The Bible is Harsh on Greed!

Greed

Greed (Photo credit: Sam Wolff)

 

When we take a moment to look outside of the inward national perspective that we as Americans have, and view the global economy, those with a conscience are very easily shocked and dismayed at the facts.

Most of what we buy from developing countries is grown or manufactured by workers whose rights are ignored in important ways. Cell-phone components from China, fruit grown in Mexico, and the Indian cotton in your shirt are commonly processed by workers who were not paid minimum wage, who were exposed to hazardous chemicals or dangerous machinery, who were forced to work overtime, or who were prevented from organizing to negotiate changes in such conditions.  (http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2007/06/overseas_sweats.html)

It seems that it’s impossible to avoid participating in the products mentioned above and live in our society.  There are factors of greed bleeding out from corporate America that contribute to the problem, and there are factors of injustice, oppression and poverty within the countries that perpetrate these unfair working conditions.

We can react in one of two extreme ways:

We can turn a blind eye and sit back in our comfortable, selfish American squalor and not care.  After all, the stores and companies that bring these products out on the backs of slaves aren’t really at fault, right?  We should just live our lives and do the best we can with what we’ve been given, and impact the immediate community around us, not worrying about our global neighbors.

Or we can react in anger and radical extremism.  Recently my wife Sarah and I watched a movie called “Machine Gun Preacher” about a man who was saved from heroin addiction and a life of crime, and became a pastor and advocate for the displaced children of Uganda.  But he became so involved of the lives of these children that he began to neglect his family, and even his faith.  He became bitter and violent.  He surely was fighting injustice and helping these otherwise helpless kids, but destroyed his own soul in the process.

When I look at the passage, written by Jesus’ half-brother James, in chapter 5, verses 1 through 6, I realize how harsh the Bible is towards greed and materialism.

Come now, (A)you rich, weep and howl for the (B)miseries that are coming upon you.(C)Your riches have rotted and (D)your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.(E)You have laid up treasure (F)in the last days. Behold, (G)the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and (H)the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of (I)the Lord of hosts. (J)You have lived on the earth in luxury and (K)in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in (L)a day of slaughter. You have condemned and (M)murdered (N)the righteous person. He does not resist you.

I know I am not one to sit as the judge over the world, because the Bible instructs me to to judge those inside the church, and not those outside (1 Cor. 5:12).  So in light of this passage, I will address the church and her leaders.

We in the church do need to care about global issues.  We may not do it perfectly, but we need to try our best to throw our money towards companies practicing worthy business tactics.

And as leaders in the church, in America particularly, we shouldn’t be afraid to be as harsh as the book of James is on the perils of wealth and consumerism.  Anyone who participates in any sort of greed is guilty of perpetuating injustice somehow, even if it may not be overtly.  We need to denounce the spirit of this age that is teaching us to gather and hide as much as we can, while ignoring the suffering.  This indictment cannot be ignored towards the people of God, either.  It can’t be overlooked in favor of keeping the greedy in our pews, along with ten percent of their fat paychecks.  It’s a simple fact that if we want the Lord to be working in our midst, we need to honor Him and His Word in any and every way possible.

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Jesus Partied Like This…

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In the account of the book of Luke, chapter 14, Jesus was at the house of this wealthy religious leader, who had a bunch of guests over for a chunk of bread or two.  It doesn’t say so, but they’re likely all people of the same faith and belief as him.

So Jesus does something socially unacceptable!  He addresses this crowd of religious people and tells them this parable: “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

He was definitely telling this wealthy religious leader and his toadies that he and they should care for the poor and the left behind, and not just his wealthy, holy-rolling country-club buddies. 

But He was also challenging this guy’s close-minded “clique” mentality.  This guy wanted to be around people that believed what he did and behaved how he behaved.  The religious leaders and people in Jesus’ time were often guilty of this.  They did nothing but super religious things.  They only hung around people like them, they only associated with people in “safe” situations where they could feel comfortable and “holy”.  

And it’s no different today!  People in the church- who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ- have an unspoken formula to take people through when they become saved.  First- they accept Christ, then they come to church regularly, then they come to bible study, prayer meeting, all the church events, etc…  The next thing you know, they’ve lost complete touch with anyone who is not a Christian- and they’re failing to fulfill the mission of Christ.  They’ve become a nice “Christian”- but they’re not completely following Jesus!  We’re deceiving ourselves if we think that this is what a life lived for Jesus is all about!

We need to train each other to be people of influence, who don’t attach themselves to people who don’t follow Jesus and get dragged down by bad character, but instead are STRONG in our faith and become a FORCE to draw people towards Christ by our life of love, hospitality, grace, purity, righteousness, honesty and truth.  We need to invite people who are disadvantaged and outcast into our lives, homes, game board playing times, leisure times, TV watching times, hiking times, and mealtimes to taste and see that the Lord is good.  We also need to keep our eyes and ears open to those that are spiritually poor, spiritually crippled, spiritually lame, and spiritually blind.  We can be a light and blessing to them- we are COMMANDED to be!

And this doesn’t mean that we’ll be shoving the gospel down their throat.  It means that we’ll build loving relationships, and simply be faithful to give an answer for the hope that is within us when the time is right.