Monday, July 9, 2018

Stronghold Starter #4: Greed/Envy: I Deserve More. Others? Less.

In the pursuit of wealth and the good life: 

When it's me, I am being ambitious; providing for my family; investing in the future; enjoying life; grabbing some gusto; trying to make sure my kids lack nothing.  

When it's you, you are being greedy.  

Do you notice the duplicity?  I have rationalized my greediness into something respectable.  My motives are noble and yours are not.  

But greed by any other name would still stink.  Why?  Greed is love misplaced.  Greed says:

I deserve it. (God is taking too long or just doesn't understand the needs I have.)
I deserve more. (God will meet my needs, yes, but my wants?  I have to provide.)
I need more.  (God just doesn't understand the emptiness I feel; money and stuff help fill the void.)
I can give more to the Kingdom. (But I skim off my portion first; God gets the leftovers.)

My love for God is being poisoned, for deep inside I really don't trust Him.  My love gets poured into what I can do and what I can control.  Look what Jesus says in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

Service comes from loyalty, love and trust.  I can serve me or I can trust God's love for me, and serve Him. 

OK.  We expect the world to be greedy.  They don't have the Lord.  But I have seen greed in church.  I have seen it in me in church.  I have seen my greed become envy and it is disgusting:  

Hey!  I am a talented singer.  Why is she on the worship team and not me?
Hey!  I wanted to be the women's ministry leader: I am the most mature.  Why wasn't I picked? 
Hey!  I have the most knowledge of the Bible than any of those folks.  I should be upfront teaching.  
Hey!  The men in our church are so passive.  Why can't women be pastors?  Why does the Word limit us? 

So, greed and its mini-me, envy, become a mindset.  "I, I, I..." is the key of the song of pride I sing.  I assume God has a limited number of pie slices of service, so if you get one slice, you've taken one from me.  So, I have to push, scheme and pray that I get it.  If I don't get it, I have the right to resent you.  

Even if the Lord has closed the door to me, I still look over my shoulder at you.  But I am like Lot's wife--I am encased in the salt of pride and greed.  I deserve this!  You?  Not so much.

Look at the advice that Paul gives to a young pastor in 1 Timothy 6:10:  "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Hear that church?  How many pastors have built a foundation of "You give to me to get from God but I keep the money for myself" for a ministry?  How many people see a big church, a big building, big programs and a big budget and say, "Wow!  That church is blessed?"  Is it?  

Then Jesus was a failure according to the modern definition of church success: "Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matt. 8:20)

If we follow Him, we follow Him!  Look how Jesus lived:  He trusted in God's provision every day of His life. 

We don't rationalize our greedy grabbing because somehow God is limited in His resources. We look at money as a blessing to pass on to others, and not see it as an end in itself. Yes, God is delighted when we are delighted, but He is aggrieved when we focus on the gift, and not the Gift-Giver.

Greed is a stronghold starter because it keeps the focus on us and not on God.  It causes us to trust ourselves; to look at God with reservations and not with total love and gratitude; and it causes strife in the church:  "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:16)  

How many churches and ministries are ineffectual because behind the scenes, disorder and evil practices reign?  

There is no "I" in Jesus.  There is "us."  You and me.  Jesus and us.  We are His body.  He loves us and nothing on this earth can ever replace that: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6-7)

Paul learned this:  "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:10-13)

Here is where we stand when Satan casts aspersions on God's goodness and provision: "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:19)



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