Greed, “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed” (Merriam-Webster), can creep in the back door of our hearts and quickly take over our well-intended desires to live generously in the love and peace of Christ.
“Greed is condemned by Scripture as contrary to the purposes of God” (Dictionary of Bible Themes, #5870). We’ve been warned that the devil is a liar and that he’s shifty, but we cannot blame him for all of our inclinations to give in to temptation. Before it expands to corrupt our foundation, here are ten signs we are being controlled by greed.
- 1. Blame “The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper” (Proverbs 28:25). When we find ourselves alienated and blaming everyone else for it, that’s a sign to turn inward and ask God to illumine our part in the conflict. On a mission to rally influence for our side of the battle, we can lose the inward ability to see what we may be spewing across enemy lines. “But those who trust the Lord will prosper.” The best remedy for conflict is to pray and repent of our part in it. Other’s “horrible” qualities are noticeable because they are things that we may be struggling with ourselves. Anytime we look to the left and right to point a blaming finger, it’s a warning to look in the mirror.
- 2. Never Enough “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). It’s easy to be entangled in the sin of accumulation. Even the lowest budget can be consumed by dollar-bin items. The danger in losing sight of the dollar’s value is that we are ignoring the abundance of blessings in our lives on the quest to accumulate more. Impulse buying is a pathway to greed. People are starving to death right now, and clean drinking water is lacking in large parts of this world. Recalling those in need can help us keep the accumulation of our stuff in check. Instead of throwing a quarter in the machine for a plastic toy, or grabbing that cute jar out the dollar bin to add to our holiday decor, perhaps we could begin to place that change in the drive-through donation, or buy a can of food for the local food pantry.
- 3. Guilt Giving “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness’” (Luke 11:39). If our pockets are always empty, we could have a greed problem. When our littles look up at us for money to throw in the red bucket at Christmastime and we have no change left to give, the flag on greed has been thrown. There is a reason God asks us to give our tithe first, but what about the way our hearts desire to give to others impulsively? Living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for many, but maybe we can practice keeping a little loose change in our pockets for times such as these. To prepare in advance to give is to model cheerful generosity.
- 4. Excuses “They invent ways of doing evil” (Romans 1:30). If it warrants an excuse, it could be greed. No one is going to question our motives when we pay our water bill, but why do we get mad at our spouses at the mere mention of our Amazon Prime activity? We often deflect what we internally wish to deny. Practice admitting irrational purchases. The mere acknowledgement of it is the start of healing. Hiding our greed is deceitful. That’s how one sin leads to another; from greed, to lies, to anger flaring in defense of our own mistakes.
- 5. Gossip “They are gossips” (Romans 1:30). Gossip can be a sign of greed. Taking the liberty of aligning someone with our agenda is dangerous. Comparison and gossip are closely linked when spoken out loud. Listen to how one leads right into the other. “Well, she bought those earrings at the store….” “Her daughter has it, so mine should, too …” “She stays at home, so should I.” When we compare gifts and possessions with others, we are letting greed run away with unrealistic desires. God’s intention for our lives is fullness and blessing. He gives us all we need, and instructs a grateful heart. Listing what we are thankful for helps thwart this heartache. Listen to the difference: “Wow, I am so grateful I get to …” “I’m so thankful for …” “We are so blessed …” The other half of the comparison will drop-off when our focus is on what we have already been blessed with.
- 6. Pride “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are … arrogant and boastful …” (Romans 1:29-31). Pride can be blanketed around most of our heart problems, but arrogance is its close friend. Taking credit for the gifts God has given us is greedy. God gives all of us talents and gifts. He blesses us beyond what we deserve. Untwist greed by acknowledging Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us and the gift of grace we are all welcome to live within when we accept Him as our Savior. Working hard with the gifts He has given honors Him, and gives us peace.
- 7. Disobedience “They disobey their parents” (Romans 1:30). When looking for someone to marry, one of the most popular tidbits of advice is to pay attention to how they treat their parents. Someone who does not have a basic respect for their mother and father has a definite issue with greed. Children aren’t the only ones who blatantly disobey their parents. Those who go before us carry a wisdom from walking with Christ that we are to honor and respect, especially, parents. Backing down from an argument or a principle out of honor and respect for our elders and parents takes discipline and selflessness. It says a lot about us, and our trust that God will defend us like He says He will. As Christians, we are called to obey our Father whether we understand or not. It’s not a struggle for power, but a trusting of the heart.
- 8. No Vacancy When we’re out of clothes hangers, greed could be creeping into our closets. An overstocked pantry could signal the same, as could a garage that we can’t park cars in, basements that have become a place to store what we no longer need, and children’s playrooms that we can no longer walk through with out tripping. Our homes reflect our hearts. It’s important to take the time to remove what we no longer need. Excess can be donated to help someone less fortunate. Physically parting with things is a healthy way to keep our hearts in check. If we have a hard time doing that, it’s time let go a little at a time.
- 9. Insensitivity Our society labels sensitive feelings as weakness. The Bible warns of this behavior. “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed” (Ephesians 4:19). The word “sensitivity”, translated back to the Greek this verse was written in, conveys the meaning “to cease to feel pain or grief” (Strongs 524). It can also mean apathetic. If we find ourselves unaffected by people in need or by overabundance of blessing in our lives, greed has most certainly taken up residence in our hearts.
- 10. Influence “Have nothing to do with them” (2 Timothy 3:5). Paul warns us more than once in the New Testament to be aware of our company, and the power of influence they have on us. When we are surrounding ourselves with greedy people, we can wholeheartedly expect that it will influence our hearts, too. Make sure the truths that we live by daily line up with what God’s Word says. The best way to keep greed from influencing us is by reading the Word everyday. Love always has a more profound effect steering us. When we are focused on Christ, greed cannot permanently take root in our hearts.