Beware of Greediness!
GREEDINESS—the very word has an unpleasant sound. Yet because of its being such a common vice most persons fail to take it seriously. God’s Word, however, speaks out against it in the strongest of terms:
“What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, . . . nor greedy persons, . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.” “Let fornication and uncleanness of every kind or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people.” “No fornicator or unclean person or greedy person—which means being an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and of God.”—1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Eph. 5:3-5.
Why do the Scriptures associate greediness with such gross sins as adultery, fornication and idolatry? Because of its seriousness. It is an extreme form of selfishness. It is an intense, passionate desire or craving either to gain far more than what is reasonable or needed or to gain that which rightfully belongs to another. It is idolatry, for what one greedily desires he worships.
Contrary to the opinion of many, greediness is not limited to the love of money. Greediness also manifests itself in extreme fondness of food and drink, honor and fame, power and sex.
LOVE OF MONEY
Perhaps the most common form of greediness is love of money or the desire for much material, selfish gain. It causes men to oppress others, as does the loan shark who charges exorbitant rates of interest; it causes men to cheat, to steal and even to kill at times. The eyes of the greedy person are not satisfied with riches. (Eccl. 4:8) Many persons have permitted greediness to kill the seeds of truth planted in them: “But the anxieties of this system of things and the deceptive power of wealth and the desires for the rest of the things make inroads and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”—Mark 4:19.
Fittingly the psalmist commands: “Do not put your trust in defrauding, nor become vain in sheer robbery. In case the means of maintenance should thrive, do not set your heart on them.” Apropos also are Paul’s words of warning: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains. On the other hand, you, O man of God, flee from these things.” Yes, remember that such “valuable things will be of no benefit on the day of fury,” Jehovah’s Armageddon fury.—Ps. 62:10; 1 Tim. 6:9-11; Prov. 11:4.
Among the warning examples that the Scriptures contain of the bad end of those greedy for money are Achan, Gehazi and Judas. Achan betrayed his greed by taking spoil from Jericho in violation of Jehovah’s express command, for which he was stoned to death. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, tried to profit personally from his master’s having cured the Syrian general Naaman, for which God smote Gehazi with leprosy. And Judas, after selling his Master for thirty pieces of silver, hanged himself.—Josh. 7:1-26; 2 Ki. 5:20-27; Matt. 27:5.
FOOD AND DRINK
Then there is the greediness that manifests itself in an inordinate craving for food and drink. He who has this tendency is lacking in love of both himself and his neighbor and may well become a glutton and a drunkard. Wisely we are counseled: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine, among those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh. For a drunkard and a glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe one with mere rags.” “Also do not be getting drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery, but keep getting filled with spirit.”—Prov. 23:20, 21; Eph. 5:18.
In particular are those in responsible positions warned against this kind of greediness, as it interferes with their properly discharging their duties: “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine or for high officials to say: ‘Where is intoxicating liquor?’ that one may not drink and forget what is decreed and pervert the cause of any of the sons of affliction.” “Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of noble ones and your own princes eat at the proper time for mightiness, not for mere drinking” in self-indulgence.—Prov. 31:4, 5; Eccl. 10:17.
Greediness along this line tends to make one gross, careless regarding one’s conduct and privileges of serving God. Esau was such a greedy person. When he came home from the hunt hungry, he was so greedy for a bowl of lentils his brother had prepared that he readily sold his birthright for it. “There may be no fornicator nor anyone not appreciating sacred things, like Esau, who in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as firstborn.”—Heb. 12:16.
HONOR AND FAME
As with material riches, food and drink, there is nothing wrong in desiring honor and a good name. Where the greediness comes in is in desiring these excessively or at the expense of another. Throughout the book of Proverbs the course of wisdom is recommended as leading to glory or honor. The proud, however, can never get enough honor. They are ready to rob others and even God so that they can get honor. “The eating of too much honey is not good; and for people to search out their own glory, is it glory?” “May a stranger, and not your own mouth, praise you; may a foreigner, and not your own lips, do so.” On one occasion it was necessary for Jesus to rebuke two of his apostles for wanting the chief seats in his kingdom. Such a request showed a tendency toward greediness for honor.—Prov. 25:27; 27:2; Mark 10:40-45.
Greediness for honor causes one to brag and results in jealousy, strife and confusion. Instead of seeking our own honor, we should “in showing honor to one another take the lead.” Yes, we are to be “doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” So, “let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.”—Rom. 12:10; Phil. 2:3, 4; Gal. 5:26.
Haman was one who was greedy for honor, insisting that all bow down to him. What a bad end he came to! The religious leaders of Jesus’ days, as well as some of their followers, were also greedy for honor. For this mental attitude they reaped Jehovah’s disapproval and eventual destruction.—Esther 6:6; 7:10; Luke 16:15.
Pride causes some to crave honor and fame; others it causes to become greedy for power. Big business men like to build large organizations because of the sense of power it gives them. Others like to amass money and other forms of wealth because of the feeling of power they derive from it. Many politicians, and particularly dictators, are greedy for power. They like to have others tremble before them. The psalmist prayed for God to take action regarding such, “that mortal man who is of the earth may no more cause trembling.” In Jehovah God’s due time such power-greedy ones will disappear: “I have seen the wicked a tyrant and spreading himself as a luxuriant tree in native soil. And yet he proceeded to pass away and there he was not, and I kept seeking him and he was not found.”—Ps. 10:18; 37:35, 36.
Sometimes in a Christian congregation there is one who seeks advancement, not for the honor of Jehovah God and the benefit of his brothers, but because of the sense of power it gives him. In the family circle this greed for power may show itself in the wife’s wanting to dominate. King Uzziah, the military genius, became greedy for power. Not content with his royal prerogatives, he also presumed to take unto himself those limited to the priestly tribe. For his presumption he was smitten with leprosy. And the most glaring example of greed for power is none other than that of Satan himself. Rule or ruin is his motto, and Jehovah will see to it that Satan meets up with ruin.—2 Chron. 26:16-21; Rev. 20:1-3, 10.
UNCLEANNESS, LOOSE CONDUCT
And, lastly, there is the greediness associated with sexual appetite. Here again, a good thing, the joy of connubial love, is debased, either by excesses or by indulging in this privilege unlawfully. It is among the most prevalent kinds of greediness and the most difficult to control. Greediness along this line causes some husbands to overlook the commandment to love their wives as themselves. Among other manifestations of this kind of greediness is interest in pornographic pictures and literature and greedy looking: “I say to you that everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” That is why the young minister Timothy was counseled: “Flee from the desires incidental to youth.”—Matt. 5:28; 2 Tim. 2:22.
Doubtless having in mind this type of greediness, James wrote: “From what source are there wars and from what source are there fights among you? Are they not from this source, namely, from your cravings for sensual pleasure which carry on a conflict in your members? You desire, and yet you do not have. You go on murdering and coveting [and are jealous, ftn.], and yet you are not able to obtain. You go on fighting and waging war. You do not have because of your not asking. You do ask, and yet you do not receive, because you are asking for a wrong purpose, that you may expend it upon your cravings for sensual pleasure.”—Jas. 4:1-3.
Wherein lies the remedy? First of all, in honestly facing our weaknesses; not bragging about them, not treating them lightly, not continually making excuses for them. Work to overcome any tendency to greed you have inherited or adopted from your environment. Remember, little things can lead to big things, and if we do not put up a good fight, someday the inclination and the temptation will coincide and we will come to grief.
Thus there was the professional man, fond of money, who engaged in “sharp” practices at every opportunity. Clever he was, but one day his selfishness, his greediness, caused him to make a crude slip, resulting in his being excommunicated from the Christian congregation with which he was associated. Then again there was the debonair, apparently mature minister whose weakness was uncleanness. One way in which he betrayed this was by the kind of pictures he had hanging in his home. One day he also was excommunicated, for repeated adultery.
So let us watch the beginnings, the little things, and take to heart Jesus’ warning: “If ever your hand makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go off into Gehenna, into the fire that cannot be put out.”—Mark 9:43.
Our heavenly Father has provided abundant help in our struggle with greediness in our members. Private study of his Word is of great help and so is praying for his holy spirit. Take advantage of the assistance that God’s visible organization proffers by faithfully attending congregational meetings and taking part in them. Cultivate the fear of Jehovah, for it will help you to hate what is bad. By taking in knowledge and acting upon it you will strengthen your faith. Strong faith will help you to overcome the love of money, for it will cause you to put your trust in Jehovah God rather than in uncertain riches.—Prov. 8:13; 1 Tim. 6:17-19.
In particular do all need to cultivate the fruitage of the spirit, self-control. Stay awake, keep alert to opportunities to exercise self-control in little things, in your speech, in eating and in drinking, and you will find that exercising self-control in more difficult areas of human behavior will come easier. This is what Paul did: “I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave.”—1 Cor. 9:27.
There are other helps, but in particular two of such merit special attention: hope and love. By keeping bright your hope of the triumph of righteousness and the blessings of God’s new world, you will be able to evaluate properly the things of this world that seem so desirable to one’s selfish nature. (1 John 2:15-17) And, above all, love, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, will help you to exercise the self-control needed to overcome any tendency to greediness.—Mark 12:30, 31.
So be wise. Beware of greediness if you would live.
The generous soul will itself be made fat, and the one freely watering others will himself also be freely watered.—Prov. 11:25.