Life Notes—July 4, 2013
“And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’” Luke 12:15
The third of the seven deadly sins is greed. Like the preceding deadly sins, lust and gluttony, greed is a sin of excess. Desiring something becomes a sin when that desire overwhelms common sense and decency. To want to possess that which is necessary and useful in our lives is natural. But when we begin to hoard possessions in quantities we are unlikely to ever need or use is when it crosses the line to sin. At that point our possessions possess us, and we become their slaves. And our possessions, which could have value to others in need, become essentially valueless.
It may be helpful, at this point in this sin-filled series of essays, to review the nature of sin and why it is to be avoided. A simple definition of sin is that which separates us from God. The seven deadly sins are considered deadly because they are believed to be the origin of all other sins. And it is sin which separates us from the new life promised in Christ. Many of us have an inherent aversion to discussing sin because it makes us feel guilty and dirty. We feel like a puppy who is told “Bad dog!” when he wets on the carpet. Obviously, the puppy is not a bad dog for wetting on the carpet. The puppy is a good dog that did something inconsistent with the best interests of the puppy’s family. The puppy did not wet the carpet because it was bad. The puppy wet the carpet (1) because he needed to go to the bathroom, and (2) he had not learned how to meet his needs in a family-friendly way. In like manner, the fact that we sin does not make us bad people. We were created in the image of God—we are very good people who sometimes act in ways that are not family-friendly. Our sin, a natural part of our human condition, separates us from God and our community. Our desire to eliminate sin from our lives, to the extent possible, should not be driven by our desire to be a good person, but by our desire to become a better member of our family and community. It is in our own best interest, as well as being consistent with the best interests of those around us. Life is simply better for everyone when there is less sin. When we tell a person they are a sinner, even in truth, they are much more likely to hear they are a bad person (Bad dog!), than hear they are a good person who can become better. When we wet the carpet, we don’t need our noses rubbed in our mistake; we need to be lovingly and patiently shown a better way. Showing a better way is the responsibility of Christians—not because we’re perfect, but because we have been shown the better way of love through Christ. And, as with most things in life, the most effective witness is a living example to emulate.
So the danger with greed, to us and others, is not in wanting something. The danger is in wanting something to such an extent and in such a quantity, and to want to possess it so completely that the object of our desire is no longer useful to meet our own needs or the needs of others. We must learn that the true graces of God cannot be hoarded, but must be shared in order to bless us and others.
Come home to church this Sunday. The value of life is not in the abundance of possessions.
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator