I’m following up on our study of Romans 6:15-23 where we talked about sanctification. There I suggested that in response to sin’s temptation we should ask three questions:
- In what ways are we tempted to see the sin as attractive and desirable?
- In what ways is it in fact ugly, dangerous and destructive?
- In what ways does the free gift of salvation and the gift of sanctification offer something better?
In my last post I looked at the example of “gossip and slander” asking those three questions about it. We sometimes see three strands of temptation coming together, money, sex and power. So, if gossip is primarily about power, let’s talk about one of the other strands, money. Specifically, we are going to talk about greed, about how our trust in and desire for material benefits leads into sin.
In what ways does greed seem attractive and desirable?
Greed tells me that I need things to make life comfortable, particularly expensive things whether that’s food, clothes, cars, houses, holidays. It tells me that money will give me access to happiness as I enjoy those things. It promises me security so that I can insure and insulate myself against difficult days ahead.
However greed also presents itself as altruistic. After all, the reason that I covert those things isn’t just for myself. This is when greed is at its most deceptive and dangerous. I convince myself that I desire those things for others. I want to give the best to my wife and my children. I want to pay back my parents for their love for me and I want my friends to be able to enjoy good things with me.
In what ways is greed ugly, dangerous and destructive?
Greed is at heart selfishness. It turns the focus in on me. It also teaches me that possessions and even people are there for me to use and to consume. Greed as the pursuit of instant gratification and in so far as it monetarises value is also ugly because it robs us of beauty. We are too busy craving to truly take time to value and enjoy.
Greed is ugly and dangerous because it encourages us to pursue material prosperity at all costs. It teaches us to envy others. It encourages us to gain by any means necessary even at the expense of relationships with others through theft and exploitation. Greed also encourages workaholism as we use every possible hour available to us to earn more with the inevitable impact on our relationships and our health. As Rob Parsons has commented, “no-one ever said ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office.’”
Greed always leaves me unsatisfied, always looking for more just like anther addiction. It robs me of contentment and leaves me discontent. It promises happiness but takes joy away.
In what ways do salvation and sanctification offer a better hope?
Sanctification includes learning contentment. I learn that it is possible to be satisfied and content with what I have rather than constantly hungering after and seeking pleasure in things I do not have. I learn to see and appreciate true beauty. I discover that I do not need to worry and be anxious. This is also partly because I am part of a community where we look out for each other. I learn to find joy in God and in his goodness. Furthermore, there can be real joy and satisfaction in relationships. Money cannot buy me love or happiness. God does give love and happiness.