In the Pulitzer-finalist novel Godric, the nobleman Flambard was a mammoth man with a huge belly and hands that “hung at his sides like hams.” His feet were wide like boats and his stride so broad “you couldn’t walk with him but feel you were a puppy on a string.” However, one of Flambard’s most arresting features was his bushy mane of red hair. We’re told that “Flambard” means flame or torch. However, the character’s flaming head may not have been the inspiration for his name. As author Frederick Buechner wrote, “Some say … they named him thus because what was on fire was his greed. The more it swallowed up, the more it blazed. Not all the gold and power in the land could keep it fed.”
Doesn’t this seem true of greed? Wherever and whenever it appears, the desire to grab, possess, or consume can never be sated. Greed may set hungry eyes on some object it must have, that one thing promising to finally assuage its overwhelming, ravenous craves. However, no matter how much this voracious energy devours, the conquest never proves enough. As soon as greed licks its greasy chops, it goes on the prowl again.
Read Luke 12:13-26
Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from this passage. Then read the section, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus spoke a clear word on the subject, which contrasts sharply with Flambard’s covetous and grasping existence: “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). The Lord offered this admonition in response to a dispute between two brothers who were embroiled in an argument concerning their inheritance. However, Jesus knew that the quarrel was not ultimately about some legal misunderstanding but rather was due to the brother’s insatiable clutching after money, land, position, and power. The man simply wanted more.
Jesus illuminated the foolishness of following the allure of greed and revealed how such a path would always prove destructive. He warned that despite its frenzied effort, greed would never find contentment: It leads us on infinite cycles of dissatisfaction, always in search of more and more and more. To make His point, Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had all the land and grain he could possibly use but nevertheless lusted for what he did not possess. He wanted only to compound his wealth, and it was this avarice that led to disaster (Luke 12:16-21).
Greed never finds contentment: It leads us on infinite cycles of dissatisfaction, always in search of more and more and more.
Jesus also insisted that greed, instead of providing gratification, actually increases our frantic panic to procure what we think will make us happy. Since greed refuses to ever be satisfied, such efforts to secure our well-being inevitably fail. As Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (Luke 12:22-23 NIV). Our life, Jesus tells us, is in God’s hands, not our own. This means we can reject greed and its false promises. We can slough off all the worry, the heavy weight that comes from trying to gobble up enough to quench our desires. Greed never provides the security it promises; that’s something only God can deliver.
Write your thoughts in the space provided for notes or in a journal.
• Reread the parable Jesus told to warn His followers about the dangers of greed (Luke 12:16-21). How did this rich man’s greed evidence itself? What do you think was at the heart of his thirst for more?
• Read another of the Lord’s parables in the gospel of Luke: the perplexing story of the ten minas (Luke 19:11-27). How do you understand this parable? In what way is this different from the greed Jesus rebukes in the Luke 12 passage? What are the similarities between these two parables? After reading the stories side by side, what questions come to mind?
• Read 1 Timothy 6:17-18. What does Paul say is “uncertain”? What kind of uncertainty do you think he has in mind? Where does the apostle say we can look for certainty? Why do you think we are continually tempted to look elsewhere for assurance?
• Where does the temptation of greed show up most often for you? Are you greedy with your time? Your love? Your money? In what other areas do people manifest greediness?
• What correlation do you see between greed and increased anxiety? When you are clawing after friendships, resources, or security, how might you find it more difficult to trust God’s care and His good intentions for you? How do you “worry about your life”?
• Consider the observation about Flambard in Godric: The more his greed swallowed up, the more powerfully it blazed. What causes your greed to blaze?
• Think of a fictional character or cultural icon who strikes you as greedy. What do you notice about his or her life? Does this person ever seem truly happy or content? Why do you think it is frequently easier to see greed in others than in oneself?
• Stay attuned these next few days to the allure of greed. Where do you sense the tenacious call to grab more, to want more, to secure more? Why do you think greed is such a powerful temptation for us? As you notice its pull, what helps you to resist?
• This week, consider a prayer like the following: God, I know what You say is true—that my life is more than what I possess, more than what I grasp. My life is in You. Teach me to be content and to trust. Amen.