Tony Evans - Greed
There is an idol called greed, and it is a big deal as you will see. Now, let me define my term so that we are talking about the same thing. When we talk about greed or being greedy, greed is the illegitimate and unauthorized desire, pursuit, or acquisition of material gain. Greed is the illegitimate and unauthorized desire, pursuit, or acquisition of material gain. So catastrophic is greed as an idol that in Romans 1, verse 29 and 30 it's put alongside of murder. It is identified as an idol because it is loved, trusted, and served.
Now, I know some people say, "Well, I don't love money". Yeah, but you fantasize about it and date it. Money seeks to become a master and it does it through a motivation, and the motivation emanates from this thing called greed. Now, I know that mentally I may be being challenged right now because greed is not something we necessarily attribute to ourselves. So I'm going to give you a test, and then you can decide if you're greedy. You are greedy, I am greedy if we use illegal or immoral means to acquire things. Illegal or immoral means of acquisition means that you're driven by greed.
We are greedy when we complain more than we give thanks. We are greedy when we're more concerned about our cash than our character. We are greedy when your financial life is going up, but your spiritual life is going down. We are driven by greed when we treat people with money better than we treat people without it. We are greedy when we crave and plot to possess what legitimately belongs to somebody else. It's called covetousness. Or we are greedy when we hurt others in order to get something for ourselves. All of those are expressions of greed. So are there any greedy people in the house? I just... oh, no?
Okay. Well, let me keep going. Money is the leading counterfeit god of our culture. In Luke chapter 12, there's a story that Jesus tells. Jesus has been teaching, in Luke 12, spiritual truths. In the middle of his instruction, a man comes to him. In verse 13, "Someone in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me'. But Jesus said to him, 'Man, who appointed me judge or arbitrator over you'? Then he said to them, 'Beware and be on guard against every form of greed. For not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions'."
So Jesus is teaching spiritual truth. He's trying to get people to think Godward. This guy breaks into the teaching and says, "Jesus, my brother is holding money out on me from our family inheritance. Would you please tell my brother to show me the money"? And Jesus looks at him and says, "You better watch out for every form, every shape, every size", in other words, all greed is not the same, "in whatever way greed comes. I'm trying to teach spiritual principle, and you want to jump to money. You better beware".
Now, notice. This is not the guy who has the money, this is the guy who wants the money. So you can be poor and greedy. 'Cause he doesn't have it yet, but he wants it so bad he's willing to skip the spiritual, interrupt the master for him to solve this financial dilemma. So that leaves Jesus to tell a story in Luke 12. I'll summarize it real quick. There's a rich man in verse 16. He's got this big piece of property. So he starts talking to himself. He says to himself, his outer man is talking to his inner man, and he says, verse 19, "Soul", watch it when you start talking to yourself, "'Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years to come. Take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry'. But God said to him, 'You fool, this very night your soul is required of you, and now who will own what you have prepared? So is the man who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God'".
Here we have a man who's got a booming agricultural business. I mean, he's got to build more storage to handle how great his business and agriculture has become. I mean, he's blowing and going. So he builds these storages, and he starts talking to himself. He says, "Self, you got it going on. You are the bomb. You are a beast. And so, self, since you're all that in a bag of chips, we're going to party hearty. We're going to eat, drink, and be merry". It was all about him, and he's bragging. God enters into his self-talk. And while he's talking to himself, God from heaven says, "You fool".
So that means you can be productive and be a fool at the same time, successful and be a fool at the same time, think you got it going on and be a fool at the same time. Why? Because this man had economic plans that were about to be interrupted that night. Because he says, "Your soul is required of you. Now, tell me how rich you said you are". In other words, if you are poor toward God, it doesn't matter how rich you are toward man or toward yourself. He is not condemning the man for being productive, he's condemning the man for being spiritually impoverished although he was financially successful. And he says, "I'm coming to get you. When I come to get you, and it will be tonight even though you don't know it yet, it's going to be tonight and now you won't get to enjoy anything you've planned".
You know, that's the thing about the end of life. It can be so unexpected. What God wants you to stay at look, "While you live this life, don't be so in the stuff that you miss me; because when push comes to shove, that can go to somebody else and you may not be here to enjoy it". So don't wait too late to build up your spiritual bank account. Don't let greed make you a fool. Don't let money make you a fool by turning it into greed. Nothing wrong with the indicator light, with money itself, but once it turns into greed, which means it's flipped your spiritual priority, you and I have put ourselves in a damaging, devilish scenario.
Now, here we have a man, and Jesus says in verse 21, "So is the man", or woman or whoever they are. "So is the person who stores of treasure for himself and not rich toward God". So the question on the floor is, how spiritually rich are you? How spiritually rich are you? Now, this issue with greed is not merely a individual problem. It's a family problem. The amount of couples who fight over money, who break up over money, who get divorced over money, who have to sneak and hide money from each other because money has gotten the wrong foothold in the home, and nothing manifest greed more than the growth of family debt. But it's not only an individual problem and a family problem, it can be a church problem.
There is a theology running around for years, prosperity theology, where you speak wealth into existence, where God becomes your slot machine and you come for your blessing. "Never mind I'm not growing spiritually; I want my blessing. Never mind there's no time to serve; I want my blessing". Click, click. "Never mind I rob God regularly; I want my blessing". And so God becomes used in the name of God. And many pulpits have put gold before God, money before the master, and then try to spiritualize it while God wants you to prosper. It's not that God doesn't want you to prosper; he just doesn't want you to prosper without him. And to use the pulpit to trick people out of their money or to use the pulpit to guarantee something God didn't guarantee them, making God look like he doesn't keep his Word thus giving God a bad name, is the misuse of church.
So even church can be greedy. Let me talk about societal greed because it dominates in western civilization as corporate greed, where for the sake of corporate profits you abuse workers; or as James says in James 5, you don't pay them their fair wages or you rip them off, or you rip customers off in order to make more money. Well, if you are here today and you are a businessman or a businesswoman, you have a right to make a profit, you ought to make a profit, but not at the expense of being righteous in the dealing of your business and being godly in the relationship to your workers and your customers. We have ungodly people today doing business and calling themselves Christians. That is a form of corporate greed. There is predatory lending.
There are places in our community where people who have no other option have to pay 300% and 400% interest to get by. That's greed, to take advantage of people's desperation. Don't get me wrong. God is not against profit; he's against greed. He's against greed. And then there is America being built on greed. Slavery existed in America due to greed. "In order to get enough people to service the industry, to maintain King Cotton, to keep this bolstering economy going, we will trap people in perpetual, generational slavery based on skin color as the driving means of economic development in America".
The birth defect of our great republic was using economics to empower the evil institution of slavery. Is economic development legitimate? Absolutely. But not when you force people against their will into a system that traps them and doesn't give them an out, and does so generationally. That's a form of greed. So this idol is a destructive idol, and God will address it unless we do it first. 1 Timothy 6 helps us with this. Paul tells his pastor to teach his congregation.
Verse 6: "But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and somebody longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many grieves".
Verse 17: "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited", stuck up, "or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed".
So let me give you the secret, so to speak, of handling your money and not being greedy. First, verse 6 says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain". Godliness is a life that seeks to pursue pleasing God. Contentment is to be at ease and grateful for what you have until God gives you more. He says, first of all, when the necessities of life have been provided (food, clothes, shelter, those are necessities of life). When you have those, thanksgiving should be driving your life, not complaining. Greed has side effects. Oh, yeah. It's good coming in on the front end; but when it's done its damage, you're going to wind up with great loss and be a damaged person not because you have money, but because it's turned into greed, which is the illegitimate use and presence of money.
He says, "I want you to instruct them, teach them, give them the right perspective", he says, verse 17, "those who are rich in this present world". So let's get this straight. It's not a sin to be rich. If it's legitimate, it's not a sin. If you've been productive, you save your money, you stayed out of debt, your business is doing well, that's not a sin. But then he says, "But you tell them something. Pastor Timothy, you tell the church at Ephesus, you tell them this. You instruct them to be rich in good works and to be generous and ready to share".
Oh, okay. Let me put it this way. The richer you are, the more generous you should be, okay? And the richer you are, the more willing to serve you should be. He says, "You tell the folk that's been blessed and have an abundance, they should do good works. They should be generous". That was a tithe, then the offering was going on top of that where you help people and serve people and did extra stuff. He says, "Storing up for themselves". Okay, let me say that again. Verse 19: "Storing up for themselves".
Ooh, God has a storage unit. He says storing up, watch this, treasures, valuables. He says, when you handle money biblically and don't be greedy on the things that money can buy, he says, you are building your own storage unit. And in this storage unit, it serves as a good foundation for the future. And what will this storage unit do for you? Watch this. "So that they may take hold of that which is life indeed". Somebody say, "Life indeed". Indeed means sure enough. Indeed means for real.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells a story. And he concludes the story about this unrighteous steward, and he says this in verse 10. He says, "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful into use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you what is your own? No servant", watch this, "can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to the one and despise the other".
Watch this. "You cannot serve God and wealth". Okay? You cannot. He will not allow the option of serving God and money. He says, "When you bring your money and make it equal to me, when you bring your profits and make it equal to me, when you bring your business and make it equal to me rather than recognizing me as the source, you have created a competing god". And the passage says, don't miss this, if you can't be trusted with unrighteous Mammon... Mammon means money. "If I can't trust you with money not to turn it into a god, then what makes you think I will give you true riches"?
Oh, oh don't miss this. True riches is what God gives, that money can't buy. That's true riches. True riches. When money runs out; in other words, it loses its power, then you better have something working for you in your storage bin that you can go get 'cause you need some real stuff working for you. When the doctor says, "We can't help you", you better have some true riches. Just 'cause you bought that house won't make it a home. You better have some true riches.
You see, there are things in life you can't pay for. There are things in life, when your peace erodes you and you need calm in the midst of your storm, you better have some true riches. And a lot of folk want to get true riches at the last second. That's not how you store stuff. You build it up over time. Isn't that what you do with your investments? You don't wait for true riches. My challenge to you and I is yes, you maximize whatever potential God has given you in life.
But as Psalm 62:10 says, "If you get rich, don't set your heart on it". If you want money to be your life, take it. But you'll miss the Lord. You'll miss his presence, his power, his provision. You won't have him. You have a great checking account, you have a great 401, you have a great 403, you have great stocks and bonds, but you won't have God when you need him most. So the question is, how rich do you want to be? Get rid... talking to me, talking to you, talking to us, let's don't have money as a god 'cause we're going to need God when money can't do it for it.
In today's message on American idols, we looked at greed, that character flaw that can bring destruction to lives and to nations. One of the principle that founded our nation was hard work; but when greed got mixed in, it led to misusing people, oppressing people. It led to war, to a civil war. Because the desire to make a profit at the expense of the well-being of the lives of other people, denying them the freedom to work hard and to earn their way has not only brought destruction in days gone by, but has led to a legacy of destructive behavior and of misplaced priorities. This is why the Bible calls greed idolatry because it is a false god that can destroy your life and the life of our nation.