Grimy Old Greed | Aaron W. Matthews
I’ve undertaken an arduous task in reading Randy Alcorn’s book Money, Possessions, and Eternity. I say arduous because it is quite a hefty book (504 pages), but it is also proving to be quite beneficial. (Ironically, Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle is a tiny little booklet. He seems to write them really thick or really thin.)
Chapter three deals with the nature of materialism. Especially helpful is the contrast of possessiveness and covetousness, along with the three commandments greed violates. Alcorn writes:
Jesus Christ sounded a sober warning against materialism in any form and in any age: “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 12:15).
Greed surfaces in possessiveness and covetousness. Possessiveness relates to what we have, covetousness to what we want. Possessiveness is being selfish with what we own, not quick to share. To covet is to long for and to be preoccupied with having what God hasn’t given us. It’s the passion to possess what is not ours.
Greed isn’t a harmless pastime but a serious offense against God. As one who lusts is an adulterer (Matthew 5:28) and one who hates is a murderer (1 John 3:15), so one who is greedy is an idolater (Colossians 3:5). Greed is money worship, a violation of the first and most fundamental commandment: “I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3). The eighth commandment is a prohibition against stealing (Exodus 20:15), another product of greed, and the tenth commandment is a warning against covetousness (Exodus 20:17). Remarkably, the ten great laws of God, written in stone, contain three prohibitions against materialism.
Ah, the love of money! The Greek is philarguria. In other passages, a similar word, mammon, is used to describe worldly, unrighteous wealth. This avarice toward possessions, some might argue, cannot be the sole root of all evil. However, even if we were to alter the wording to read something like, “all sorts of evils grow out of the love of money,” it would little effect the outcome. Either way all evil, or all sorts of evils, is still descriptive of the soil greed and covetousness are planted in. The only fruit that may be produced from such an attitude is evil. And, evils in the name of money, materialism, and wealth have long been in existence.
It is “the love of” that is to be capitulated upon here. Money is neither good nor bad in itself – it is neutral. However, an evil, insatiable desire for it is what reaps sinful behaviors. No doubt, a few of the evils the love of money have produced in mankind are mentioned in the early verses of 1 Timothy 6. Of those, some are conceit, lack of understanding, unhealthy interests in controversies (making war), quarrels, envy, strife (dissension), malicious talk (slander), evil suspicions, and constant friction. Horrors of all kind have been performed since the fall in Eden – all due to of the love/lust of money.
Our greed, it would appear, is a great attribute of our sinful nature. I would imagine that all social evils have their beginnings in the love of money as it stems from pride. Very likely, the greatest sin greed may produce in the heart of a man is apostasy, the running away from, and contempt of, the true God. Greed is a poor substitute to the grace we need. For, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).