Grace over Greed

Another true confession. For many years I was not particularly inclined toward helpfulness, but my wife, Peggy, was. “Let’s stay behind and help clean up,” she would say. “I don’t want to stay behind and help clean up,” I would reply, strongly preferring to protect my time. Then we’d stay behind and clean up (or whatever else “helpfulness” entailed in the moment). People don’t change people, per se, but our lives do influence others over time, and somewhere along life’s path, I’ve actually come to enjoy helping out (most of the time). If it is possible for one to receive the gift of helps through marriage, it’s happened to me.

To a crowd of thousands, Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed . . . ”1 Greed is an insatiable, selfish desire for something—having and hoarding, yet always wanting more. We think of in monetary terms, and indeed it often presents that way, but Jesus’ caution against “all kinds of greed” calls us to broaden our category for it. For me, it means being on guard against hoarding my personal time to the point of not being obedient to God or helpful to people. And I think greed can just as easily surface in other forms—leisure, power, or attention, for instance, or even spiritual gifts. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these, but Jesus says “Watch out!” lest we amass in perpetual discontentment and consume to excess, alone.

Then how does generosity spring from us who are naturally disposed to selfishness? In a word, freedom. “Freely you have received; freely give,”2 said Jesus to His disciples. We live in an inexhaustible supply God’s liberating grace. Of our monetary means, then, we give “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”3 And we share from our spiritual gifts no less lavishly; the apostle Paul exhorts us, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”4

Peter wrote, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms . . . so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”5 Our gifts serve ultimately for His glory, and as He transforms us over time, our greed gladly gives way to His good.

Father, lead us today, that we would be good stewards of the gifts we might otherwise stockpile. Be glorified in our giving. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Luke 12:15
2 Matthew 10:8
3 2 Corinthians 9:7
4 Romans 12:6-8 ESV
5 1 Peter 4:10-11

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