Succeed in Avoiding the Snare of Greed
“Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare.” —1 TIMOTHY 6:9.
1. Why should we be concerned about snares?
THE word “snare” may call to mind a hunter setting a camouflaged device to catch unsuspecting prey. However, God makes clear that for us the most dangerous snares are, not such literal devices, but what may ensnare us spiritually or morally. The Devil is an expert in setting such snares.—2 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
2. (a) How does Jehovah help us to avoid dangerous snares? (b) What particular type of snare comes in for attention now?
2 Jehovah helps us by identifying some of Satan’s many and varied snares. For example, God warns that our lips, or mouth, can be a snare if we speak unwisely, rashly, or about what we ought not. (Proverbs 18:7; 20:25) Pride can be a snare, as can keeping company with people given to anger. (Proverbs 22:24, 25; 29:25) But let us turn to another snare: “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.” (1 Timothy 6:9) What is behind that snare or the basis for it can be summed up in the word “greed.” Though greed is often evidenced by a determination to be rich, greed is really a snare with many facets.
Jehovah Warns Us of Danger
3, 4. Ancient human history contains what lesson about greed?
3 Basically, greed is an inordinate or excessive desire to have more, whether that be money, possessions, power, sex, or other things. We are not the first to be endangered by the snare of greed. Away back in the garden of Eden, greed ensnared Eve and then Adam. Eve’s mate, who was more experienced in life than she was, had been personally instructed by Jehovah. God had provided them with a paradise home. They could enjoy an abundance of good and varied food, raised on unpolluted land. They could expect to have perfect children, with whom they could live and serve God endlessly. (Genesis 1:27-31; 2:15) Would that not seem to be enough to satisfy any human?
4 Yet, someone’s having enough does not prevent greed from becoming a snare. Eve was ensnared by the prospect of being like God, having more independence and setting her own standards. It seems that Adam wanted an ongoing companionship with his beautiful mate, no matter what that cost. Since even these perfect humans were ensnared by greed, you can appreciate why greed can be a danger for us.
5. How important is it for us to avoid the snare of greed?
5 We must guard against being ensnared by greed because the apostle Paul warns us: “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 thieves, nor greedy persons . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Paul also told us: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you.” (Ephesians 5:3) So greediness is not even to be a topic of conversation for the purpose of gratifying our imperfect flesh.
6, 7. (a) What Bible examples underscore how powerful greed can be? (b) Why should those examples be a warning to us?
6 Jehovah has recorded many examples to alert us to the danger of greed. Recall Achan’s greed. God said that Jericho was to be destroyed, but its gold, silver, copper, and iron were for His treasury. Achan may initially have intended to follow that direction, but greed ensnared him. Once in Jericho, it was as if he were on a shopping trip where he saw unbelievable bargains, including a beautiful garment that seemed perfect for him. Picking up gold and silver worth thousands of dollars, he could have thought, ‘What a fortune! It’s almost a steal.’ Exactly! Coveting what should have been destroyed or turned in, he stole from God, and that cost Achan his life. (Joshua 6:17-19; 7:20-26) Consider, too, the examples of Gehazi and Judas Iscariot.—2 Kings 5:8-27; John 6:64; 12:2-6.
7 We should not overlook the fact that the three mentioned above were not pagans ignorant of Jehovah’s standards. Rather, they were in a dedicated relationship with God. All of them had witnessed miracles that should have impressed on them God’s power and the importance of retaining his favor. Still, the snare of greed was their downfall. We too can ruin our relationship with God if we let ourselves be ensnared by greed in any form. What types or forms of greed may be especially dangerous to us?
Ensnared by Greed for Wealth or Possessions
8. The Bible gives what warning regarding wealth?
8 Most Christians have heard clear warnings from the Bible against developing a love of riches, a craving for wealth. Why not review some of these, as found at Matthew 6:24-33; Luke 12:13-21; and 1 Timothy 6:9, 10? While you may feel that you accept and follow such counsel, is it not likely that Achan, Gehazi, and Judas would have said that they agreed with it too? Clearly, we must go beyond mere intellectual agreement. We have to take care that the snare of greed for wealth or possessions does not affect our everyday lives.
9. Why should we examine our attitude toward shopping?
9 In daily life, we often have to make purchases—food, clothing, and items for the home. (Genesis 42:1-3; 2 Kings 12:11, 12; Proverbs 31:14, 16; Luke 9:13; 17:28; 22:36) But the commercial world stimulates a desire for more and newer things. Many advertisements filling newspapers, magazines, and TV screens are masked appeals to greed. Such appeals may also exist at stores with racks of blouses, coats, dresses, and sweaters, with shelves of new shoes, electronic gear, and cameras. Christians may want to ask themselves, ‘Has shopping become a highlight or chief pleasure in my life?’ ‘Do I truly need new items that I see, or is the commercial world just fertilizing seeds of greed in me?’—1 John 2:16.
10. What snare of greed is particularly a danger for men?
10 If shopping seems to be a common snare for women, getting more money is one for countless men. Jesus illustrated this snare with a rich man who had a good income yet was determined to ‘tear down his storehouses and build bigger ones to gather in all his grain and good things.’ Jesus left no doubt as to the danger: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness” or greed. (Luke 12:15-21) Whether we are rich or not, we should heed that counsel.
11. How might a Christian be ensnared by greed for more money?
11 Greed for more money, or things that money can buy, is often fostered under camouflage. A scheme to get rich quickly may be presented—perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime chance for financial security through a risky investment. Or one may be tempted to make money by questionable or illegal business practices. This covetous desire may become overpowering, ensnaring. (Psalm 62:10; Proverbs 11:1; 20:10) Some within the Christian congregation have begun businesses with the expectation that their trusting brothers would be the main customers. If their objective was not simply to provide a needed product or service by ‘hard work, doing with their hands what is good work,’ but to make money hastily at the expense of fellow Christians, then they are acting out of greed. (Ephesians 4:28; Proverbs 20:21; 31:17-19, 24; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-12) Greed for money has led some into gambling through raffles, sweepstakes, or lotteries. Others, ignoring empathy and reasonableness, have hastily started lawsuits in hopes of a large award or settlement.
12. Why do we know that greed for wealth can be overcome?
12 The preceding are areas in which a self-examination is in order so that we can see honestly whether greed may be at work in us. Even if it is, we can change. Remember that Zacchaeus changed. (Luke 19:1-10) If anyone finds greed for wealth or possessions to be a problem, he should be as determined as Zacchaeus was to escape the snare.—Jeremiah 17:9.
Greed in Other Aspects of Life
13. Psalm 10:18 calls to our attention what other snare of greed?
13 Some find it easier to see the danger of greed as respects money or possessions than other ways in which it appears. One dictionary of Greek says that the group of words rendered “greed” or “covetousness” has the sense of “‘wanting more,’ with a reference to power etc. as well as property.” Yes, we could be ensnared by greedily wanting to exert power over others, perhaps to have them tremble under our authority.—Psalm 10:18.
14. In what areas has a desire for power been harmful?
14 Since early days imperfect humans have enjoyed having power over others. God foresaw that a sad result of human sin would be that many husbands would “dominate” their wives. (Genesis 3:16) This failing, however, has extended beyond the marital scene. Thousands of years later, a Bible writer noted that “man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) You likely know how true that has been in political and military matters, but could it be that in our own spheres, we strive for more personal power or control?
15, 16. In what respects might a Christian be ensnared by a desire for more power? (Philippians 2:3)
15 All of us relate to other humans—in our immediate or extended families, at our secular work or at school, among friends, and in the congregation. We may occasionally, or often, have some voice in what will be done, as well as how or when. That in itself is not wrong or bad. Do we, though, excessively enjoy using any authority that we might have? Could it be that we like having the final say and want it more and more? Worldly managers or bosses often show this attitude by surrounding themselves with yes-men, who offer no dissenting views and who do not challenge their superiors’ worldly quest (greed) for power.
16 This is a snare to avoid in dealing with fellow Christians. Jesus said: “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them and the great men wield authority over them. This is not the way among you; but whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister.” (Matthew 20:25, 26) Such humility should be evident as Christian elders deal with one another, with ministerial servants, and with the flock. Might a desire for power be reflected, for instance, by a presiding overseer who consults with fellow elders only on minor matters but makes all key decisions on his own? Is he truly willing to delegate tasks? Problems could result if a ministerial servant handling a meeting for field service was unreasonably demanding in his arrangements, even making rules.—1 Corinthians 4:21; 9:18; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 13:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:6, 7.
17. Why is it appropriate to consider food when discussing the snare of greed?
17 Food is another realm in which many are ensnared by greed. Of course, it is natural to find enjoyment in eating and drinking; the Bible speaks approvingly of that. (Ecclesiastes 5:18) Yet, it is not uncommon for a desire in this connection to grow over a period of time, extending far beyond what is reasonably enjoyable and sufficient. If this was not an appropriate area for concern by God’s servants, why would Jehovah’s Word say at Proverbs 23:20: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine, among those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh”? Yet, how do we avoid this snare?
18. What self-examination about food and drink might we make?
18 God does not suggest that his people subsist on some austere food regimen. (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 25) But neither does he approve of our making food and drink a dominant part of our conversation and planning. We might ask ourselves, ‘Do I often become excessively enthusiastic when I describe some meal I had or plan to have?’ ‘Am I always talking about food and drink?’ Another indicator may be how we react when we have a meal that we did not prepare or pay for, perhaps when we are a guest in another’s home or when food is available at a Christian assembly. Could it be that we are then inclined to eat far more than usual? We recall that Esau permitted food to become unduly important, to his lasting harm.—Hebrews 12:16.
19. How could greed be a problem as regards sexual pleasure?
19 Paul gives us insight into another snare: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people.” (Ephesians 4:17-19; 5:3) Indeed, greed for sexual pleasure can develop. This enjoyment, of course, has an appropriate expression within the bonds of marriage. The close affection associated with this pleasure plays a part in helping husband and wife stay devoted to each other over many years of marriage. Few people would deny, though, that today’s world has put extreme emphasis on sex, presenting as normal what is actually a reflection of the greediness that Paul mentioned. Especially is such a wrong view of sexual pleasure easily adopted by those who expose themselves to the immorality and nudity common today in many films, videos, and magazines, as well as at places of entertainment.
20. How can Christians show themselves alert to the danger of greediness in sexual matters?
20 The account of David’s sin with Bath-sheba shows that one of God’s servants can be trapped by the snare of sexual greed. Though free to enjoy pleasure within his own marriage, David let illicit sexual desire grow. Noting how attractive Uriah’s wife was, he gave free rein to the thought—and deed—of finding illicit pleasure with her. (2 Samuel 11:2-4; James 1:14, 15) Certainly we must shun this form of greed. Even within marriage it is fitting to shun greed. This would include the rejecting of extreme sex practices. A husband determined to avoid greed in this area would be genuinely interested in his mate, so that any choice the two of them made about family planning would not rate his pleasure as more important than his wife’s present or future health.—Philippians 2:4.
Continue to Be Determined to Avoid Greed
21. Why should our discussion of greediness not discourage us?
21 Jehovah does not provide cautions or warnings out of any distrust. He knows that his devoted servants want to serve him loyally, and he is confident that the great majority will continue to do that. About his people as a whole, he can make an expression similar to what he said of Job when speaking to Satan: “Have you set your heart upon my servant Job, that there is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad?” (Job 1:8) Our loving, trusting heavenly Father alerts us to dangerous snares, such as those connected with forms of greed, because he wants us to continue untainted and faithful to him.
22. What should we do if our study has revealed an area of personal danger or weakness?
22 Each of us has inherited a tendency toward greediness, and we may have developed this further under the influence of the wicked world. What if during our study of greediness—as respects wealth, possessions, power and authority, food, or sexual pleasure—you saw some area of weakness? Then take to heart Jesus’ advice: “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.” (Mark 9:43) Make what changes are called for in attitude or interests. Avoid the deadly snare of greed. Thus with God’s help, you may “enter into life.”
What Have I Learned?
□ Why should we be concerned about the snare of greed?
□ In what ways might greed for wealth or possessions ensnare us?
□ How might greed in other areas of life present real dangers?
□ What should be our attitude toward any weakness we have in regard to greed?