What determines whether or not someone is greedy? We read about a man in Luke 12:13-21 who wanted part of an inheritance, but Jesus told him to watch out for greed, because a man’s life doesn’t consist of the abundance of his possessions. Christ then told the parable of the rich fool:
A rich man owned land that produced good crops, and he worried about where to store all of his bounty. He decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. Then, with his future secure, he could take life easy. However, God said that this man was a fool. He told the man, “This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Christ said that this is the way it would be for anyone who stores up things for himself on earth, but who isn’t rich toward God.
Most of us struggle with finances every day. Our flesh is greedy, and our desires determine our greed. We usually wish that we could be financially independent. We should all be good stewards of all that God gives us, but when finances become too important, our lives become defined by our possessions.
We seem to think that most of our problems would be solved if we could only inherit a fortune from someone. Knowing that this probably won’t happen, we instead try to save money in order to be able to take it easy in our retirement years. Jesus reminds us that even if we successfully build an IRA account, we could die on the first day after we retire. Then who would reap the financial benefits of our life of labor? Ecclesiastes 2:26 says, “To the man who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.”
Have you ever thought about people who win the lottery, or who inherit a lot of money? Most of them waste all of their money by accumulating an excess of material things, and they go right back into debt, worse than before. This is like dieting. When we are convicted about being overweight, we set a goal, we diet, we reach our goal, and then we fall back into the same bad habits and become heavier than we were before our diet. The few lottery winners who don’t upgrade their lifestyle with the winnings are probably the same ones who had the fortitude to work and save all of their lives. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”
Most of us have saved money to buy something, and just when we had saved almost enough, we were hit with an unexpected expense, and we didn’t get to buy that new thing after all. This should teach us something about greed. The value of our lives is determined by our love for God, not by the abundance of our toys.