Will Greedy Ones Perish?
ALL of us have in some way suffered from the harmful effects of man’s greed. Greed has been responsible for the ruthless deforestation of many hills and mountains, the devastation of vast land areas through strip-mining operations, the pollution of streams with sewage and wastes, and the transformation of cities and towns into places filled with smoke, grit and noise. Humans have also exploited fellow humans and enriched themselves at their expense. Will such greed ever end? Will greedy ones perish?
Yes, for greedy acts have not escaped the attention of One who hates greed and who is powerful enough to put an end to it. That One is the supreme Sovereign of the universe, Jehovah God. The historical example of his dealings with ancient Israel shows that greedy persons will not be tolerated indefinitely and that righteously disposed persons will be blessed.
AN EXAMPLE FROM ANCIENT HISTORY
In the seventh century B.C.E. many inhabitants of Jerusalem and the land of Judah were greedy. They had no concern for the Israelites that had been deprived of their hereditary possession due to the Assyrian deportation in 740 B.C.E. and the Babylonian deportation in 617 B.C.E. The attitude of the greedy ones toward those exiles was: “Get far away from Jehovah. . . . the land has been given us as a thing to possess.” (Ezek. 11:15) As brothers to the Israelites who were living as exiles in the Babylonian Empire, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the land of Judah should have displayed the spirit of a repurchaser who would buy back a hereditary possession so that his landless brother could be reinstated on the God-given property. (Lev. 25:13-38) But these greedy ones were pleased to have their brothers forced to be as “far away from Jehovah” as possible, that is, from the land of Israel where Jehovah was understood to be. They wanted the land for themselves.
Jehovah God, however, felt quite differently about the matter. He was disposed to favor the repentant ones among the exiles, becoming a “sanctuary” to them “for a little while,” or, “in a little way.” (Ezek. 11:16) For the “little while” of their exile Jehovah would be a sanctuary. He would be a holy place in which they could find safety and be preserved for his future good purposes. Then, too, Jehovah would be a sanctuary “in a little way,” that is, in a limited way or extent. This is because he could not shield the exiles from all the deserved consequences of their bad conduct nor could he shorten the length of the foretold exile, set to run for seventy years after Jerusalem’s fall.
Eventually, however, Jehovah purposed to restore them from exile. He promised: “I will also collect you from the peoples and gather you from the lands among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the soil of Israel.” (Ezek. 11:17) This promise began to be fulfilled when, in 537 B.C.E., a repentant Jewish remnant returned to their homeland.
On the other hand, Jehovah did not put up indefinitely with the greedy inhabitants of Jerusalem and the land of Judah. He had warned: “As for those whose heart is walking in their disgusting things and their detestable things, upon their head I shall certainly bring their own way.” (Ezek. 11:21) Accordingly, by means of the Babylonians, Jehovah brought upon those greedy Jews the fruitage of their disgusting, detestable way. The year 607 B.C.E. saw the destruction of Jerusalem, with the greedy ones either perishing or being forcibly ripped from the land and taken into exile.
A WARNING FOR TODAY
What happened back there in Jerusalem and the land of Judah nearly twenty-six centuries ago is no mere dead history. It proves that Jehovah God will see to it that those practicing greediness get their just deserts. This includes the greedy persons associated with the religious systems of Christendom. It should be remembered that the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the land of Judah claimed to be servants of God. That claim, however, did not shield them from God’s adverse judgment.
In the estimation of Jehovah God, false, hypocritical religious systems are all part of a great harlot organization referred to in the Holy Scriptures as “Babylon the Great.” That harlot organization includes the hypocritical church systems of Christendom, which, like the rest of “Babylon the Great,” have “lived in shameless luxury.” (Rev. 18:7) Is it not true that the churches of Christendom have often sought to gain the favor of the rich and influential classes? Has this not led to oppression of the poor while providing religious leaders with a comfortable, yes, even luxurious life? Are not many religious edifices and the regalia of ecclesiastical dignitaries adorned with precious jewels, gold and silver? Has not much of this wealth poured into the coffers of church systems at the expense of the poor?
On account of such selfish greed, “Babylon the Great” will be destroyed. Bible prophecy indicates that Revelation 18:21 will be fulfilled within this generation: “A strong angel lifted up a stone like a great millstone and hurled it into the sea, saying: ‘Thus with a swift pitch will Babylon the great city be hurled down, and she will never be found again.’”
This judgment does not mean the end for true religion and those practicing it. Why not? Because Jehovah God is favorably inclined toward those who have repentantly turned from the disgusting practices of “Babylon the Great.” Such persons see that God’s dealings with them parallel the experience of the repentant Jewish exiles who returned to Jerusalem and the land of Judah in 537 B.C.E.
Modern historical evidence shows that during the world war of 1914-1918 the dedicated, baptized anointed remnant of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses were brought into Babylonish captivity. In the spring of 1919 C.E., however, they experienced a liberation. Since that time they have seen in their own case the fulfillment of Ezekiel 11:18-20:
“They will certainly come there [to the soil of Israel] and remove all its disgusting things and all its detestable things out of it. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I shall put inside them; and I shall certainly remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, in order that they may walk in my own statutes and keep my own judicial decisions and actually carry them out; and they may really become my people and I myself may become their God.”
Yes, the anointed spiritual Israelites came back to the symbolic “soil” of spiritual Israel. They left behind the detestable and disgusting things of Christendom and the rest of “Babylon the Great.” Jehovah has given them a “heart of flesh,” not hard like stone but one that moves them to observe his commandments because of love for him. He also put a “new spirit,” that is, his holy spirit, inside them. Hence its fruitage—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, kindness, faith, mildness and self-control—is manifest in their lives. They have indeed become Jehovah’s people and He has become their God.
The spiritual Israelites, however, are not the only ones today who are experiencing God’s blessing. Back in the sixth century B.C.E. natural Israelites were not the only ones who returned from Babylonian exile. Among those returning were such non-Israelites as the Nethinim temple slaves. (Ezra 2:58) Similarly, since the year 1935 C.E. a constantly increasing “great crowd” of sheeplike persons have forsaken “Babylon the Great” and are now enjoying Jehovah’s favor along with the restored remnant on the symbolic “soil” of spiritual Israel. Because of having taken up the pure, undefiled worship of Jehovah, they, along with the anointed remnant, will be spared when greedy Christendom and the rest of “Babylon the Great” are destroyed.
NEED FOR WARNING
The destruction of Christendom and the rest of “Babylon the Great” is just as certain as the destruction that befell ancient Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. How urgent it therefore is for someone to sound a warning about the coming calamity! The sounding of such a warning would be in imitation of what the prophet Ezekiel did. After Jehovah revealed to him in vision that the greedy ones of Jerusalem and the land of Judah would experience divine retribution, Ezekiel reports:
“A spirit itself lifted me up and finally brought me to Chaldea to the exiled people, in the vision by the spirit of God; and the vision that I had seen went ascending from upon me. And I began to speak to the exiled people all the things of Jehovah that he had caused me to see.”—Ezek. 11:24, 25.
Upon coming out from under the visualizing power of inspiration Ezekiel became conscious that he was in the house of his exile and the older men of Judah were sitting before him. Immediately he began telling these men what he had seen and been commanded to say. He did not limit his speaking to them alone, but went out of his house to tell still others. This was a matter that concerned all the exiles.
If we today appreciate that soon Jehovah God will put an end to all greed as well as the greedy ones, we will imitate Ezekiel and tell others about it. This will provide them with an opportunity to change their ways and put themselves in a position where they might receive God’s protection and blessing. Additionally, we will want to make it our determination to be found in a condition that will mean safety for us when the “great tribulation” brings this entire greedy system of things, including Christendom, to its end.