The Antidote to Greed & Worry

It was not uncommon for people of ancient Israel to bring an unsettled dispute to a respected Rabbi.  In Luke 12, we find someone doing just that: “Someone in the crowd” cries out to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 

The Jewish law was clear about the division of inheritance: You take the number of children in a family, add one, divide equally, then everyone receives an equal share except the oldest son who receives a double share.

There are two possibilities as to what has gone wrong between this man and his brother: Either the oldest brother has not distributed fairly what the younger brother has a right to, or the younger brother is seeking more than what the law declares to be his fair share.  We do not know which it is, whether this man is presenting a legitimate plea for justice or a greedy ploy to get more. 

A Rabbi of that day had a responsibility to look out for the good of a person.  In addressing what was good for this man, Jesus looked beyond the surface issue of What is fair? to the deeper issue of What is good for this person’s soul? 

Whether this man’s request flows out of a legitimate plea for justice or an illegitimate ploy to get more, Jesus perceives a certain level of greed has become implanted in this man’s soul, and greed is like a poison that can destroy a soul.  Therefore, Jesus speaks words of warning to this man, “Take care!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Money can purchase many nice possessions for a person, but there is a limit as to what such possessions can bring about in a person’s life.  Money can fill a home with nice furniture, but it cannot fill a soul with contentment.  Money can purchase a comfortable bed and nice sheets, but it cannot produce a peaceful night’s sleep.  Money can pay for plenty of entertainment, but it cannot produce joy.  Money can buy popularity, but it cannot buy true and lasting friends.  Money can be spent on filling your stomach with the finest of foods, but it cannot fill your heart with love.  Money can buy the most stylish clothes to make you look attractive, but it cannot produce inner beauty and character.

The ancient Romans had a proverb that said that money was like sea-water; the more a person drank of it, the thirstier the person became.  The love of money is a thirst that can never be satisfied. 

In warning of greed’s dangers, Jesus tells a parable of a rich man whose land produced abundantly.  The rich man tears down his barns to build larger ones to hold even more produce.  There is nothing evil about building larger barns, yet Jesus refers to this rich man as a “fool” because he never gets around to enjoying his blessings before his death.  Jesus concludes the parable with this warning: “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”  Then he says to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” 

The English word worry actually comes from an old German word, wyrgan, which means “to strangle or to choke.”  That’s what worry does to us.  Worry is a poison that chokes us.  It strangles the life out of us.  It chokes us of peace and joy and strength and trust and enthusiasm and sleep and altruism and compassion and mercy. 

The antidote to greed and the antidote to worry is the same.  The antidote is to value more highly the things of God than what money can buy.  That’s why Psalm 37:4 tells us, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” 

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One response to “The Antidote to Greed & Worry”

  1. walterosbourn3 says :

    Thank you, Tom,
    Blessings, Wally

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