From times ancient to modern, greedy characters have populated our legends, stories, and films, from King Midas to Gordon Gecko (Wall Street), from Ebenezer Scrooge to Henry Potter (It’s a Wonderful Life), from the Pardoner (Canterbury Tales) to Mr. Krabs (SpongeBob SquarePants). Some of the most infamous characters in Scripture were known for their greed as well: King Ahab and Queen Jezebel in the incident with Naboth’s vineyard, the Prodigal Son, the Rich Fool, Judas, and Ananias and Sapphira.

I find it fascinating that greed rarely makes the list of concern for Christian voters during election years. We live in a culture that idolizes the conspicuously rich, worships wealth, and lionizes consumption.  Yet the greedy are criticized in the Proverbs, condemned by the Hebrew Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk), rebuked in the teachings of Jesus, censured in Paul’s letters, and reproached in 1 and 2 Peter. Greed is repeatedly called idolatry (Eph. 5:5, Col. 3:5) as it violates the first of the ten commandments as well as Jesus’ teaching on the greatest command.

In our day, greed is typically described as an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what we need, especially with respect to material wealth. Greed can also be an unhealthy desire for more or an insatiable desire for wealth. The older word for greed is avarice. Avarice is a blanket term that can describe many other forms of sinful behavior, including disloyalty, betrayal, or treason, especially for personal gain, as when someone accepts a bribe. Avarice may entail getting material possessions at the expense of another person’s welfare. The many aspects of avarice show how far unchecked greed can reach its tentacles, corroding our character and compromising our integrity.

Contentment and generosity are two of the great virtues that help us combat greed. I conclude with four diagnostic questions to help us discern how much greed has a hold on our hearts. May God protect us from this powerful and corrosive sin!

  • When was the last time you declined to buy something you could afford because you realized you had enough?
  • When was the last time you passed up a lifestyle upgrade in order to give away more money?
  • Are you worrying more or less about whether you’ll have “enough” in the future?
  • Are you growing more or less hard-hearted toward those who are in need?
Andy Wall
Author: Andy Wall