When I pulled in the driveway the other day, my son inhaled quickly then expressed immediate disappointment. “I thought I saw my Amazon box on the front porch…” “Was it that table?” I asked, knowingly.
A couple of weeks ago, I spray painted the little table on our porch a tan color. Turns out it’s the same color tan as an Amazon box.
Just like my son, I had been experiencing the same little burst of excitement when a patch of familiar tan caught my eye on the porch, as I pulled into the driveway. Then the same subsequent disappointment when I realized it was just that table.
The Flutter of Greed
What IS that flutter in my heart, at seeing a tan box? It’s different than the flutter you get when you finally see the thing you’re hoping to find–like spotting a drinking fountain when you’re thirsty or spotting the loved one you’ve been looking for in a crowd.
No, this flutter is different, because I couldn’t even tell you what I’ve ordered or what I’m hoping will BE in the Amazon box. I’m just excited to see the box because I know there will be something new inside. Something I’ve chosen. Something I can consume.
I think it must be the flutter of greed.
Greed never feels like greed to us. That’s why the Bible warns against it so often. In Luke 12:14-16, Jesus says, “Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because your true life is not made up of the things you own, no matter how rich you may be.” (GNT)
Jesus says this in response to a man who’s upset about an inheritance dispute with his brother. It’s a two person problem, but then Jesus tells a one person story about a guy who was greedy. So greedy that—instead of sharing some of his surplus with the poor—he builds bigger barns to store it all.
By telling a one person story in response to a two person complaint, Jesus is making a point. He’s saying that might feel like that person over there who has more than me is the problem, but really the problem is growing in the place we least suspect: my own heart.
The Problem of Surplus
Jesus says, “Watch out for greed!” It’s a problem that sneaks up on us, one Amazon box at a time. We don’t realize we’re becoming greedy, until suddenly we notice that flutter in our hearts at the sight of an Amazon box-colored table.
Do you (like me) have the problem of surplus? Has God placed more in your measuring cup than you actually need? You might not have an box-colored table on your front porch, but have you felt the same flutter of greed?
It’s true that God mismatches the amounts in our measuring cups; He gives more to some of us and less to others. It’s not true that he wants us to feel greater than or less than, accordingly.
God would never put more in my measuring cup because he wants to feed my pride, or grow my greed and sense of entitlement. I wonder sometimes if God gives me extra–not just to bless me, but test me. Whatever he has given me belongs to Him, and he wants to know if I’ll use it the way He would.
God could have set things up so that we all had equal amounts in our measuring cups. But there would be no need to humble ourselves and give and receive. There would be no need to come together. We could just live isolated lives with our measuring cups standing upward and accumulating God’s good gifts.
But God never designed for us to live “one person stories”.
Two Person Story
The man in Jesus’s story is building a bigger barn because he’s gotten so used to that flutter of greed that he’s forgotten there are people around him living in need. Wouldn’t it be easier for him–rather than building a bigger barn–to simply give some away? Would he be happier if he turned his life from a one person story into a two person story? Or city-sized story?
When my measuring cup stands upright for too long, greed begins to grow inside it like a slimy scum. Greed is especially a problem when there’s excess. But on the other hand, each time I tip my measuring cup and pour out the excess that God meant us to share, it scrubs some of the greed away.
Next time you feel the flutter of delight over something you already have plenty of, ask yourself, “Is there a possibility I’m becoming greedy?” Greed grows like a slow mold. The only way to rid yourself of it is to tip your cup and like your generous God–give.
I taught on the story of the “bigger barns guy” in my video series for Comparison Girl.
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