“Woe to him who covets evil gain for his house, That he may set his nest on high, That he may be delivered from the power of disaster! You give shameful counsel to your house, Cutting off many peoples, And sin against your soul. – Habakkuk 2:9-10 NJKV
An Unpopular Opinion
It seems the popular thing to preach about nowadays is prosperity; not necessarily of the spiritual kind. It seems that some people enter into the church looking for the preacher to preach about being uplifted financially. Some want to hear the preacher preach about what one has to do to be “blessed” financially. How soon we forget that when we were poor, the preacher would preach to find happiness in the Lord. Now that we have a little wealth, we want the word of God to bring about more wealth into our pockets.
Am I saying that wealth is a bad thing? No; not necessarily. It is not wicked for one to gain wealth. Some of us are able to get out, work, and make a living to where we can live comfortably and we are happy with that. There are many that have received their so-called financial blessing, but what have they done with their blessing? I tell you, today, that gaining wealth is not the only blessing that can come from the Lord!
One of the biggest problems that we face today is that everybody is in the pursuit of a dollar bill instead of pursuing what makes their soul rejoice! We have been led to believe that the dollar bill will make the soul happy, but I tell you that is a lie! Instead of pursuing the dollar we should be in pursuit of our passions, our love, and our dreams!
Sadly, however, we have allowed our minds to become polluted with a passion of greed. Sadly, we have allowed the nature of greed to spread and corrupt us in our soul. The Super Bowl was last week; I didn’t watch, but I heard about this commercial that featured Dr. Martin Luther King’s voice on a Dodge Ram commercial. Dr. King, who some forget was a preacher, first, spent the later years of his life preaching out against greed and American capitalism. Folks who like to whitewash black history month will not like to hear about that. Dr. King founded the poor people’s movement.
Dr. King spoke about how greed and capitalism had created a society that, to this day, tells you what to wear, what to drink, and what to drive to be better than somebody else. As a businessman, I understand fully well what Dr. King was saying. There are many people who worship this very nature that pits the have-nots versus those that have and the elite versus the average. Today I want to focus on greed and the danger of greed, and how we must overcome this nature.
Greed is a dangerous thing
A couple of week’s ago, Roland Martin hosted a state of the union event for the black community. If you did not see it, I encourage you to find and view this video on YouTube. In the video, Roland Martin hosted a panel of the older generation and the millennial generation and the spoke about how our community is being affected by politics and the economy. At the end, Roland invited Rev. William Barber up to give a benediction which he gave from Ezekiel 22:23-31. There are some scriptures here that work well with my message today that I want to share with all of you.
Little do we realize how similar our society is to Israel prior to their fall (captivity) to Babylon. Take that to mean whatever you wish, but our society is becoming more and more corrupted by the nature of greed. In Ezekiel 22:25, we see the prophet Ezekiel said:
The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst.
The prophets, holy men, of that day had become like roaring lions tearing their prey. Lions are at the top of their food chain – king of the jungle. These holy men were certainly not supposed to be at the top of the food chain; they were supposed to be there to serve the people spiritually. These men devoured the people they should have been serving; took from them, and even made widows of many of the people in Israel. These holy men were given in to and driven by greed.
I must quote the Apostle Paul, again, in what he wrote in Ephesians. Paul said:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 NKJV
Pay very close attention to the part of the scripture that I have underlined. There is a spiritual battle that is taken place and so we must be concious about all the tools the enemy uses in this battle – greed is one of them. I talked about spiritual warfare in a recent bible study that you should definitely give a read.
The prophets were not the only ones who were driven by greed. We see Ezekiel also talk of how the priest was also driven by greed. Ezekiel says (Ezekiel 22:26) that the priest, again, more holy men, had done violence to the law – in other words, they were acting against the law. These holy men not only acted against the law, but Ezekiel tells us that they were profaning holy things.
In that same day, Ezekiel talked about the princes (Ezekiel 22:27) were destroying lives just to get dishonest gains. Everywhere you looked, the leaders of that day had been completely corrupted by greed. They rejoiced in their greed but failed to realize who their greed was actually hurting.
Ezekiel ended this passage of scripture by coming back around to the prophets and saying:
Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord had not spoken.
Ezekiel 22:28 NKJV
In their greed, the prophets were spreading lies about the things that God had said. I imagine that they were probably telling the people that their actions were “ok” when, really, they were leading the people to sin. Israel began to oppress, commit robbery, and mistreat the poor and needy; they were driven by greed and by wealth. Any of this sound familiar? I begin to wonder what are we driven by?
In our key verse for today (Habakkuk 2:9), we see a level of woe brought upon the one that covets evil gain. Covet: to yearn to possess or have. Again, let us note that this woe is not brought upon the one that yearns to gain, but is brought upon the one that yearns to gain and acts wickedly to do so. I want us to pay close attention to that because the message today is not about living to be poor, but not to live in greed and act wickedly!
This level of woe is brought upon the one that moved wickedly to gain (to profit). Then Habakkuk, the “minor prophet”, said that these wicked ones were so wicked that they cut off many people in their process to gain (profit), and brought sin to their soul – they lost themselves. Today, I tell you, don’t lose your soul to greed!
Don’t lose yourself
I want to point out, again, that these were so-called “holy men” that our scripture for today has been referring too. There are many people in the world today, who think of themselves as holy, but they are completely driven by greed. God is not greed-God is love! Therefore, God does not move out of greed but moves through love. Should a righteous man be filled with greed? What is in your soul, love or greed?
Too many people have become blind to their actions because they are simply acting like those that are around them. God wants us to be better people – we are called to be better! Holy men and women should not be moved by greed but by love. Even Jesus had to deal with so-called “holy” men who had been filled by greed in His day.
Jesus (Matthew 23:16-17) leveled a woe to those blind guides (teachers) that taught swearing by the gold of the temple instead of the temple that sanctified the gold. Here’s that scripture for you to read:
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?
Matthew 23:16-17 NKJV
We have to remember that Jesus had to go into the temple and drive out all of the buyers and sellers that were filling up the temple. The people were in the holy place, and these so-called holy men were taking advantage of the people in the temple! They were in the temple practicing greed.
These so-called spiritual leaders were telling the people to swear by the gold instead of swearing to the temple(the temple represented God). Scripture says that it was God’s house that sanctified the gold (made the gold holy). The guides should have been teaching the people to swear by God, not by the gold – they were doing the opposite. We are still in this same shape today; people swear by the dollar instead of by God and then we wonder, why they aren’t blessed.
Greed doesn’t seem to bad to the ones that profit from their greed, but time and time again we see that greed causes harm to many others. One man’s greed can become a stumbling block for many others. Jesus said (Matthew 18:17), “Woe to the one that causes another to stumble”. There is nothing wrong with gaining wealth, but how we come about it is of the utmost importance – do not act out of greed or wickedly. We should not want to lose our soul over something that is temporary and not eternal.
We often talk about pride, selfishness and the dangers of both, but greed is another wile of the devil and it is just as dangerous. Greed has caused many men to do terrible things and to also act terribly towards others as well. Greed has caused some, even “holy” men, to lose their soul because it corrupts the soul until there is nothing left but greed. Don’t be influenced by greed, don’t give in to greed. Learn to be thankful and content with the blessings that God has bestowed upon you.