Some people never seem to have enough for although they are in possession of more than they can use in a whole lifetime yet they are never thankful. In a similar vein, it is sadly true that for many the more they have the more they want, and they ruthlessly pursue it as if they have nothing, and starvation, and destruction are staring them boldly in their face. A timely warning comes to mind, "Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. People do not get life from the many things they own." (Luke 12:15 Easy-To-Read Version)
Greed is not just about coveting wealth and riches, it is even more so about the state of the mind, it is about one's attitude to carnal things and the effects prosperity have on a person.
We can understand and appreciate why people like to accumulate things, why they do not want to risk going short and be deprived of the normal expectations. In old times people suffered badly from shortages and when food was plentiful they ate to excess, put on a lot of fat to tide them over in times of scarcity. This was understandable then but is today less so. In times of great uncertainty and rapidly changing circumstances people were apt to go to extremes.
Take the case of raising children and in general infant mortality. We read in the Bible that King Ahab had 70 sons (2 Kings 10:1) and there is no mention of his daughters, of which he probably had many. King David had many children; and 19 sons are mentioned in 1 Chronicles chapter 3, but he had many more than these as the Bible added, "These were all the sons of David, beside the sons of the concubines, and Tamar their sister." (1 Chronicles 3: 9)
You see here that even in circumstances of increased prosperity and less uncertainty (we are talking about royalty here) having many children was normal because there was no certainty that your children would survive. Remember that in one case all the royal family was completely wiped out, all murdered except one member (2 Chronicles 10-11). The Bible even mentioned that a man was blessed if he had many children (Psalm 127:3-5)
This same uncertainty applies even more so to food and drink. People have always been unhappy with having just enough for today and trusting that tomorrow will take care of itself. They were inclined, and still are so even today, to store up all they can for the foreseeable future and even beyond. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, for remember that it was because Egypt had the foresight to do just that; that many lives were saved, even Israeli lives, when Joseph advised the King of Egypt to store plenty in the good seven years so that the seven year famine would not be disastrous as recorded in Genesis 41:1-57.
This desire to have things in abundance can be irrational and so twist and warp people's minds that instead of things becoming the means of their survival and longevity they become the motivation for their living. As so often is the case, the things that should be our indentured servant we allow them to become our demanding master and distort our perceptions.
Take the case of this unfortunate, unthankful, vastly prosperous man whose perceptions were so badly clouded that he flirted with blasphemy. Here is how the Bible recorded his demise:
" And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" (Luke 12:16-20)
Notice carefully that this incredibly rich man had plenty, perhaps in today's world he would be seen as fabulously rich, even a billionaire, and yet he was not satisfied. Observe that he never cared for anyone, he is not on record as having a social conscience, he was all for himself, about himself and always me, me, me. He went further, he showed appalling ignorance as to what nourishes the soul, he had scant regard for things spiritual and like so many prosperous people today he took God, and his very existence, for granted.
Examine attentively some important things about this very prosperous man:
1. When his barns were full and overflowing and still all his produce was not stored, he, according to the Bible, "thought to himself". He never considered God the provider, he never paused to give God thanks; he never even accepted that God existed and that all his provisions came through the mercies of God. He was the classic, self-made man and he was declaring that he owed nobody consideration or anyone anything.
2. As a process of his thinking he asked himself a rhetorical question, "What shall I do?" It was not how can I use this excess to help the poor and the hungry and those disadvantaged, no it was not Lord, how can I use this, to bring glory and honour to your name, no it was about me and my goods and nothing else really mattered.
3. This man's thinking was flawed, in common with most rich people, since he could have kept his barns and build additional barns for the extra produce but like all fabulously rich people, excessive grandeur is their style. He would demolish perfectly good barns and build new and better ones to demonstrate his financial might; almost as wasteful as his counterparts of today.
4. He boasted to his soul that he had years of sumptuous living ahead. Here laid naked is the presumption of the rich that their wealth and riches are there to be enjoyed for years to come, this man assumed that no fire could burn his stuff, no worms could invade and destroy his produce and thieves could never rob him. He assumed a long life, continuous prosperity and security of all that was his. He gave no thought to the fleeting and uncertain nature of riches and his indeterminate mortality - the very epitome of a foolish rich.
5. He counselled his soul how to be happy, "take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry" and this is symptomatic of a class of prosperous people. These carnal, secular rich indulges themselves in boisterous entertainment, much ease and ongoing joyfulness and think that that is the way it will be for the duration of their life. Richest Jews in the New Testament era saw these privileges as a right to be enjoyed and tokens of their class.
God through providence provides for all, and none should take for granted what God has so graciously provided; for God always have the final word, and in this case the rich man was going to be dead that same night; within hours of his boastful pronouncements.
See how God responded to this vain rich man with some important things of utmost importance:
a) God spoke to him. Never mind that in all his deliberations and planning God was not included yet it was God who now controlled his destiny. People who forget God in their pomposity and pride and pretension must remember that the time of accounting always comes to them sooner or later. Whatever they think matters not; for God is in control.
b) God called him a fool. No not the kind that is dim-witted and walking the streets not knowing or caring where he is, but the kind that makes great plans that come to naught, or build great edifices that come tumbling down because they were built on sand, or the ones who "said in his heart there is no God" (Psalm 53:1)
c) God told him a secret. The Bible says that the secret things belong to God (Deuteronomy 29:29) and the time of one's death is one such secret and God enlightened this foolish rich man with that salient fact. God told him quite clearly, "this night thy soul shall be required of thee" or as put by another version, "Foolish man! Tonight you will die" (Luke 12:20 Easy-To-Read Version)
All of the above constitutes what is regarded as greediness, a destructive sense of egotism, a lack of altruism and an absence of genuine, spiritual understanding.
There is on the other hand a different perception and a wholesome appreciation of prosperity, but it comes not from the so-called spiritual or secular rich but from those richly endowed with grace. Here is how King David put it:
"What shall I render unto Jehovah For all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of Jehovah. I will pay my vows unto Jehovah, Yea, in the presence of all the people." (Psalm 116: 12-14)
Here is the true and proper way to show appreciation, thanks and gratitude for all that God has done to you and for you. Call them what you will; blessings, prosperity, benefits, goodness or favours they are all unmerited, derived from the grace and mercy of God and to him, above all, are praises and glory due.
Remember that God's favours may not even be material for it is through him and by the exercise of his grace that we have good health, all our faculties, can enjoy family and friends, sleep well at nights, have a good name, have a pure heart and a good mind and so much else besides. It is without doubt that a great favour done by a friend must be appreciated and responded to and in all conscience can we treat Almighty God less favourably?
So you decide, are you grateful or just plain greedy?
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013