Connections 07.31.2022: All Kinds of Greed

Luke 12:13-21

Twenty-one years ago this spring, I wrote a sermon about this text. It was my final year of seminary and I got the best grade in my seminary career on it. I submitted the same sermon for a scholarship contest—which I won—and for my school’s preaching award, which I co-won with a dear friend (who is probably not still hanging on to the good feeling of a sermon she wrote twenty-one years ago).

I can’t read this text without thinking of my sermon. Actually, I barely remember what I wrote in the sermon. To be more accurate, I can’t read this text without thinking of how good that sermon made me feel. All these years later I’m still grasping at that good feeling—the good grade, the award check, my name on a plaque. If I could, I’d bottle that feeling. If there were enough of it, I’d be inclined to build a storehouse to keep it in.

And there it is.

Maybe when we read Jesus’ parable, we’re inclined to pat ourselves on the back because we’re not materialistic. Maybe we’re not filling storehouses with grain and goods we’ll never get around to using. Maybe we’re not filling bank accounts with cash we’d do anything to protect and to increase. Maybe we’re generous with our stuff and we make donations without asking if they’re tax-deducible and we tithe more than 10% and we tip more than 20% and we buy fundraiser cookies and wrapping paper from every kid who comes to our door.

But although this parable is prompted by a debate about inheritance, and though the story is about wealth measured in grain and goods, Jesus begins with this warning: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed…” (v. 15). He goes on to say, “life does not consist in the abundance of possessions,” leading into his story about a man whose things cannot save his life. In fact, some translations interpret verse 20 to say something like “your things will take your life from you.”

We may be greedy for money and security, but we may also be greedy for time, or attention, or acclaim, or control, or energy, or comfort. We may even be greedy for good feelings, storing up for decades the reassurance that we once did something that someone deemed worthy. We can be greedy for “all kinds” of things, and none of these things will save our lives. In fact, they may suck the life out of us. We must “take care,” because they will not take care of us. The more tightly we cling to them and the more we do to protect and increase them, the more they own us instead of the other way around.

Discussion

  • Jesus’ parable is about material possessions and storing up material security. If this was a problem for people in Jesus’ time, how much more does our modern culture teach us that material gain and “storing up” is not greedy but wise? Do you struggle with the materialistic expectations of our society? How do you find balance?
  • Are there areas of your life—other than the material—where you feel a sense of “greed”? What makes you feel like you need to cling to or store up those things?
  • Jesus says, “life does not consist in abundance of possessions.” What does your life consist of? Where is God providing “abundance” for you in ways that lead to true life?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.wordpress.com.

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