The endless desire of greed – Is greed blocking you from the wonderful blessing of contentment that is promised and given by the Lord?
Thanksgiving was on my mind as I thought about and prepared this week’s sermon. As you hear me say around this time every year, I am appreciative of the Lord and give Him all of my thanks not for just one day of the year but everyday of the year. I do this because God has truly satisfied my soul — that is to say that I am content, and I am happy in my soul. I have learned how to be content regardless of what state I am in because I have realized that I truly am blessed.
Yet, it seems that more and more people do not give God thanks for even just one day of the year and this frustrates me greatly! As I have said in the past, many people do not give God any credit because they feel that He does not bless them, does not bless them enough, or they go out and get their own blessing. There is this notion that blessings only come in the form of what we possess materially. You see, we live in an age of materialism. No, this is not a new age but the desire to gain materials truly has overcome our world. Many people define their blessings and successes based on the things that they possess.
So, in this age, there is no such thing as having enough. No, you have to go and get more and more with the endless desire of being happy in your soul. Born is greed – our constant urge to gain more and more possessions. Yet, I tell you today that your greed will actually block you from ever being truly happy. Your greed will block you from experiencing the wonderful blessing of contentment promised by the Lord. So, I want to take time to focus on greed and the blessing of contentment today.
Complacency versus contentment
The blessing of contentment. There is a major hang up that many people have when it comes to the thought of being content. The major hang up that many of us have boils down to confusing being content with being complacent.
We should not be confusing being content with being complacent – these two words are not synonymous. Being complacent is defined as being marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. In other words, one who is complacent shows a lack of concern, drive, and motivation to do and/or be better. We would say that one who is complacent is one who has grown lazy and we know just how much we do not like to be called lazy.
On the other hand, there is being content. To be content is to be appeased and satisfied with one’s possessions, status, or situation. The person that is content has reached a goal after putting in a great effort and is happy with the end result. Again, we should not be confusing being content with being complacent.
In fact, I believe that everybody has a strong desire to be content at the end of the day. The problem, however, is how we go about it trying to be content at the end of the day. Some of us are dependent on our faith in the Lord and we rely on His blessings to satisfy us and make us happy in our soul. At the same time, there are many people who struggle with being content with what God has given to them and so they become driven to gain even more – this is greed.
In the bible, we often find that scripture encourages the believer to put away covetousness, lust, and greed. Now, some may suggest, as they often do, that God must desire for us to be poor and the preacher is telling us to be poor. This could not be any further from the truth as we know that God ultimately desires for His children to be content! God desires for you to be happy and He wants you to be blessed in your soul, and He is the one that will bless you! This is why scripture constantly encourages us to put away greed.
Greed Gives No Satisfaction
In his letter to Timothy, we will see that Paul writes, “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” I would suggest that this is a very strong statement that Paul has made about a strong desire that has overcome the hearts of many who have lived in our world and many that live in our world today.
Paul is essentially stating that obtaining riches (possessions) will not make one happy but, in fact, will do otherwise. You see, the happiness that Paul spoke of, was a happiness that is just like everything else in this world – it is temporary. We can be happy for one minute and the next minute we can be down in our feelings. Sadly, that is just the way things are in life.
The happiness we should desire is an eternal happiness for our soul. The problem with greed is that greed for riches is essentially an endless quest to satisfy one’s soul through worldly desires. The riches may make you happy for a moment but that moment will not last. So, you are driven again to gain more riches because the riches once gained did nothing for the soul.
Overcome with greed
Now, what is incredibly scary about the strong desire for riches, as we have seen recently, is that the devil offers riches (possessions) as treasure to make one happy (Matt. 4:8-9). Sadly, many people have bought into the devil’s notion that what they truly need to make them happy in their soul are those riches and if you have them, then you are blessed. You see, this is the snare for the soul that the devil has planted in the world and many of us are caught up in the devil’s snare.
Where we should be laying up our treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:20), mankind is overcome by the desire to have more and more riches, believing that these riches will make one happy. What is so heartbreaking about this is that many people are driving themselves crazy trying to gain as many possessions as possible. It never leaves my mind when Jesus asks the question, “what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (Mark 8:36; Matt. 16:26)?”
For the child of God, we should be totally dependent on the Lord to supply our every need and to satisfy our soul. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).” Instead of mankind being dependent on the Lord satisfying them in their soul, they have betrayed Him and become dependent on the riches of the world. So, instead of putting our faith in the Lord, mankind is living in an age where we are putting our faith in worldly treasures, or as Jesus said, mammon (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13).
There are so many people who are so hung up on riches that they are now defining their lives by what they have. This is both dangerous and sad because too many of us are valuing ourselves by what we have instead of how God loves us! You see, God loving you means a great deal more than the possessions that you may have gained! However, many people do not view their lives in such a way and this, again, is truly sad.
Blinded by greed
Now, what Paul stated in our key verse in speaking about the grand desire to be rich, is something that Jesus taught to the disciples. Jesus said to the disciples, “beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses (Luke 12:15).” So, what Jesus is saying to us with that statement is that life is about more than what we possess or desire to possess.
Now, the idea that life is about more than what one can possess is one that many people will not understand in this age of materialism. Yet Jesus, the Lord, was determined for us to understand how important it is not to view life as simply a goal of gaining riches!
So, we see Jesus speaking of covetousness to the disciples here. Now, we should understand that covetousness is essentially the same as greed; they are synonymous. We can become so overcome in our desire to have more that we can desire to have what others have. This desire comes from a perception that what others have gained has made them happy in their soul, so we want the riches that they have because we believe it will make us happy. This is covetousness.
So, why does Jesus warn about covetousness and greed? Again, there is another incredible danger that comes with a greedy mindset. The greedy desire can become so bad that we can become so singularly focused in our desire to gain more that we can become blind to all that goes on around us.
For example, we can become blind to those that are close to us because of our singular focus. So, this would mean that greed is full of selfish ambitions, which again, we are encouraged to put away (Phil. 2:3). In our greed and selfish ambitions, we can become blind to our actions and the consequences of those actions. Now, when we think about those consequences, we will likely think of worldly consequences but there are spiritual consequences as well.
Being overcome in greed can cause us to go blind to God and all that He does or has done for us – this is the true danger of greed. In our quest to gain more and more, we are making a statement that says God’s blessings are not enough to satisfy our soul! To say that God’s blessings are not enough is to call the Lord a liar. As James stated, the Lord’s gifts (blessings) for us are good and perfect (Jas. 1:17). So, what we should understand is that greed will put us in opposition against the Lord.
Learning to be Content
So, do you see how dangerous greed is? The desire to gain more and more riches of this world in order to satisfy our soul is actually an empty desire. This is an empty desire because there is no end result where greed ends with a gift of a blessing. The desire to gain more and more riches only makes the blessing of contentment more elusive.
Now, the blessing of contentment is not one that the Lord intends to be elusive to us. You see, God desires for all of us to experience His blessing of contentment. Scripture shows us this is the case time and time again.
As I referenced in last week’s sermon, from James’ letter, we saw that the Lord gives liberally and without reproach (Jas. 1:5). God does not hesitate to pour out His blessings because He desires for you to be full and content in your soul! Again, in scripture, Jesus told us not to worry about our life – what we will wear, eat, or drink (Matt. 6:25-29).
Why did Jesus say this? Because, again, God desires to provide all of these things to us and more so that we will be content (satisfied) with His providence. Let us remember that in the beatitudes, Jesus stated plainly, “Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh (Luke 6:21).” So, clearly, our contentment is on the mind of God and He desires very much for you not to be wandering around as those who are of greedy mindset. The greedy are turning to the world to make them content in their soul where God says I’m going to provide you with exactly what the soul requires to satisfy it.
Can be difficult to learn
In order for us to enjoy the blessing of contentment, we must actually learn how to be content. The blessing of contentment has already been given and promised so we must simply learn how to be content.
Now, learning to be content can certainly be a struggle. In scripture, we will see that Paul, who was certainly strong in the faith, struggled with being content. Paul was not one who desired to obtain great wealth in worldly riches but he apparently suffered from it just as everybody else can. Paul strongly desired to spread the word of God as much as he possibly could. So, we would say that Paul’s intentions were good.
Yet, in scripture, there were times where Paul was clearly upset when things would inhibit him from spreading the word of God. To the Corinthians, Paul wrote about his frustration when he believed that the devil buffeted him with a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). On other occasions, we find that Paul desired to go and minister in Rome but, again, to his frustration, he was hindered from doing so (Rom. 15:22). Paul showed his frustration, again, when he complained that Satan had hindered him in his desire to minister to those in Rome (1 Thess. 2:18).
So Paul, like many of us, had times where his selfish ambitions would raise its head. I believe his selfish ambition came in the earlier years of ministering. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need (Phil. 4:11-12).”
Paul learned to be content. Paul became a man that could write that all things work together for good to those who love God (Rom. 8:28). He learned that whatever state he was in, up or down, in prison or out of prison, to be satisfied in his soul. Paul put his selfish ambitions in check, and learned to rely on the Lord to appease his desires.
Recognizing what we have
In order for us to experience the blessing of contentment, we must learn to trust that the Lord will, and is, diligently working to make us happy in our soul. Solomon came to this same conclusion when he wrote, “All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied (Eccl. 6:7-8).” Solomon concluded just as we have that greed will leave the soul unsatisfied. Solomon then stated, “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind (Eccl. 6:9).”
Solomon tells us that we must recognize what God has already given to us – look at what is in front of you! This, again, will be hard for those who are of a greedy mindset; they will never recognize what God has done for them. Because they can not recognize what the Lord has done for them, the blessing of contentment is elusive. Yet, none of God’s blessings are elusive! If only we simply take time to see God and His blessings in our life, then we will be happy in our soul and want nothing outside of His blessings.
Paul tells Timothy, and therefore us, “godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6).” The blessing of contentment – finding appeasement, satisfaction, happiness, and peace of mind from all that God has done – truly is great gain and there is nothing that can beat it.So, I encourage all of you today to learn to put away your greed so that greed can stop hindering you from experiencing the blessing of contentment. Paul tells us to flee from greed and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness (1 Tim. 6:11).” We must recognize when our desire to be content is overcome by the desire to gain more and more. In our desires, let us lean on and depend on God’s providence.