Mrs. Henrietta Garret, of Philadelphia, died at the age of 81 leaving an estate worth of $17 million dollars without a will. She had a relative, a second cousin, but many attempted to prove their relationship with her and claim their “entitled” right to her estate. More than 20,000 people from 47 states and 29 foreign countries, 3,000 lawyers and mounds of falsified paperwork attempted to claim the money. As a result, 12 were fined, 10 received jail sentences, 2 committed suicide and 3 were murdered .
We can hear these cases, which seem so far fetched, but when they hit close to home greed becomes very real. Twice in my family, once with my mother and my stepfather, greed has consumed relatives, blinding them to their insatiable appetite for money. My grandparents passed in 2000. With the passing and heartache attached, my mother began the painful process of going through their home and personal possessions. My childhood memories of my grandparents are devoted to their home and belongings they treasured. When my estranged aunt heard of their passing, legality in the will allowed her half of my grandparent’s belongings. My mother sold everything my Papa and Memaw had to pay my aunt half of the estate.
My stepfather experienced the same fate when his parents passed. Relatives came in, falsified documents and proceeded to take over his childhood home and investments. Unable to prove the documents were forged, the relatives received a large part of his parent’s estate, relinquishing family memories and childhood reminisces. We have since uncovered, this has been a pattern for the relatives every time a person dies in the family. Greed.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, greed is defined as the selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed; motivated by naked ambition and greed. Covetousness is marked by an inordinate desire for wealth or possessions or for another’s possessions; have a craving for a possession.
The AMP Bible defines covet as “selfish desire and an attempt to acquire, or actively seeking for himself or what belongs to another, and would have no sense of guilt” what is not yours (Exodus 20:17, 34:24, Romans 7:7). Knowing the open door and dark invitation man has for possessions and money, our Lord ingeniously added, “You shall not covet” in the Ten Commandments. This darkness of greed and covet infiltrates and literally squeezes the life out of you and all those near:
Proverbs 1:19, “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; greed takes away the lives of its possessors.”
Job 20:20, “Because he knew no quietness or calm within him [because of his greed], he does not retain anything he desires.”
Psalm 10:3, “For the wicked boasts and sings the praises of his heart’s desire, and the greedy man curses and spurs [and even despises] the Lord.”
Proverbs 11:6, “The righteousness of the upright will rescue them, but the treacherous will be caught by their own greed.”
Isaiah 56:11, “And the dogs are greedy; they have enough. They are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unlawful gain, without exception.”
James 4:2, “You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your lust goes unfulfilled; so you murder. You are envious and cannot obtain [the object of your envy]; so you fight and battle. You do not have because you do not ask [it of God]. You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desire.”
Greed and covetousness come in a variety of forms. Our spirits are to be on guard for such deceitful desires beginning to take root, “But those who [are not financially ethical and] crave to get rich [with a compulsive, greedy longing for wealth] fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction [leading to personal misery]” (1 Timothy 6:9). Remember, the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy; greed and covetousness are fruits of Satan.
Greed and covetousness were evident in the Israelites such as the desires for Egyptian delicacies, spoils of war, and financial gain. Jesus of Nazareth called out the Pharisees for such outrageous displays of greed when He said, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness” (Luke 11:39). “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside you are full of extortion and robbery and self-indulgence (unrestrained greed)” (Matthew 23:25).
Greed shows and displays itself when a desire is unfulfilled. Wealth is not the only area greed controls; it slowly creeps and crawls its way into marriages, business, churches, and children. Like an unseen breeze in the air, we feel and smell before we search and discover. The rancid stench of decay engulfs our pleasantries before we investigate the cause. We cannot see the rotting or darkness hidden causing the foul odor, but we can sense and smell the fragrance of its presence against a backdrop of beautiful scenery. What may seem to be pleasant becomes disrupted with a vile obscurity.
Sensuality overtakes a man of God. Samson is world renowned for his strength and good looks. He is a major judge, but hardly a role model for his people. He has defiled the Living God’s command, as a Nazirite, to not touch the dead, drink any fermented grapes, nor cut his hair. Drawn to the lures of sexual attraction, Samson’s entrapment is a woman of known deceit.
A Philistine woman living in the Valley of Sorek, Delilah was a cunning and sensual woman. An offer of eleven hundred pieces of silver would be given to her if she could coerce Samson to disclose the source of his strength. Here began a game of cat and mouse. Samson toyed with Delilah, which only increased her desire for knowledge. She pouts and puckers, arms crossed, as each of her schemes fails to unveil the source.
Determined to obtain the silver treasure, Delilah uses her femininity and Samson’s heart to betray Yahweh. The Bible says she pressed him day after day, patronized Samson for mocking her and finally portraying the broken-hearted victim, she cries, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me three times and have not told me where your great strength lies’” (Judges 16:15). Her pathetic performance pushed Samson over the edge and divulged the truth.
I find most greedy people persistent. Refusing to believe their “extra” hard work for money, their vicious gossiping of others while climbing the corporate ladder, and an over zealous desire to be at the top, greedy people stomp and grind those on the ground with handcrafted, leather, designer shoes or high heel stilettos. We look up, wiping the dust and dirt from our face as we watch the greedy spirit make its way to the top of the ladder. Standing up, slowly we swipe and shake the dust from our clothes. It just doesn’t seem fair. Why does it seem the ones who cause the most pain win?
They do not always overcome, greed and covetousness do. How does this spirit win? But killing and destroying the victim it entraps. Lot’s wife lived a life of plenty. Situated in Sodom, Lot, his wife, and daughters live in a cesspool of iniquity. Lot is described in 2 Peter 2:7-9 as, “……righteous man, who was tormented by the immoral conduct of unprincipled and ungodly men [for that just man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by what he saw and heard of their lawless acts)….”
Being warned of destruction coming to their city, Lot and his family run to safety. Instructed to not look back, Lot’s wife cannot help but hold on to her precious possessions in her heart. Her life and role of affluence, all her acquired treasures, and life of promised prosperity was, literally, evaporating before her grasp. Amid the fire and brimstone, Lot’s wife is compelled to look back; it was her last. Greed won, encompassing her in sulphurous fumes and encrusting her with salt. The darkness, in which pierced her soul, overtook her heart with thorns of desire, greed, treasure, status, and pleasure.
Ironically, we are called to be salt and light. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its purpose, how can it be made salty? It is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and walked on my people. You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).
How do we know if we harbor greed and covet in our hearts? Greed is a form of idolatry, “So put to death and deprive of power the evil longings of your earthly body [with its sensual self-centered instincts] immorality, impurity, sinful passion, evil desires, and greed, which is [a kind of] idolatry [because it replaces your devotion to God]” (Colossians 3:5). God considers greed an offensive behavior and asks we not even have a hint of it among us, “But sexual immorality and all impurity [indecent, offensive behavior] or greed must not even be hinted at among you, as is proper among saints [for as believers our way of life, whether in public or in private, reflects the validity of our faith]” (Ephesians 5:3).
Greed overtakes our senses. In a delusion, we believe a lie:
“I’m only providing for my family! I’m a success! I’m climbing the corporate ladder. It’s the survival of the fittest!” These are lies we believe when our hearts desire something other than what God wants us to have such as a promotion, a certain job, a bigger house, a nicer car, expensive clothing, more stuff to fill our big house with, or expensive vacations. If you feel your heart divided against itself, then I would encourage you to begin praying. Seek the Truth from our Lord and be honest with yourself. It is far easier to hear flattery and worldly congratulations, than God’s Truth as to what is deep rooted in our hearts.
Greed and covetousness do not only permeate the ranks of business, but also the churches. A few years ago, Tommy and I attended a large church. The lead pastor snuck off into the night when God revealed promiscuous affairs and extra curricular activities during his tenure those twenty-plus years. A gentleman, in passing, commented to Thomas, “How many marriages were affected by the pastor’s facade of character? How many wives do you think told their husbands, ‘I wish you were more like Pastor ________.’ I wonder what those wives say now?”
We can covet another’s treasure, another’s spouse, another’s job, another’s house, another’s car, another’s salary, another’s children, and another’s position. When our hearts desire something other than God, our relationship with Christ suffers. A rich young man asks Christ what he must do to inherit eternal life. He has followed all the commandments of the Lord and has kept them since his youth. “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love [high regard, compassion] for him, and He said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go and sell all your property and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow me [become my disciple, believing and trusting in me and walking the same path of life what I walk].’ But the man was saddened at Jesus’ word, and he left grieving, because he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God]” (Mark 10:17-22).
Greed and covetousness are lies. If we desire Truth, I pray you begin a journey of healing. Somewhere, a seed of greed has been planted. Whether it be when you were a child, struggling and poor; whether it be your proclamation to yourself, ‘I will never be like my parents!’; whether it be a competitive spirit, striving beyond your gifted abilities; whether it be a jealous seed planted when you were young, comparing your abilities to another’s and you never quite measured up. Why and how the seeds have grown into a harvest of constant comparison, jealous envy, wanting what others have, or desiring perfection, we are called to rip, pluck and prune our fruits.
Our culture has a weird notion that God does not bless His people. That is incorrect and a misrepresentation of Scripture:
Proverbs 10:22, “The blessings of the Lord bring [true] riches, and He adds no sorrow to it [for it comes as a blessing from God].”
1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money [that is, the greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically] is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves [through and through] with many sorrows.”
God’s blessing of money can do amazing things: send out missionaries, grow the church, help the poor, establish businesses, live debt free, and help those in need. God desires His people to be the head and not the tail, to live abundant lives, using their gifts and talents to glorify Him. Jesus never said He would not give the young man His fortunes back; it was a test the lad failed. Maybe our Lord would have blessed the young man with more or even filled him with the spirit of contentment, “Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace] (Philippians 4:11-13).
When we understand whom our Provider is, our purpose in life, a gift or talent bestowed upon us by the Lord, and our unique place in this time and history, our self-centered ideals begin to dissipate and our minds are renewed to focus on the Lord. The Holy Spirit encourages us to stop looking at our circumstances, to stop desiring what everyone else has and we don’t, and encourages our heart’s to stop comparing our lives to another people. Through this process, our spirit comes alive and draws toward what God intents us to be.
How many would love to be as Paul, content whether we have or not? How many would love to come home from a long day and enjoy their family, their house, their finances, and their jobs? There is only one way to enjoy life and live it to the fullest, “Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you” (James 4:8). It is only through our relationship with Christ and the Father where we will find complete rest in our hearts.
As with any process, I would begin by finding Scripture to repeat over your spirit. Rebuke any thoughts of comparison to other people and confess what God says about you. I would also take inventory of whom my time is spent with and what I am watching on television. If you are consumed with infomercials, self-indulgent music or movies, watching everything to do with the rich and famous, my goodness woman, stop what you are doing and seek the Living God! These television shows, people, reality garbage, and music will steal the seed God is planting in your heart. You will never be more than a conqueror if you continue to live a life of want. Seek first the Kingdom of God, aim at and strive after His righteousness [His way of doing and being right – the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also” (Matthew 6:33).
We all need to come before the Living God praying these Scriptures over our hearts and minds, renewing them daily with His Word. These are not my words; these are God’s Words, which have the power to change you from the inside out. I love this verse from Romans, and I repeat it continuously; this verse has changed my life . I pray you commit it to memory and believe how amazing and powerful our Father is. “And do not conform to this world [any longer with is superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]” (Romans 12:2).