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Greed — What is it? Why is it Bad?

Greed is the love of money — the idolization of lucre, the obsession with wealth — and any corruption that goes with it. Please understand that it’s not money that’s bad, but rather the love of it. (People often misquote 1 Timothy 6:10).

Many righteous men and women in the Bible were wealthy or became wealthy or, at the very least, had ample money to live on, but that didn’t make them guilty of greed. Examples include Abraham, Job, David and Solomon. Speaking of Solomon, he fell away from God later in life, but it wasn’t due to his wealth, but rather his weakness for women (see 1 Kings 11:1-6). Some people wrongly claim that Jesus was poor, but he wasn’t. Yes, he was born in a stable because there were no inns available, but during his life he was a carpenter who made good money, much like quality carpenters today. When he became a traveling minister at the age of 30 he wasn’t poor either; one member of his ministry team was assigned the job of treasurer (John 12:6 & 13:29). Also, Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11). Jesus didn’t become poor until he was unjustly apprehended and crucified, as shown in 2 Corinthians 8:9. Poverty is a curse (Deuteronomy 28) and “cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole” (Galatians 3:13).

It’s significant to note that when Paul instructed the young pastor Timothy on rich people in the congregation he didn’t tell him to rebuke them for being wealthy or greedy, he simply told him to tell them not to be arrogant, to put their hope in God rather than their riches and “to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:17-18). Why did Timothy have to tell them not to be arrogant? Because the attainment of wealth tends to feed the fleshly ego and tempts people to look down on those with less. This is a form of greed. So is putting on airs to impress others. Needless to say, if you’re wealthy don’t let it go to your head.

Why did Paul want Timothy to instruct the wealthy to be generous? Because giving is the proof you’ve conquered greed.

It should be emphasized that you can be dirt poor and be guilty of the love of money. I was a supervisor at a company years ago and we hired  a woman of modest means. She once took other peoples pay envelopes because she thought there was cash in them, like hers, but when she discovered they had checks in them she gave them back — ripped open, of course. Why did she do this? Because she loved money so much that she was willing to steal other people’s money if the opportunity presented itself. In essence, money had become the god whom she obeyed. As such, the love of money — greed — is a form of idolatry.

Another obvious example of greed is when an employer hoards profits for his or her luxuries, but fails to pay the workers on payday. The is being a rich oppressor and it’s condemned in the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). Yes, in that culture workers were paid at the end of each day but the principle holds true today in that workers are to be paid on payday. James 5:1-5 is a sobering passage warning employers who hoard profits while failing to pay their workers. If they refuse to repent they’ll reap judgment and destruction!

One of the best verses on greed is Luke 12:15 where Jesus said:

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

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