Is it even possible to be a greedy Christian? There are two types of people that really bother me:  the religious hypocrite and the greedy ‘Christian’.  In today’s key verse, we see the apostle John writing about a specific type of person.  That person:  someone who has the world’s goods, but holds on to those goods for themselves instead of giving them to a brother in need.

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  

key verse – 1 john 3:2 nkjv

What kind of person could see someone in need but shut up their hearts to them? I tell you, that is a selfish person; a very greedy and very selfish person.  John asks the question of those people, “how does the love of God abide in them?”  Is it even possible to be a greedy Christian? Let’s also ask that question and then answer that same question today.  How can you proclaim God, but move as a selfish and greedy Christian?

Today’s Selfish and Greedy Christian

Being selfish and greedy goes hand in hand – you cannot have the one without the other! Now, the topic of being selfish is one I have preached on and taught about a great deal.  (Just do a search on the site for the word “selfish” and you will see).  My reasoning for focusing on the topic of being selfish and greedy today is because of how prevalent selfish greed is in our world.  As a genuine believer and follower of Christ, the way in which we live should be far from being selfish and greedy.  Yet, there are many professed believers who are nothing more than greedy Christians people.

The foundation of our faith opposes the practice of being selfish and greedy.  Our faith is built on the foundation of being selfless — loving others – this includes those you know, the stranger, and even your enemy (Matt. 5:44).  Yes, you have certainly heard me say that before because, again, it is important for us to know the foundation of our faith.

The hurt caused by being selfish

This past week we celebrated Thanksgiving.  We did this by giving our thanks to the Lord.  As I said in a Food for Thought this week, we can also show our thanks to God by giving of ourselves.  This year has been a great test for whether or not we, mankind, are capable of sacrificing and giving of ourselves. 

Over the last week, I read heartbreaking story after heartbreaking story.  I encouraged others, as they sat down to their feasts, to pray for those who have lost this year.  There has been much travail in our world this past year.  Earlier this year I preached the sermon – In Times of Crisis – which focused on Elijah and the widow (a stranger) working together to survive a drought crisis of three and a half years.

The point of that sermon was this:  in times of crisis, we must learn to let go and be there for one another so that we all can overcome.  It does not seem we have done a great job of helping each other through this crisis.  To be frank, I would say that we have failed miserably, and it’s not even close.  Why?  Because of the selfish desire that’s in the hearts of some.

To help others

To help others requires for us to be selfless; we must abandon our own selfish desires.  Yet, in this time of crisis, we are still combative against doing the simplest of things.  In this crisis, we are all in need of help and we could help one another, but there is seemingly a refusal to help those in need.  Sadly, in our society, this is common whether we are in a crisis or not — too much selfishness and not enough compassion.  Today, many believers absolutely practice this same refusal to help those that they are capable of helping.  Why do so many people choose to not help those in need?

Obvious answer first:  some do not have the ability to help.  However, there are many who are in the position to do the simplest thing to help others that absolutely refuse.  Why?  The refusal to help for some comes from a place of selfishness.  For some it is a thing of selfish ambition that gets in the way.  Others feel it’s better to hold on to what they have instead of giving and helping others be lifted up.  Scripture warns the believer repeatedly against succumbing to this way of the world.

Warning Against a Greedy Heart

I want to take a moment to dive into some scripture to show the Lord’s feelings towards the selfish and greedy heart.  We are going to take a look at scripture from both the Old Testament and the New Testament for our evidence today.  In the book of Deuteronomy, we come across scripture where Moses reflects back on his time at Mount Sinai.  He talks about how he cut out the stone tablets for the second pair of tablets (Deut. 10:1-10).  Then he began to reflect on the law and how the children of Israel should follow God’s law with all their heart and soul (Deut. 10:12).

Helping those in need

In Deuteronomy 15, as Moses taught the law, he taught of the law that centered on the kind of heart the children of Israel were to have towards those in need.  The law said (Deut. 15:7), “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother.”  That sounds a lot like the scripture I have used for my key verse today.

Love is the principle of God – that is what and who He is.  When Moses was reflecting on the Lord in Deuteronomy 10, he said of God, “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing (Deut. 10:18).”  Moses then said to the children of Israel, “Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deut. 10:19).”

Generous and cheerful giver 

So, within the Mosaic Law that came from God and was given to the children of Israel, we find that they were supposed to love the ones they knew and even the stranger.  Through this love they were supposed to be generous towards others.  They are warned against hardening their heart and being greedy to the point it became sin (Deut. 15:9).  Though this law was given to the children of Israel, we find it is still central to our faith today.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).”  The idea being that there are going to be times when we do not have the ability to give of ourselves, so in those times, do not give of yourself begrudgingly (with displeasure).  Scripture declares that God is a generous (liberal) giver so there will certainly be other times in which we will be more than able to give of ourselves.  In those times when we do have, the Lord expects for us to give of ourselves generously as He does.

Giving begrudgingly

With that thought in mind, I do want to take a look at the other piece of evidence of God warning the believer against being a greedy Christian.  In the book of Acts, we come across the start of the church.  The apostles had set out and started sharing the goods news of Jesus Christ.  The new believers in that day began to sell their possessions and would bring their profits back to the Christian community.  Nobody had a lack for anything and all people within the community shared what they had (Acts 4:32, 34).

I once preached a sermon about Ananias and Sapphira – about how they tried to masquerade as believers.  In Acts 5, we are told their story.  They too, had it in their hearts to be of that Christian community.  So, they were going to sell their possessions and bring all of their profits back to the community – this was what they initially planned in their hearts (Acts 5:1).

Yet, when they got back their profits from the sale, their heart had changed from their original intentions.  Selfish greed crept in and they decided to keep for themselves part of the profit.  Of this greedy action, Peter told them that they had committed the act of lying to the Spirit (Acts 5:3).  For this act, both husband and wife paid dearly with their lives.  Again, the question is asked:  whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Cannot Love the World and God

We, the true followers of Christ, have committed ourselves to the way of God.  Again, that way is loving and being there for others.  The only way we overcome the real challenges of this world is when we become selfless – let go – and genuinely love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Luke 10:25-28).  When we choose not to help others when we are capable of doing so, we are lying to the Spirit; we are no different than Ananias and Sapphira.

Jesus summed it up best when He said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25).  There is no such thing as being a follower of Christ and yet still be a selfish and greedy Christian.  If you are still filled with selfishness and greediness, I tell you that you are of the world and not of Christ.  John wrote, “do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).”

Give up your riches

In order to follow after Christ, one has to deny himself, and take up his cross and follow (Matt. 16:24).  Jesus said we cannot serve God and mammon (John 6:24).  Greediness and selfishness are ways of the flesh and oppose the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:19-24).  We cannot be afraid to lose our riches if we want to follow after Christ and enter into His Father’s heavenly kingdom.  

A lot of times we believe our riches to be the money we have in the bank or our possessions, but that is not the case!  There are more ways to be rich than just financially or even our physical possessions.  Some are rich in their ways, and in their privilege for which they refuse to let go of to the benefits of those struggling.  When you choose that your privilege means more to you than helping the struggling man or woman up to their feet, you are being greedy and selfish!

Meek and humble – selfless

The follower of Christ should be meek and humble, not so privileged and high-minded!  Through selfish actions, many so-called believers have stored up gifts God has given to them that was meant to be shared with others.  Some are so rich in gifts and do not recognize they even have a gift meant to be shared with the world and those in need.  We can give of our bodies; we can give of our time.  Most importantly, we can give of our spirit and our soul;  we can give of the gifts that God has given to us to share with others.

There is no such thing as a greedy Christian; you absolutely cannot be a greedy Christian.  So many people try to justify their greedy selfishness and make it out to be a righteous act, but there is no justification or righteousness in greed.  We as a people have a choice to make, are you going to continue being greedy to your own benefit or will you truly love your neighbor?  

We are living in a time where love and compassion for your neighbor is required.  Anybody who is sharing a message that opposes actions of love and compassion towards other people, especially those in need, should be ignored.  Turn from such speech of hatred.  We must grow up!  Let us get beyond the greedy selfish desires and move in a direction of compassion towards others.

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