On Your Guard!

Greed is a trap of unending discontent. Don't fall for its empty promises.

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.”

The Bend in the road, 1900-06 (oil on canvas), by Paul Cézanne

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.

Reflect

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?

Respond

• 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?

Revisit

• 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.

 

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

Related Stories

What happens to my notes

13 Someone in the crowd said to Him, Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me."

14 But He said to him, Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?"

15 Then He said to them, 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."

16 And He told them a parable, saying, The land of a rich man was very productive.

17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, `What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?'

18 Then he said, `This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.

19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."'

20 But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'

21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

22 And He said to His disciples, For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.

23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!

25 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span?

26 If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?

15 Then He said to them, 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."

16 And He told them a parable, saying, The land of a rich man was very productive.

17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, `What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?'

18 Then he said, `This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.

19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."'

20 But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'

21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

22 And He said to His disciples, For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.

23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

11 While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.

12 So He said, A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return.

13 And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, `Do business with this until I come back. '

14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, `We do not want this man to reign over us.'

15 When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done.

16 The first appeared, saying, `Master, your mina has made ten minas more.'

17 And he said to him, `Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.'

18 The second came, saying, `Your mina, master, has made five minas.'

19 And he said to him also, `And you are to be over five cities.'

20 Another came, saying, `Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief;

21 for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.'

22 He said to him, `By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?

23 Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?'

24 Then he said to the bystanders, `Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.'

25 And they said to him, `Master, he has ten minas already. '

26 I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.

27 But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence."

17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,

Background Color:
Light
Aa
Dark
Aa
Font size:
A
A
A