August 2, 2016

"What is Greed?" (Luke 12:13-21)

The Oxford Dictionary online defines “greed” as: “intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.” In the scripture story from Luke about the man who demands that Jesus tell his brother to split his inheritance with him, Jesus tells him to “guard against all kinds of greed,” then tells a parable about a rich man who plans (with himself) to store an incredible harvest by building bigger barns. What is the moral of this story for us? What is the “greed” we need to guard against as Christians?

The problem in this parable is not the man’s wealth, but his selfish hoarding. Poverty does not render one immune from selfishness.

What kind of selfishness have we been living? Do we exploit others unknowingly in response to our greed? Do we ignore others in response to our self-centeredness? Do we justify it by saying that we’re only claiming our rights? (like the original questioner)

Jesus tells us that relationships are more important than the accumulation of stuff. The purpose of our life on earth is to make the lives of others better. This man had the potential to make other peoples’ lives better. Instead, he considered only his own comfort – which Jesus says is not smart at all, but foolish. He will die without fulfilling his purpose.

And so we find the very definition of greed. Greed is asking “How can I be more comfortable?, rather than asking “How can I be in better relationship with my brother, my neighbor?” How can I make their lives better?”

We, too, have been tempted to place our own already-established physical comfort ahead of being in better relationship with our neighbors.

To follow Jesus, we must instead ask ourselves: How can I be in better relationship with my brother, my neighbor? And indeed, let’s not just ask ourselves, let’s ask our neighbors! Let’s ask each other. Let’s ask God. How can we be in better relationship with our neighbors, Lord?