Monday, December 28, 2009

Beyond Greed: a twist in the tale (part VI)

So by now you have been convinced that greed is "destructive, deceitful and contrary to God ... truly a deadly sin." (p26) You have had a long, hard look at your life and you have to admit that you have worshipped at the idol of greed. You have recognised inordinate love, misplaced trust and forbidden service. And reflecting on contentment and generosity in the midst of the Christmas-silly-season has left you feeling just a little guilty.

And now you read that, actually, greed is good.


With this twist in his tale, Rosner shows us that it is not actually the desire for more that is inappropriate, but how that desire is directed. Just as strong-will in a child can either be stubborn disobedience or determined perseverance depending upon how it is directed, our desire for more can either be selfish greed or godly thirst, depending upon how it is directed.

At risk of mixing the metaphor some more, let's consider what Isaiah 55:1-2 says,
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food."
As Rosner explains, the solution to thirst and hunger is not to quash thirst and hunger, but to quench them. The issue is not whether they should be quenched, but with what they are quenched. The problem is not that we are greedy for riches, but that we are greedy for the wrong riches. We do not want what God in his abundant goodness is giving, which is of even more value than gold. Instead of storing up treasure in heaven we heap up riches on earth (Matthew 6:19-20).

Rosner is not being clever or tricky in his use of language when distinguishing between real ( or spiritual) riches and material (or worldy) riches. He carefully shows how Scripture itself speaks likewise. Revelation 3:17-18 is clear;
"For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see."
Rosner describes the gold refined by fire at length in this chapter. Personally, I love they way Paul describes the blessings that God has lavished upon us in Ephesians 1:3-10. The 'salve' for our eyes is to fix them upon Jesus; to set our mind on things above, not on earthly things (Col 3:1-2). Instead of finding pleasure and fulfillment on our possesions, we find joy and pleasure in God; instead of finding confidence and security in riches, we trust our sovereign and gracious God; instead of labouring under the rod of mammon we discover the freedom and liberty of serving Him who died for us (p170-171).

Our battle against greed must be fought on two fronts. First, we must develop the right attitude to worldly possessions; contentment and generosity. Second, we must nuture a right understanding of riches. True riches do not consist of what we can hold and touch and heap up, but in knowing and loving God and being known and loved by him.

I agree with Rosner that those that can sing the words of this verse from the hymn 'Be Thou my Vision', will never think that they have missed out, no matter how much their faith has cost them materially;
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always.
Thou, and thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

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