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Greed:”The love of money is root of all kinds of evil”
“Greed is the selfish desire for or the obsession with wealth and possessions.”
Our judgment of greed is a grey area since we see it subjectively. It is hard to tell when the line between justifiable luxury and greed has been crossed. It is largely a matter of intuition, so we turn inwardly. We ask why we have the desires. We all are the target of scriptural critiques of the wealthy. We judge ourselves comparatively to those we perceive as more wealthy than ourselves.
With our present system of credit we inadvertently subject ourselves to debt through our greed. We desire the deal and accumulate more than we need. We are supposed to say that “money cannot buy happiness.” However, it is tempting not to believe that. There is a certain degree of happiness that comes with enough money to meet basic necessities and modest luxuries. After that level, there does not seem to be a significant increase in happiness associated.
Money is gas on the fire of our greed. It reflects who we are, which is why we engage in self-examination. The scriptures encourage us to question whether our money is helping our neighbors or if it is hurting and exploiting others. Often through indirect agency the prophets in the Old Testament criticize the kings who direct people to do their dirty work for them, all while reaping the full benefits of some else’s actions. We are similar to the kings, oblivious to the people affected negatively by our lifestyles.
Surely we would not employ child labor, but we are insulated from the suffering of those whose work we benefit from. Is having something more important than the means by which it is had? The possession itself is not the problem, but the obsession with it that pulls us away from life. We focus so much attention on potential belongings, that we often forget the importance and significance of what we currently have. The accumulation of physical belongings will not fulfill our needs, and will not increase our self-worth.
What can we do? The first step is non-attachment. Do we own our belongings or do they own us? Letting that go can help alleviate some of the stress of having to constantly keep up. Enjoying one’s wealth is an investment in what makes life rather than an obsession with the accumulation in our bank account. We also need to practice simplicity. We carry so much with us that we want, but do we enjoy any of it? We carry more than the necessities, just in order to prove that we can. For this we sacrifice a simple, healthy, and enjoyable life. The passage from 1 Timothy 6 ends “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share, in this way the lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the age to come so that they can take hold of the life that is truly life.” The life that is truly life is generous. Discipline is giving and focusing on the needs of others.
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We value highly the metaphor of journey. We’re different people from different places and backgrounds, representing an intergenerational community, and we’ve traveled different paths. So, we agree not to make assumptions about the person across from us, next to us, or in conversation with us. We challenge ourselves to be sensitive, knowing this community includes a diverse group of people from life-long followers of Jesus, to people who are just now open to the idea that God might exist. We strive to avoid offense, ask good questions, articulate and explain our responses. We don’t assume fluency in bible, spirituality, or Church language, because we believe the message of Jesus is not for Christianity, but for humanity. So, we do everything in the spirit of love and grace.
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