For a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world. (Ephesians 5:5)
A seventy-one-year-old woman in West Palm Beach, Florida, was found dead in her apartment. The cause of death was malnutrition. She’d lived in the poorest section of the city’s low-rent district for as long as anyone could remember. Neighbors described her as a pitiful and forgotten widow who spent most of her days digging through Salvation Army bins for clothes. When she wasn’t doing that, she was begging for food at the back alley entrances of local restaurants. The woman had no family or friends to be found. She was given a pauper’s grave and forgotten. But an investigation into her death would soon prove enlightening. Two keys turned up in her apartment that led to two safety deposit boxes in different banks. The first contained over $200,000 in cash, along with a host of valuable bonds and financial securities. The second box contained only money. Lots of it—$600,000, to be exact.
The woman whose life of poverty brought pity from all who knew her was in reality a millionaire widow who would rather starve than spend a penny of her monthly Social Security checks. She was completely consumed with greed. Greed is perhaps the deadliest of the seven deadly sins. Peter calls its victims “an accursed brood … springs without water” (2 Peter 2:14, 17, niv).
Greed “drives us to compromise principles of justice, yield on the canons of morality, and even to lose our souls,” writes Tony Campolo. But it is Paul, I think, who says it best. “You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). Simply stated, a lust for possessions and a life in Christ cannot coexist. A person can have one or the other but not both. Either we love God or we love money. The chasm between greed and Jesus is so wide that we can’t possibly have a foot on both sides at the same time. This is one fence that simply can’t be straddled.