Be Wise—Shun Greediness
“KEEP your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.”—Luke 12:15.
What provided the occasion for Jesus Christ to say this? A large crowd was listening to him when a man called out: “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13) There really should have been no basis for such a request, because the Mosaic law stipulated that the firstborn son should get two parts of everything that had belonged to his father. Evidently, therefore, covetousness was involved in the case of the man who wanted Jesus Christ to pass judgment in his favor.
Jesus’ words about covetousness, quoted above, were directed to the crowd that had heard the man’s request. These words revealed that a person must evaluate things properly to be able to shun covetousness or greed. He should not lose sight of the fact that whatever the object of his wrong desire may be, it can in no way contribute to the preservation of his life. In fact, greed can lead to calamity.
This is well illustrated by what befell Gehazi, the attendant of the Hebrew prophet Elisha. Through Elisha, the Syrian army chief Naaman was healed of loathsome leprosy. Naaman wanted to present Elisha with a gift in appreciation for the miraculous cure. But the prophet refused to take it, not wanting to profit from the office and powers that Jehovah God had given him. Gehazi, however, coveted the gift, reasoning that it was proper to accept it. He ran after Naaman and, in the name of Elisha, requested a talent of silver and two changes of garments, falsely claiming that the prophet had changed his mind in view of the arrival of two young men of the sons of the prophets. Naaman was happy to oblige, presenting greedy Gehazi with, not just one, but two talents of silver and two changes of garments.—2 Ki. 5:15, 16, 20-23.
Gehazi’s greed seemingly paid off. But not so in actuality. He lost the privilege of serving as Elisha’s attendant. By his greediness, his misuse of his master’s name for dishonest gain and his misrepresentation of the prophet, Gehazi brought calamity upon himself and his offspring. Pronouncing God’s judgment, Elisha said to Gehazi: “The leprosy of Naaman will stick to you and your offspring to time indefinite.” The execution of that judgment did not delay. The account continues: “Immediately he went out from before [Elisha], a leper white as snow.”—2 Ki. 5:27.
Certainly Jehovah God does not view lightly those who seek selfish gain from his gifts. This would include the use of one’s position of responsibility in the Christian congregation for selfish profit. In fact, a requirement for those appointed to a particular assignment of service in the congregation is that they ‘not be greedy of dishonest gain.’ (1 Tim. 3:8) Elders are admonished: “Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly.”—1 Pet. 5:2.
There is good reason for what the Bible commands. Appointed servants in a congregation, for example, may have to handle funds. This requires that they be exemplary in being free of greediness. Otherwise, if appointed despite having a serious weakness in this area, they might be tempted to misuse what is entrusted to them, appropriating to themselves things to which they are not entitled. As for elders, they, too, must exercise care not to use their position for any kind of profit or gain. Not only would it be wrong for them to seek to get material gain but it would also be wrong to get other personal advantages by reason of their position, authority, prestige or prominence.
Were an elder or another appointed servant in the congregation to fall victim to greediness, he, like Gehazi, would lose his position of trust. More seriously, he might even forfeit his relationship with Jehovah.
This matter of shunning greediness should be of great concern, not just to men having a stewardship in the Christian congregation, but to all true Christians. The Bible includes “greedy persons” among those who ‘will not inherit God’s kingdom.’ (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) Such greediness may manifest itself in a variety of ways. It may be love of money, desire for power or fame, being given to heavy eating or drinking, illicit sex or the like.
So if you desire to have or to maintain a good relationship with God, shun greediness. Instead of allowing wrong desires to build up in your heart, put forth earnest effort to dwell on good and upbuilding things. This can add much to your enjoyment of life now and can assure you of a secure future. Yes, life comes, not from the object of a person’s greediness, but from his resisting any inclination toward greediness and from his maintaining an approved relationship with Jehovah God.