessings He has given us. By this I mean that if our understanding of God is small, the things we have will grow large, and we'll try to hang onto them by whatever means we can. If, however, our picture of God is large, and if Christ is our chief treasure in life, and we define happiness by the gift of faith in Christ given us by the Holy Spirit, then we'll hold our possessions and our finances lightly. We won't do so, as I said above, by foolishly pious, thinking that we have no need of planning or saving. But we will balance our wise living with a robust faith in God that trusts Him to provide for us in the future. Armed with such a robust trust, we'll free ourselves from the clutches of greed and allow ourselves to give generously to our churches, our families, our missionaries, our parachurch ministries, and others who can benefit from the blessings God has given us.

How much do you and I trust God? Well, how much do we give? We say that we have strong faith in God. But what shape does that faith take? Does it purport to be faith but end up looking and smelling like anxiety and, in the end, greed? To what ends does the sin of our hearts drive us? These are hard questions, and we will all see sin in how we answer them, but we can all work toward a position of trusting faith that frees us from greed to give generously. If God is our chief prize, and not the things of this earth, how can we not find great joy in generosity, knowing that whatever may come, we have a gift we cannot lose?

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