Once when Jesus was teaching, a man called out from the crowd, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). It wasn’t the time or place, and Jesus told him so. Then he turned to the crowd and said, “Watch out! Be on guard for all types of greed” (Luke 12:15).
Notice that the man brought Jesus a two-person problem. Two brothers who disagreed about an inheritance. But Jesus used this teachable moment to warn about a one-person problem: The problem of greed.
The One Person Problem of Greed
Do you see any greed in your heart? I didn’t think so.
The problem with greed is that you don’t know it’s your problem. It’s different than other sins that you’re fully aware of. Tim Keller says (tongue in cheek), “If you’re committing adultery, you know you’re committing adultery. You don’t say, “Oh! You’re not my wife!”
Tim also told about the about the time he was sharing weekly with a group on the Seven Deadly Sins, and his wife predicted that attendance would be down when he addressed “greed”. She was right. It’s because we don’t see greed as our problem.
We always think the problem lies with the person who has more.
The Problem of More
Who’s the “problem” in your life? Do you have a sibling who makes far more money than you do? A friend who lives in a bigger house? A neighbor who goes on vacation to somewhere tropical every three weeks, and asks you to watch her dog?
You probably tell yourself that everything would be better if you had what they have. But even if you could even things out so that your measuring cup had just as much as theirs, would this rid you of the problem of greed? No, because greed is insatiable. Greed affects people who have surplus ad scarcity alike. It’s is a poison that will seep into any available heart, regardless of how thick your wallet is.Greed affects people who have surplus ad scarcity alike. It's is a poison that will seep into any available heart, regardless of how thick your wallet is. Click To Tweet
So how can we get rid of greed? Many would say just stop comparing. But that’s as easy as choosing not to notice that your friend is on vacation again, while you’re stuck walking her dog in the snow.
Jesus didn’t teach us not to compare. He just taught us to do it differently.
A Story About the Problem of More
After the man complained of his brother not splitting the inheritance, Jesus warned the crowd, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15)
And then he told a story. It was a one person story about a man who was greedy.
The guy in Jesus’s story had been blessed with overabundant harvest and now he had a problem: He couldn’t fit everything into his barns. So he made the plan to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. He delighted in the idea of retiring, living off the surplus, and taking it easy. But God said, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20)
There’s an obvious answer to God’s question. Other people will get the man’s surplus. He can’t take it with him. And this answer hints at a better answer to the man’s earlier “problem” of no place to store his overabundance. What if he had chosen to share, and made his story about someone other than himself?
A Two-Person Story
In Comparison Girl, I repeatedly talked about how Jesus responded to people’s comparison-driven questions with two or three person stories. He was inviting them to find themselves in the story.
This one-person story about the bigger barns guy is no different. It’s an unsatisfying story with only one character. And it begs the question; what if the man had made it a two-person or three-person or four-person story? What if he had been like Scrooge on Christmas morning, and shared his surplus with extravagant generosity?
Our one-person problem of greed is only solved when we make our lives a two-person story. When we tip our measuring cups and generously give, we free ourselves of greed. This is true whether we started out with a little in our cup or a lot.Our one-person problem of greed is only solved when we make our lives a two-person story. When we tip our measuring cups and generously give, we free ourselves of greed. Click To Tweet
Solving the Problem of Greed
Greed isn’t based on how much you have, but how much you want. Greed is never satisfied.
Generosity is not based on how much you have either. (Look at the widow with only two copper coins!) Generosity breaks our ties with greed, which is very satisfying.
Are you comparing your wealth with someone else’s? Are you focused on your measuring cup’s lines? Try tipping your cup generously and pouring something out and you’ll notice that the lines suddenly become irrelevant.When we tip our measuring cups and generously give, we free ourselves of greed. This is true whether we started out with a little in our cup or a lot. Click To Tweet
For a great 16 minute clip on Greed vs. Generosity, check out this one by Tim Keller, hosted at GenerousGiving,org. Are you familiar with Generous Giving? Ken and I are facilitators and truly love this organization. If you’re interested in attending or hosting a “Journey of Generosity”, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to share more.
Some of these thoughts are echoed in my Comparison Girl teaching session for chapter three: “Comparing Wealth”. You can pre-order the Leader’s Kit (releasing March 30), which includes both DVD’s and digital downloads for all six sessions:
The Journaling Workbook released in February! Check my shop for more info.
This trailer video has some clips from the Leader Kit Video Sessions.