Yesterday we enjoyed driving around The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Although it was a little cool, we stopped for some short walks on trails. It was a very pleasant and relaxing day.
One thing you soon notice in the park is the various warning signs. There are trail advisories. Warnings against feeding the bears. The danger of biking down steep grades. The probation of climbing rocks in certain areas. There was even a caution to watch for possible snow and ice.
Park Rangers will tell you that warning signs are there for a reason. They are posted as a reminder for us to be careful. To avoid possible pitfalls. To watch for danger. They are posted for our safety.
Likewise, the Bible often warns Christians to watch for distractions, temptations, or situations that could cause us spiritual harm. Jesus often began such an exhortation with the word “beware.”
In Luke 12:15 he warned, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Jesus’ admonition followed a request from a man who was experiencing a problem with his brother dividing their father’s inheritance. Jesus refused to get entangled in such legal matters. Instead, he issued the warning to “beware of greed.”
Michael Douglas who played Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street opined that “Greed is good.” He was wrong. Jesus said, “Greed is bad.” It is an attitude to avoid. It is a sin to shun. It is dangerous and destructive. Erich Fromm warned, “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
To make His point Jesus told the parable of the rich fool. He was a farmer. And obviously very successful. His barns were full. Then he had a bumper crop with no place to store his crop. Here’s what he thought to himself.
“What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ (Lk. 12:17-19)
Notice the personal pronouns he used. 11 times he says, “I”, “me,” and “my.” He reminds me of the little boy asked by his English teacher, “What parts of speech are my and mine?” He replied “Aggressive pronouns.” This man was aggressively selfish and egotistical. He thought only of himself. His needs. His barns. His wealth. And his pleasure.
Jesus called him a “fool.” Because it was his last day on earth. That night he would die. Then whose wealth would this be?
Jesus is not condemning success that produces riches. The Bible says that Abraham, the “friend of God” was “very rich.” So were the patriarchs Isaac and Jacob. Job was wealthy, but also righteous. And God blessed Solomon with wealth. Riches are not the problem. It’s the issue of covetousness. Andy Stanley was right, “Greed is not a financial issue. It is a heart issue.”
I’ve known many Christian men and women who were wealthy. But they used their prosperity to support preachers, give to the Lord’s work, relieve struggling families, donate to worthy charities, and help young people attend college.
Dave Ramsey often says, “Financial peace isn’t the acquisition of stuff.” It’s learning to live within your means, actually on less than you earn. It’s the opportunity to make a difference. Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Indeed, money is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.
As you enjoy life’s journey, watch for the warning signs of greed. And heed them. They will keep you safe on the right path.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman