Does Greed Sometimes Grip You?
HAVE you been at a party where delicious food and alcoholic drinks were plentiful and you were tempted to overindulge? Many will admit that, at times, a form of greed does grip them. Can you always resist it? Or has it sometimes overtaken you, resulting in a headache or a hangover or worse? What are some other consequences of greed? How can we overcome its subtle grip? This is a vital matter, for the Bible says that no ‘greedy person will inherit God’s kingdom.’—1 Corinthians 6:10.
Greed has been defined as excessive desire, or avarice, a rapacious desire for more than one needs or deserves. It can take different forms, including: love of money, desire for power or fame, voraciousness for food, drink, sex, and material possessions. It is the basic cause of many evils that bedevil us today. Why are illicit sex and crime of all kinds increasing? Why are millions of people overfed and other millions starving? Why is so much money squandered in gambling and lotteries? What lies behind the embezzlement of private and public funds, commercial exploitation, and corruption of public officials? And what is behind wars with their ghastly aftermath of ruin and suffering? The depraving grip of greed.
Sexual Greed and Its Consequences
Greed can take very ugly forms and seriously degrade one’s life. For example, a married man with a fine family had an inordinate greed for sex. One day, under the influence of alcohol, he followed two girls to their home, hoping to seduce them. But their father and a relative came out and beat him up. He was taken to the hospital with a cracked skull, broken jaw, and badly damaged eye. His young daughter was so upset that she tried to commit suicide. His whole family felt shocked and degraded. What a price for his giving in to sexual greed!
An experience of King David of Israel confirms this point. David already had a number of wives. But one day he saw from his rooftop the beautiful woman Bath-sheba bathing herself. Instead of immediately turning away and dismissing the thought, he allowed illicit sexual desire to take root in his heart. He then committed adultery with her while her husband, Uriah, was away fighting in David’s army.
When Bath-sheba became pregnant, David first tried to have his adultery covered up by having Uriah come home and lie with his wife. However, when that ruse failed, and he was faced with the terrible alternative of having Bath-sheba stoned as an adulteress, he opted for having Uriah exposed to sure death in battle. But nothing goes unobserved by Jehovah. He sent his prophet Nathan to rebuke David for his heinous crimes—adultery and bringing about the death of the woman’s husband. David was cut to the heart and humbly accepted the rebuke. Still, he paid a heavy price. His first son by Bath-sheba died as a babe, and his family from then on was plagued with calamities.—2 Samuel 11:1–12:23; chapter 13.
This warning example of yielding to temptation well illustrates the chain reaction of sin as set forth in the Bible: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.” (James 1:14, 15) The mistake David made was to allow the seed of greedy sexual desire to take root and grow in his heart. Once the sinful desire was triggered, he let sexual greed motivate him into misconduct.
What a contrast was Joseph in Egypt when he was enticed by Potiphar’s wife to lie down with her! How did Joseph react to this temptation? The account tells us: “So it turned out that as she spoke to Joseph day after day he never listened to her to lie alongside her, to continue with her.” Even without the moral guidance of the Ten Commandments, which had not yet been given, he had answered her insistence by saying: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” Then finally one day she grabbed hold of him, saying, “Lie down with me!” Did Joseph stay around and try to reason or rationalize? He “took to flight and went on outside.” He did not even give sexual greed a chance to germinate in his heart. He fled.—Genesis 39:7-16.
No sincere Christian would actually lay plans to pursue a course that manifests sexual greed. But, then, David had not planned to sin as he did. So his example should move all of us to strengthen our personal resolve to resist any stirring toward greed in illicit sexual matters. We—whether single or married, youthful or older—need to be absolutely determined to reject any such temptations as soon as they arise.—Romans 13:13, 14.
Greed for Money and Its Consequences
A gross example of a greedy person was the most infamous traitor in human history—Judas Iscariot. When chosen by Jesus as an apostle, he must have been faithful up to that point and not greedy. In fact, Jesus made him the trustee of their funds. But in time Judas began to steal some of the money. “He was a thief and had the money box and used to carry off the monies put in it.”—John 12:6.
Obviously, Judas had become a practicing thief, a greedy person. When the climactic Passover drew near in 33 C.E., Judas, after having been rebuked by Jesus, made a deal with the murderous chief priests to betray the Lord for 30 pieces of silver. Later, Judas felt the enormity of his deed and committed suicide. Greed’s deadly grip claimed another victim.—Luke 22:3; Matthew 26:14-16.
The evil consequences of greed are legion. Many who greedily pursue a lot of money spend much of it on a luxurious life-style. They may turn their back on simple food and concentrate on highly refined luxury foods. Yet overindulging in rich foods that wealth can purchase often boomerangs on them in indigestion or worse problems that can hasten death. Says a medical expert: “It is a hard business fact of the insurance world that dietary excess and overweight in the adult are not good for life expectancy.”
Far more serious to a Christian is the spiritual danger inherent in greed. Materialism has caused some Christian wives, whose husbands earn reasonable pay, to seek employment even if the result is neglect of their children and fewer blessings in the preaching work. It has caused young Christians to succumb to the glitter of well-paying jobs without even seriously considering entering the full-time ministry. Catering to the flesh, whether illicit sex or greed for money (and pleasures and possessions it can buy) can lead to serious sins and even loss of everlasting life. “For the minding of the flesh means death, . . . for if you live in accord with the flesh you are sure to die.”—Romans 8:6, 13.
How Can We Prevent or Overcome the Grip of Greed?
Once greed has gripped a person, it is hard to break loose. Therefore prevention is better than cure. Parents need to curb greedy trends in themselves first and then in their children. Most children tend to be selfish. A story is told that one day Abraham Lincoln was taking his two small sons for a walk, but they were crying. A neighbor inquired: “What’s the matter with the boys?” Replied Lincoln: “Just what’s the matter with the whole world. I’ve got three walnuts, and each wants two.”
Parents should “train up” boys and girls in the way of unselfishness and consideration for others, consistently and lovingly. (Proverbs 22:6) This will help them very much during the teenage stage when sexual appetites and other selfish desires may become strong. Young people are constantly besieged these days by sexual provocation. However, the Bible says: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming . . . 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.”—Ephesians 5:3-5.
Note that a “greedy person” is also “an idolater.” How so? Those who become obsessed with desire for sex, love for money (such as expressed by thieving, embezzling, and gambling), voraciousness for food and drink, or ambition for power and fame, become slaves to such desires and make them their idols, as it were. Their chief aim in life is to satisfy their greedy desire. Christians who practice such things in an idolatrous way are unquestionably “greedy persons,” in Biblical terminology, and could be excluded from the congregation. They have put worship of their “gods” above worship of Jehovah, who is “a God exacting exclusive devotion.”—Exodus 20:3-6, 17.
Giving attention to radio and TV programs or books and magazines that stir up greed for harmful things is very dangerous for Christians—young and old. Remember that David failed to avert his gaze from Bath-sheba bathing and, in a weak moment, got caught in sensual greed. Do you turn off the TV or walk out of the cinema when immorality is featured?
David, in spite of his lapse, had a deep love for Jehovah. This helped him to recover from his transgression. Similarly, a long-time Christian in Africa was able to recover from a bad case of greed for money. Due to certain difficulties he had got into debt. Being responsible for the financial affairs of the firm he worked for, he was tempted to “borrow” money without permission. He allowed that “seed” of greed to germinate, and he embezzled a large amount. When his employers began to inquire into the matter, he panicked and fled the country, leaving his wife and children behind. But his conscience soon smote him, and he realized he had made a terrible mistake. He returned home and eventually restored the whole amount. He was reproved by Christian elders and is now making commendable progress.
What helped him to recover? Prayer and Bible reading. He found that many expressions in David’s psalms struck a sympathetic chord in his own heart, helping him to pray more fervently and meaningfully. Here are a few examples of those psalms: “Show me favor, O God, according to your loving-kindness. According to the abundance of your mercies wipe out my transgressions. Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one.” “Also from presumptuous acts hold your servant back; do not let them dominate me.”—Psalm 51:1, 10; 19:13.
If you want to avoid or overcome the grip of greed, “draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (James 4:8) When a Christian’s heart is filled with love for Jehovah, for the Christian brothers, and for the many who need help in these distressing times, then the ugly “seed” of greed finds it more difficult to germinate. Moreover, the holy spirit is an excellent greed killer! So let that powerful force pour into your heart, cleansing it of unclean desires, and filling it with a deep longing to serve Jehovah. Then the loathsome force of greed will not grip you.
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Judas Iscariot came to be gripped by greed
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‘It is a hard business fact of the insurance world that dietary excess and overweight are not good for life expectancy’