greed, money, and my way

Category : choice, sin

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It appears that the NBA is headed to a lockout.  The referees and the NBA can’t come to an agreement.  It may not be the only sport that suffers a lockout.  The NFL, the world’s most successful league, is on the verge of a labor dispute which may result in a lockout.  All of this follows on the heels of the NFL’s labor dispute from a few years ago.  And just recently was the 15 year anniversary of the MLB labor dispute.

Four major sports, 4 lockouts all within recent memory.

Why?

Part of it is greed.  Greed of owners, greed of players, greed of fans, greed of our hearts.  But part of it is just the nature of the world we live in.  We have bought into the idea that money is the answer to all our problems.  Yet the more money we get, the more we fight over it.

In the case of the NFL, neither the players nor the owners have ever had it better.  Yet both want bigger pieces of the pie.  It’s hard for most of us to relate to these arguments because many of us would gladly do their jobs for free, let alone millions of dollars!

Yet for most of us, we can understand being consumed by money and things.  We get angry that we don’t get a raise.  We become jealous when our friends get cooler things than we have.  The hardest thing for me, about being unemployed, is seeing things I want, and not being able to get them.

If we aren’t careful, greed and money pave the way for us to think that we should always get it “my way.”  That somehow just because it’s “my way” makes it right.  The irony is, “my way” is often a path towards failure and defeat.

If the NBA and the NFL have labor issues, maybe they will recover.  But maybe not .  In either case, they will display, for all of us, just what happens when you allow greed to become synonymous with “my way.”

greed – a quick way to nothing

Category : God, faith, living a life of faith

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History is filled with people who believed the grass was greener on the other side.  Israel was no exception of course.  During the reigns of David and Solomon Israel was at the height of its political, military, religious, and economic power.  They controlled a large empire, were prosperous in every way that you can think of, and God was blessing what they did.  But all of this fell apart in a few brief years.

What could lead a nation to collapse so quickly?  In short – greed.

Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, abandoned his relationship with God in favor of using his friends and his own religion to control Israel.  Why? Because he wanted more power, more wealth and more fame.  In turn, he lost it all.  What followed was a divided kingdom (Israel split into two, Judah and the rest of Israel).  He also went from having the military power and peace that David and Solomon had enjoyed to being overrun by his neighbors.  In fact when Egypt attacked Rehoboam, Israel lost most of the treasure that David and Solomon had acquired.

Rehoboam didn’t always act out of greed.  For a while, he was faithful to God.  But eventually his heart began to change.  The Bible says, “after Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12: 1).  Rehoboam waited until he was in a position of power and comfort before he began to move away from God.  He waited until he had a lot of stuff, and was comfortable and secure.  That’s when greed set in.  That’s when he started hearing the whispers that he could have more.

Israel was stuck with a cheap imitation born out of greed.

But it was an illusion.  His greed led to the destruction of his wealth, power, and country.  Rehoboam couldn’t even afford to replace the stolen treasures.  It got so bad, that to replace the lost treasure Rehoboam used bronze instead of the gold.  In an ironic twist, only a few years before silver was seen as a worthless material because of Solomon’s wealth (2 Chronicles 9: 20).  Now, Israel was stuck with a cheap imitation born out of greed.

I have to wonder, how many times I am stuck with a cheap imitation born out of greed.  How often do I wait until God brings me into a position of wealth and security before I abandon him?  I know it seems like every time my life is going smoothly, that’s when I turn my back on God.  How many affairs have started, athletic careers ended, and businesses failed because someone listened to the whisper of greed?

“The grass is greener on the other side” it says.  “Follow me and you can have it all.”  But we can’t.  Often the grass isn’t greener on the other side.

I don’t want things in my life made out of bronze.  I don’t want a cheap imitation born out of greed.  I want the gold and silver that comes from being a revolutionary.  I want the gold and silver that comes from living out a life of faith.

That’s easy to say now when I am not tempted.  It’s a lot harder to say “I want God over greed” when greed is whispering in your ear.  Lord – please help me to resist temptation.  Help me to fight the urges to be greedy and to think the grass is greener on the other side.

I deserve this

2

Category : God, bible, failure, faith, sin

 

“I deserve this.”

Those are magic words.  Right up there with “this wasn’t supposed to happen to me.”  Each time we say it, we’re betraying the sense of entitlement we all have. 

Often the focus of entitlement is on “American culture” or “American greed”.  But I don’t think that’s the real problem.  Oh sure American’s may have a highly developed sense of entitlement, but all humans believe they are entitled.

After all, didn’t Adam and Eve feel entitled to the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?  Didn’t Jacob feel entitled to Esau’s inheritance?  Didn’t David feel entitled to more than one wife?  Didn’t James and John feel entitled to a special place at Jesus’ side?

History is filled with a sense of entitlement.

And so are we.  It’s part of human nature.  For instance, if you find out your co-worker makes more money than you, but does less work, how does that make you feel?  Don’t you immediately think you deserve more money?  More respect?  More vacation time?  And they deserve more work?

Psychologists have a theory of motivation to explain that behavior, they call it ”Equity Theory.” 

But the world is neither fair nor equal.  And on top of that, God never promised us a life of fairness or equality.  He doesn’t even promise us comfort.  He just promises us life and freedom. 

I’m not immune of course.  And a sense of entitlement fills me more than I’d like to admit.  Even as I type this I feel that I am entitled to finding a job (as many of you know, I’m currently out of work).  But I don’t want to find a job through hard work, suffering, and faith.  Instead I want this job to fall into my lap, offering a pay raise, shorter hours, and an easier commute.

So why should you care about any of this?

Because entitlement is dangerous.  It blinds us to our own greed and selfishness.  Often we can’t even recognize that what we’re doing is wrong.  Consider the person who steals a tie because he thinks he’s owed by the “establishment.”  Or someone who downloads music off the internet because “it’s not fair to have to pay for it.”

Entitlement surrounds us in sin, but whispers to us “I deserve this.”

The irony in this post is that we’re approaching Christmas.  To many Christmas is a time of rampant entitlement.  We criticize presents because they are “not quite right.”  We complain about relatives and travel arrangements.  We attack store employees because they don’t have what we are owed in stock.  And sometimes we even kill to get a good deal.   

Yet to God, Christmas is a time that contradicts entitlement.  Christmas is when God gave up every right he had, and decided to come to earth for the sole purpose of dying.  Simply to save us. 

So this Christmas, as we start feeling a sense of entitlement, maybe we need to stop and reflect about the actual cost of that feeling.  (Hint: God gave up everything for us.  It cost him his life.)  

What can we give up for him?