Part 2 of the series Seven Deadly Sins. Click on the category in the column to the far right to read previous posts.
by Marjorie George
Once upon a time, goes the story, there was a country in Eastern Europe that was warring with its neighbor. In that country was a small village that faced famine because of the war. Consequently, the villagers had become very jealous for every morsel of food. They began to hide what little they had even from each other.
Down the road one day came three soldiers, on their way home from the war. The soldiers were very hungry, for they had not eaten in days. But when they came to the village and asked for food, the villagers lied and said they had none.
You may recognize this little tale as the beginning of the story of Stone Soup. There are many versions of the story (http://stonesoup.media.officelive.com/story.aspx for one of them). The punch line is that the soldiers propose to make stone soup, and little by little the villagers contribute carrots and barley and meat from their meager larders, thereby cooking up a lovely stew that feeds the soldiers and the entire village, too.
And the moral, they say, is that by working together and sharing what we have, we are able to accomplish much.
Now let’s talk about real life, here defined as the life to which our God calls us. No one would have labeled the villagers as greedy. They had barely sufficient for themselves; they were not being asked to give out of their excess. Stingy, maybe — frugal, cautious, reasonable. But surely not greedy. Our definition of greed is accumulating more than we need, especially at the expense of others. But God calls us to share out of what little we have. If I have two dollars, God asks me to buy food with one and give the other to someone else who is hungry. And when I have no money at all, then I will know what it means to rely utterly and solely on God. Anything less is greed.
Those are harsh words, and you will argue with me. You will tell me there is nothing noble in being hungry and poor; I have preached that many times myself. But the real issue here is not how much or how little we have; the issue is whether or not we are totally reliant on God. If our ability to accumulate things causes us to rely on ourselves, are we not practicing a form of greed?
And it is so easy to get there: just a little more money in my bank account, and I will feel secure. Just a little bit bigger house, and I will be happy. Just a few more accolades in my job, and I will be successful. Greed is the beginning with no ending.
Last Sunday, during one of the apparently three rain storms we are going to have in San Antonio this summer, the house two doors down from me was struck by lightning. I live in a suburb of the big city, so the smoke (I never actually saw flames) brought out the town’s three fire trucks, two police cars, and an EMS ambulance. I watched, realizing it could have been me and rehearsing which of my possessions I would have grabbed on the way out of my house.
There is only one promise to followers of Christ – and that is that he will never leave us. There is no promise that our children will be healthy, our jobs secure, or that we will have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies at all times. Lightning can strike anywhere. Famine may beset us. Men will war with each other. Our greed will lead us astray. But nothing will separate us from the Love of God (see Romans 8:31-39).
To rely on anything but that promise, to live in an attitude of scarcity rather than plenty, to clutch it all to ourselves – that, my friends, is greed. Pray that we can learn that lesson and thereby gain a life of abundance.
Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at Marjorie.firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below.
Read more about greed, below.