Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15).
Greed and stress go hand-in-hand. If we want to eliminate stress, we must choose to put "things" in their proper place, refusing to attach importance to them. In Luke 12:15, Jesus issues a warning, "Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. Life is not measured by how much one owns" (ICB). I believe that attaching importance to "things" is sin and will always lead to more sin. The monster of greed is fed by fear. We are afraid to give it all to God. We are afraid of not having enough. We are afraid to sacrifice and not having enough resources for the future. How important are your possessions? How do you view the things you possess?
The story is told of the world's stingiest man who went shopping for a friend's gift. Everything was too expensive, except for a $50.00 vase that was on sale for $2.00 because the handle had been broken off. The stingy man bought it and had the salesman ship it so that his friend would think that he had paid the full price of $50.00 for the vase and that it had been broken in shipment. A week later, the penny-pinching man received a thank you note from his friend. "Thank you for the lovely vase," the note read. "It was so nice of you to wrap each piece separately."
One way we can guard against greed and control our wants is to view our possessions as resources loaned to us by God for us to disperse instead of treating them as earned rewards or deserved pleasures. "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others" (I Peter 4:10 NIV). Every spiritual gift, every financial resource and possession has been given to us by God as a way to serve others. Greed steps in the minute we begin to view those gifts and resources as our own while clutching them tightly in our hands and in our hearts. Fear then leads us to worry about losing what is not really ours to begin with and left unchecked, greed can lead to dishonesty. Greed and exaggerated wants can control our lives to the point that we are consumed by a fear that naturally leads to dishonesty and lies.
The reality is that who we are should never be measured in terms of what we have or do not have. Instead, our lives are measured by who and what we are ... and whose we are. The lure of material wealth is undeniably stronger than the human will or self-control and always positions itself between us and God. The result will always be stress. I sometimes think the door that shuts out many from heaven is covered with silver and gold.
I love the story of a wealthy man who prayed, asking for permission to take his earthly wealth with him when he died and went to heaven. An angel appeared to the man and said, "We heard your prayer, but I am sorry. You simply cannot take it with you." The man pleaded so passionately that the angel said, "Let me see what I can do." When the angel returned, he reported, "Good news! God has made an exception for you. You may bring one suitcase with you when it is your time to go." Delighted, the man packed his one suitcase and went on with life. Several years later, he died and appeared at the Pearly Gates where he was met by St. Peter who took one look at the suitcase and said, "I am sorry, sir, but you cannot bring that in with you." The man protested, "But I received special permission." Just then, the angel appeared and said, "Peter, it is true. He has special permission to bring one suitcase in with him." Curious, Peter said, "Do you mind showing me what is in the bag that is so important to you?" With a smile, the man replied, "Not at all" and proceeded to open the suitcase to reveal stacks of gold bricks. Peter's face said it all, "Pavement? You brought pavement with you?"
Stress thrives on greed that urges us on, in a never-ending and futile quest to accumulate "pavement" here that is totally worthless there where the streets are made of gold. Wealth is all a matter of perspective. We need to understand that our Father wants us to have wealth. We just have to be careful that we do not settle for earthly money and possessions instead of eternal treasures.
Father, thank You for reminding me that what I have is temporary but that who I am is eternal. Give me a heart that loves to give instead of to receive. Help me to make decisions and choices that are generous instead of greedy. I pray that others would see You in the way I give myself away in service and that I would never count on earthly possessions for the peace and contentment only You can give.
In Jesus' Name,