Monday, December 14, 2009

Beyond Greed - Greed is Idolatry

This second part of the book (chapters 3-6), which is the toughest part to chew, is an extended reflection on Paul’s comment in Colossians 3:5 that “greed is idolatry”. In chapter 3, Rosner shows that this is not an isolated comment in scripture, but a theme that runs right through it and, a most serious charge indeed. His satirical look at the religion of The Economy which follows suggests that though none of us would bow the knee to a pile of gold, we are, in fact, guilty as charged. In the following chapters (4-6), Rosner explores what it is that drives greed; inordinate love, misplaced trust and forbidden service.

Inordinate love is an admiration or devotion to our things that is misplaced (out of order). We set our hearts upon them when in fact our hearts should be set upon God. I like the quote from Martin Lloyd Jones (pp 60-61)

'Anything that you and I tend to set up as the big thing, the central thing, in our lives, the thing about which we think and dream, the thing that engages our imagination, the thing that we live for, the thing that gives us the biggest thrill, if it is anything other than God, it is idolatry.'

It comes from being 'in love with this present world' (2 Timothy 4:10) and it ‘robs us of something far better’ (p 65) because in the end, money and our possession cannot satisfy.

When we came to leave for Vanuatu and were packing up our house I was confronted with this very inordinate love in my heart. I hate to admit it, but it was my books that aroused such affection. They defined who I was, who I had been and who I hoped to become. My heart was in them.

I wonder what it is for you? What could you do about it?

Misplaced trust is the attitude that money provides security. The more money we have, the more we have behind us, the more secure our future will be. Not just our future, but that of our children. With money we buy a house to live in, food to eat, clothes to wear. With more money we can set aside some for the future, or some to get us through difficult times. Is this not what the rich man says?

'I will tear down my barns and build larger ones… And I will say to my soul, Soul you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry.' (Luke 12:18-19)

Rosner outlines two problems with this way of thinking. First, God is jealous. Trust in money for our security, and trust in ourselves to provide that money pushes God out of the picture. But, He is the one that provides for us and cares for us. We must trust Him. Second, it doesn’t work; ‘to think that money can provide security is deluded’ (p 75) and I think the recent global financial crisis is a further example of this.

This can be a difficult lesson to learn, particularly if you have lost much.How have you learnt to trust God rather than money?

Forbidden service is working for and obeying one Master when actually, your allegiance belongs to another. Rosner refers to and explains Jesus’ statement in Matthew 6:24 that,'You cannot serve both God and money.'He says,

‘No-one sets out to become a slave of money, and most people do not recognise their servitude until it is too late. People wrongly assume that money is serving them.’ (p 78)

We see this in the way many of us are caught up in patterns of work that are damaging to our families and ourselves in order to provide for particular lifestyles. The more one wants to spend, the more one has to work in order to earn enough money to do so. It has become a form of slavery.

An old school friend of mine recently said that she ‘had no other choice’ than to put her daughter into child-care at six months and return to full-time work, as she could not afford not to. She also felt she could not afford to have any other children. Regardless of what you think of her decisions she expressed it in terms of bondage. There was no other choice. ‘The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful’ (Mark 4:19). We don’t set out to serve it, but it chokes us until we know nothing else. It’s just what we do.

When have you felt as if you had 'no choice' in your life? What did you do?

Your affections. Your trust. Your obedience. They belong to God. Where are they?

You will be pleased to know that in part 3, Rosner discusses solutions to the problem of greed. Hang in there for the secret … you may have already picked up some hints.

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