Our craving for more has plagued us from the very beginning.
Our first parents lusted after more when they trusted a talking snake and took forbidden fruit to satisfy their longing to be like God (Genesis 3:5). When God brought his beloved people through the parted sea, Israel’s triumphant song devolved into grumbling over meat and bread in less than two months (Exodus 16:2–3). The prophet Amos decried the northern kingdom of Israel for their gluttonous appetite, which led them to “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” (Amos 2:6–8).
The Old Testament leaves us with no lack for examples of greed among God’s chosen people.
And should we think we’re immune, we must realize that this diseased desire for greedy gain doesn’t just infiltrate its way from outside us into the recesses of our minds; it bubbles through the cracks of hearts that exchange “the fountain of living waters” for “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
The cup of our lives might sparkle with that just-washed sheen on the outside, but inside, the grime of greed has caked itself on in layers too thick to scrub away with mere elbow grease.
Greed Doesn’t Discriminate
Greed’s deceit knows no socioeconomic boundaries. Whether you’re of modest means, have an overflowing portfolio, or find yourself smack-dab in “the disappearing middle,” the song of More! rings sweet in all our ears. Proverbs says as much when the sage inquires of God,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
Indeed, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” — especially idolatry (1 Timothy 6:10). When we start thinking we have enough, we conveniently forget the one who gave to us in the first place. Or when bills seem to devour every last dime, we show our distrust of God’s promise to provide by taking matters (or sometimes, things that don’t rightfully belong to us) into our own hands. Whatever the number of figures in your salary, we all tend to slide right past the midpoint of contentment into havens of greed.
In Gold We Trust
In the wealthy, twenty-first-century West, we tend to have more reasons to forget the Giver than to pilfer goods. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American man one-hundred years ago made about $687 a year, roughly the equivalent of $16,063 in the present day. That wage just doesn’t quite measure up to the comparatively handsome full-time median income of $50,383 today. On average, we’re nearly three times as better off wage-wise than we were a century ago.
And while not at the very top of the GDP per capita list, the U.S. always ranks high. Compared to most of the world, 71 percent of whom live on less than ten dollars a day (not to mention the 15 percent who live on less than $2 a day), most Americans boast incredible wealth.
You might not think so when you pull up your account balances, but the average man or woman in the land of the free is exceedingly rich. And because of our affluence, we must remain all the more vigilant. John Piper explains,
Jesus never said, “It’s hard for a person in Darfur to get into the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus just said, “It’s hard for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven,” so the most dangerous place to raise a kid is America.
We may never really believe it, but our seemingly safe streets, dotted with single-family homes, can lurk with more danger than a war-torn, famine-stricken land. There, sin’s destruction reigns apparent in violence and hunger. But here, the wealth that masquerades as God’s undeniable favor can turn, oh so subtly, into a barrier, not a blessing. A craving for more, intensified by our exceptional means, just might lead some of us away from the faith (1 Timothy 6:10).
Of course, reaping the fruits of a harvest God has graciously provided is no sin — as long as we realize that we’re just stewards at every step. Whatever we have, we’ve received (1 Corinthians 4:7). When we acknowledge that every good gift comes to us from our generous Father (James 1:17), gratitude smothers our desire for more, and grace begins to loosen greed’s icy grip.
When I’m tempted to complain about how the mileage on our family’s minivan is equivalent to taking its fifth trip around the earth, I can give thanks that I have an opportunity to transport the five of us (soon to be six) safely and conveniently whenever I need to.
Instead of griping about the square-footage of our apartment, I can be glad that we not only have shelter that protects us, but a place to call home.
Or if I’m enamored by the latest model gadget with the supersonic turbo processor, I can thank God that I already have countless resources at my disposal that I don’t deserve, and never will.
When I whine for more, I align myself with evil (1 Timothy 6:10). But when I give thanks, I lock onto the very will of God (1 Thessalonians 5:18). And in God’s curious kindness, when we praise him for all that he is for us, he gives us the best gift anyone could ask for: more of himself.
So, in the end, more stuff, more money, and even more time can never satisfy. But in Jesus, God gives us more than we could have ever bargained for. When we invest in contenting our souls in him, he pays unimaginable dividends in the currency of eternity.