Greed, A Biblical view?

For many people there’s a dirty feeling that comes with talking about wealth. If I ask someone about their life goals and they list one as to “accumulate lots of money” it has a negative effect on my view of them. Today I’m asking myself, why I do that? I think we all understand that money is an inanimate object and cannot be “good” or “bad”. It is our attitudes about money that are either “good” or “bad”, but I often assume motives when I have little to no actual evidence to suggest them.

I can’t help but think back to the Bible. It’s how I’m wired. The Apostle Paul said that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1st Timothy 6:10). He’s smarter than me so I’ll trust him on this, and I think it brings us to an archaic sounding word that’s seen an increased use these days. I’m talking about GREED.

There is no dollar amount that makes someone greedy. Selfishness does. Click To Tweet

Are you greedy if you try and become wealthy? Well, it depends on why you’re becoming wealthy. We can have goodwill and contentment, and I think those things are crucial to a healthy financial life, but they don’t feed you. They don’t send your kids to college. They don’t clothe and feed people who need it. You need money to do those things. Money gained for the purpose of providing for your family and helping others is never bad, it’s a blessing for everyone around you. Whether it’s dollar number 3 or 3,000,000 it’s not greedy if it’s primarily for others. It’s no longer selfish. And that doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy the money you make. I had a struggle with that when I started working for a church.

I never thought about it before I started working there, but the fact that my paycheck came from tithes and offerings really got to me. I remember the moment that it hit me was when I had saved up enough to buy and Xbox One. As I was getting ready to drive to the store and buy myself an Xbox I thought, “people gave this money to God and I’m buying an Xbox with it”. I really did struggle with the idea that this was God’s money and I was using it on myself. And then I bought an Xbox.

Spending money on yourself is not a misuse of your funds. For the religious ones, spending money on yourself is not being a bad manager of God’s funds (more on that some other day). Part of financial responsibility is being able to treat yourself and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Spending money only on yourself is greedy.

You don’t combat greed by only spending on others, you combat it by spending on others first. Family, others, then you. Click To Tweet

            We’re talking about generosity. I see generosity as the opposite of greed, and the medicine to heal a greedy heart. Being generous is living life with an open hand and using what you have to bless others. This is how you keep your heart from greediness no matter how much money you have. I’m a Christian, and the practice we believe we’re called to is to give 10% of our income back to God, who gave it to us on the first place. Therefore, this practice is a hedge against greed. You don’t have to be religious to fight greed and embrace generosity. Give to whatever you want, just help people with your first 10%.

The rebuttal to this call to generosity is often that there’s not enough money to be generous. That makes sense, because there’s never enough money for everything and whatever is low on your list won’t get funded. If generosity is low on your priority list that’s called being greedy. That’s why the 10% is supposed to come first. If you really can’t afford 10% then give what you can. If you barely have a roof over your head and you’re on food stamps trying to get by, be generous with your time. But most people that say they can’t be generous actually can, they just don’t want to. That brings me to my next point.

I want to make another thing abundantly clear, being closefisted with your money is not financial responsibility. Seeing people in need but walking away because your family “needs” that money is greedy. Never taking your family on vacation because you want to invest every cent is greedy. Don’t use your family as an excuse to amass wealth for yourself. And on the flip-side, there’s no glory in bankrupting your family so you could buy vacations and toys. You’re not doing them any favors.

There’s balance between providing for your family and being generous. Not trying to find it is either greed or foolishness. Click To Tweet

I like the Bible, and it says that someone who doesn’t take care of their family is worse than an unbeliever (1st Timothy 5:8). It doesn’t matter what religious things I do, if my family doesn’t have enough to eat because of my actions or inactions it’s all useless. My family’s immediate needs come first, then the needs of others, then saving for my family’s future needs. After that it’s the needs of others again, and then my family’s wants. The 10% should usually come first because in all honesty we won’t do it otherwise, but at the end of the day if you’re struggling to put food on the table your family comes first. And putting the needs of others before your wants means that we’re willing to help someone even if it means we must save another week for that new thing.

There’s one more thing I have to address. Some of you might say…

“But Alan! That’s all well and good, but THOSE people over there have too much money! They’re greedy”.

I hear you, but as I said before, greed is not a dollar amount. You can be impoverished and greedy. Something I’ve noticed is that the dollar amount that is too much money is always more than whoever making the claim has. This is where jealousy comes into play. Other people have what they have, they may have earned it, and they may not have, but it doesn’t make them greedy. Just because you don’t have money and they do doesn’t make them greedy, it makes them richer than you, and worrying about it makes you jealous. It’s very possible to get rich with open hands, so the fact that someone is rich doesn’t mean their hands are closed.

The bottom line is that greed is not a dollar amount. As you try and achieve financial responsibility and freedom there will be some shame about being greedy. Fight shame from yourself by making sure to always take care of your family and be generous first before spending on yourself. Fight shame from others by remembering that their opinions don’t define whether you’re greedy. Jealousy drives those thoughts, and they don’t make you a greedy person. Enjoy!

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Alan Muise, a contributor to this blog, holds a Business Specialist technical degree, and is currently enrolled at the University of Central Florida’s College of Business. Alan, a former worship leader and youth pastor, currently serves as a volunteer college and young adult’s ministry coordinator at Aloma United Methodist Church, Florida. He is a wonderful husband, entrepreneur and risk taker.

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