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PASTOR’S CORNER: How well do you know yourself?

We Christians like to think of ourselves as spiritually mature, level-headed people.

As such, we would never harbor greed in our hearts. That would not be compatible with Christian values.

Those who disagree with our assessment of ourselves are confused and misinformed. But are they really? Or are we truly the greed-free folks we claim to be? Let’s test it out.

Let’s first agree on one principle: greediness is not innate; it is learned behavior. This is obvious when we consider the dictionary definition of “greed,” excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions. Rapacious adds the element of being predatory in one’s greediness. We are not born greedy or rapacious; we learn these traits as we grow in life.

So what does God say about the existence of greed in the minds and hearts of people?

Scripture is clear that all of us have desires in life. Scripture is just as clear that none of us is immune from developing and harboring excessive desires which, by definition, is greed, pure and simple. Read Proverbs 15:27; Isaiah 56:11; and Ecclesiastes 5:10-12.

These passages make no distinction between believers and unbelievers regarding the existence of greedy attitudes. We believers in Christ have no grounds to gloat or feel superior to the sinner who is moved by greed to pursue material gain in life. Greed can be a motivator for us as it can be for others. Don’t be fooled; we are not greed-free because we are born again.

This becomes crystal clear when we consider Paul’s admonition in 1Timothy 3:3 and 8 where he states that all who aspire to be church leaders or deacons must not be “greedy of filthy lucre.” This is an unnecessary admonition if greed has no affect among the saved and sanctified within the body of Christ. We are just as susceptible as anyone else on the planet.

So, what’s our defense against the onslaught of greed? We need to understand the depth of its impact outside of our human minds, which I learned, is far-reaching.

The essence of greed is dissatisfaction with our current possessions, Ecclesiastes 5:10; always looking to accumulate more. God refers to those folks as “greedy dogs” in Isaiah 56:11. That is not a compliment!     

Secondly, we learn in Proverbs 15:27 that the greedy person “troubleth his own house.” Solomon clarifies this idea in Ecclesiastes 5:11 where he observes that “when goods increase, they that eat them increase.”  

In other words, as we accumulate goods in our homes, those who would steal from us also increase.

And finally, in verse 12, Solomon teaches us that “the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep” or in plain English, we have to be alert constantly to the possibility of being victimized by intruders into our homes, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. So then, we now understand that greed is more than a state of mind; it definitely can trouble one’s entire household.

Now back to our question, what’s our defense? God clearly gives us the way with the 10th commandment, “thou shall not covet … anything that is thy neighbor’s.” But for the disobedient ones, there’s another way in Hebrews 13:5 where God admonishes us to “be content with such things as ye have.” Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11 that contentment is learned behavior.

We can learn contentment as he did; from the greatest teacher of all time whom he identifies for us in verse 13 where he shares that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” 

 Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in South Los Angeles.Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear m