Tag Archives: Greed

Chains of Greed

Living in the Spirit
July 11, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 25:19-34

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!’ (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. –Genesis 25:29-34

One of my aunts who had no children of her own, carefully taped the names on each piece of her memorabilia of the niece or nephew or friend designated as its recipient upon her death. My guess is she saw too often the fights heirs have over estates. She also was a career school teacher/librarian and understood the principle of valuing each individual.  I always wondered what there was about a particular piece of crystal that made her pick it for me rather than giving it to my sister, brother, or cousins.

As a twin, Jacob was in the odd position of losing the prime hereditary position by only a few seconds. The Bible portrays him as crafty throughout. His cheating his brother is only the first example of others yet to come. Esau gains the reputation of one easily taken, trading his inheritance for a bowl of beans. Jacob would be a revered oligarch in our world today. We probably all have a touch of greed in our beings. Making the most of money in our society is a valued trait.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 says The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. 1 Timothy 6:10 states For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

The problem with greed is it can never be satisfied. Greed is an addiction that overtakes one’s life often replacing perceived wealth for God.

Prayer: God, we live in a greed-ruled world. We are so enamored with it; we cannot see it as harmful. Open our eyes, free us from the chains of greed. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

Lost Sheep

Living in the Spirit
June 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:35-10:23

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ –Matthew 9:35-38

It strikes me that the church divided is like sheep without a shepherd. How can we possibly follow the same Master with diametrically opposing actions, attitudes, and beliefs? Each individual, each group thinks he or she or they are as right as right can be. Our battles with one another distract from Christ’s vision and our mission to attain it.

Sheep are by nature social animals. One of the first animals to be domesticated, they are often tended by youth. Jesus talks about one sheep going astray and the extraordinary steps the shepherd takes to bring it back into the fold. (See Luke 15) Our society seems to have lost the vision of the Common Good. We seem to have morphed into a mindset that if business profits are good, the economy will flourish and all will eventually benefit. Such theory does not take into consideration that businesses cannot thrive without a healthy, well-education workforce who live and work in a safe environment producing and nourishing the next generations.

Greed has become our shepherd leading us not into green pastures where we can thrive but into parched fields of weeds and thorns. While most of us will never experience great wealth or enormous power, we let their trappings dangle before us like forbidden fruit tempting us away from the loving Shepherd who wants only the best for each of us and all of us.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for turning away from you and wandering into deep darkness in search of wealth or power. Find us in our loss-ness and return us to your fold. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

The Pursuit of Meaninglessness

Lent
March 27, 2017

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’                                                                                                                                               –Ezekiel 37:1-6

Dry bones equal no hope. I am sure the Hebrews felt like dry bones while living as slaves in Babylon. We seem to be traveling the same path that led Israel and Judah into exile. Greed and selfish motivations are the driving forces ruling our country, perhaps the whole world. Forming alliances with bad neighbors made matters worse also.

In the USA, we want quality education for children but we do not want to pay for it. Women do not need maternity care or at least men should not have to pay for it. Profits are all that matter. The elderly doesn’t need to eat if they are shut-in and unable to purchase or prepare food for themselves. Cancer patients will feel better when they die.

Jesus Christ came some two thousand years ago to show us the better way. He talked of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping the sick, restoring the prisoner, and welcoming the stranger. (Matthew 25). He said it was these things on which we would be finally judged. The Hebrews’ experience tells us that we will face the consequences of our actions far before any final judgment. We weaken ourselves by not seeing the power of loving and caring for one another.

Prayer: Lord forgive us for foolishly chasing after meaninglessness. Guide us back to the way you have already shown us. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Spiritual Vision


Lent

March 25, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 9:1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ –John 9:1-12

The book of John reports the story of Jesus’ addressing physical blindness, perhaps to help us see more clearly the ramifications of spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness occurs when the seductions of the world become cataracts prohibiting us from perceiving the world as God’s kingdom which God gifted us and recruited us to nurture and protect.

I must confess, I am utterly astounded by the values, perhaps theology, that drives our civic governance. Maternity care is not viewed as an essential health provision. There are others but this one floored me most. Preventive services are far more cost effective, not only in health care but also in criminal justice. Yet we do not fund them and pay the price, in the case of prenatal care for the lifetime services needed for a child born with major medical problems, that are often avoidable with quality prenatal care. Businesses are clamoring for a better educated workforce while we cut spending for public schools. Greed seems to be the primary driving force in our world today. Profit making is our purpose. My mother would call it cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Jesus came to remove the spiritual cataracts blocking our vision. His is a distributive form of justice. One that does not toss us into the pool and if we by nature came swim and save ourselves, that is great. If we sink and drown, well that just life. In Jesus’ world peace and prosperity coexist when everyone has enough, and each matter to the other.

Prayer: Lord laser off the film covering our spiritual eyes. Forgive us from our greed. Help us to seek your vision in spirit and in truth. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Knowing the God of Love

child-in-hands-of-godLiving in the Spirit
September 30, 2016

Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-14

For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. –2 Timothy 1:11-14

As I look back on my life, I must admit I probably was a weird kid. Way too serious; my dad described me as three going on 103. My two favorites songs as a child were Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone and I Know Whom I Have Believed. Obviously, I got my social justice creds early in life and I also learned early that I am never alone even when the world seems to be going crazy. While neither song is sung much today, neither are in our contemporary hymnal; I believe they have much to say about being a follower of Christ in a world living in fear, strangled by greed.

I do not remember knowing at the time that 2 Timothy was the source of I Know Whom I have Believed. Apparently, such assurance was as necessary for the first century as it is now. We become disillusioned because with put our faith in lesser gods promising magic wands to make all things right again. If I just had enough money, if we just had the right person in power, if we just drop a bomb and kill all the bad people, everything will be OK. We dig ourselves deeper and deeper into futility.

There was a man who lived in that first century who proposed a different way: the way of love. When applied with all due humility, Jesus’ way works.

 But I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I’ve committed
unto him against that day. *

Prayer: Lord, save us from ourselves. Give us the courage to love as you love and to spread that love throughout the lands. Amen.

*Chorus of hymn I Know Whom I Have Believed, Lyrics by Daniel W. Whittle, see at http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh714.sht

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Faith and Occupation

integrityLiving in the Spirit
September 22, 2016

Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-19

Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. –1 Timothy 6:6-10

Does your faith go to work with you? There are some business owners who make the news for refusing to serve certain people because of who they are or do not participate in health insurance that pays for birth control for their employees. Both seem to me to be instances of requiring others to follow one’s faith. What happened to integrity in doing business when we do not follow our faith? When did turning every penny into profit override customer service? What became of the pride of quality workmanship? Announcements of recalls fill the news. Software companies foist “new and improved upgrades” that consumers beta test for them on the fly as the companies try to beat out the competition. Software upgrades render hardware obsolete long before it loses its functionality. And now one of the largest banks in America is fined for enrolling customers in services that they did not request but earned fees for the bank. Oh, and yes, the bank’s response was to fire the front line workers who did the dirty work for them.

Greed is epidemic in our land. It is the way of doing business. Greed always starts in the hearts and minds of individuals but rapidly grows as we ignore each other’s greed to ease the guilt of our own avarice. Greed is a sin and as with all sins, it will eat each of us from the inside out unless we recognize it for what it is and elicit God’s forgiveness and grace to help us overcome it. History also demonstrates that greed has contributed to the fall of great nations. Read the Bible book of Amos.

Prayer: God of Justice, I fear we are all guilty of greed. Make us aware of the difference in greed and productive gain. Forgive us when greed overcomes us and heal our souls. Amen.

Picture credit: <!– HTML Credit Code for Can Stock Photo–>
<a href=”http://www.canstockphoto.com”>(c) Can Stock Photo</a>

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Mired by Greed

miredLiving in the Spirit
September 17, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 16:1-13

‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? –Luke 16:10-11

You are probably sick of me saying it, but I do believe that greed, which includes lust for power, is the major sin of our times and perhaps all times. We like to ignore that truth. We like to think we are immune from such a grievous sin. We talk about eliminating racism and misogyny. We express remorse at our failure to welcome the stranger. We do not go back to their root cause. Jesus is quoted as saying: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21) First Timothy 6:10 further describes the nature of greed: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. The so-called prosperity gospel gives credence to 1 Timothy.

How do we mesh our culture with God’s or do we? Is the question better phrased how do we make God’s way our culture? I think most of us had hoped that that is what we have been doing for most of our lives. Is it time to take another look? Is it time to hang God’s plumb line* of justice next to our lives and measure how skewed we are from it? Is it time that we let go of our limited perceptions of the narrow way of God and seek with all our hearts to follow the example of Jesus?

Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy, lift us from the mire of greed, wash it from our being, and lead us down the path you have carved before us. Amen

*See Amos 7

**Art Credit <!– HTML Credit Code for Can Stock Photo–>
<a href=”http://www.canstockphoto.com”>(c) Can Stock Photo</a>

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Finding Common Ground

slavesLiving in the Spirit
September 14, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 79:1-9

Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors;
   let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
   for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
   for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and forgive our sins,
   for your name’s sake. –Psalm 79:8-9

I have been following with great interest the preparations for opening the new Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History. The museum opens at an apt time, occurring during a volatile election year in a country awkwardly trying to deal with its history of bigotry and amidst a faith system trying to make sense of it all. Need for a whole lot of healing exists. While on all sides of the issue, most of us do not even recognize that overzealous quest for power and greed is sin.

I cannot adequately describe how I felt when in my genealogy quest, I found the will of one of my ancestors whose name was Isaac. In it, he had left his house servants by name, listed along with horses and cows, to his various children. I knew that side of my family’s Civil War history and knew they had owned slaves, but that last will and testament forever changed my true understanding of the situation. My hope is that the new National Museum of African American History will provide similar clarity to its visitors. I also know that force-feeding understanding never works. We can only facilitate God’s Aha! moments.

On the other side of my family, in 1834 my ancestors migrated from Pennsylvania to Illinois to homestead on land ceded to the US government in the 1804 Treaty of St. Louis by the French. Sauk leader Blackhawk fought mightily against the ceding, crossing the river from Iowa to reclaim his tribal land. He apparently felt very cheated.

I have also traced the faith histories of my family’s various lines back for several generations. All good Protestants, so far, striving to do their best probably as oblivious as we are today about who wins and who loses when we seek to fulfill our Manifest Destiny regardless of who gets hurt. Some proclaim that this was all God’s will. Others seek God’s forgiveness. We are all called to learn from our history and avoid new ways of repeating it.

Prayer: Forgive us when we lose sight of the good you desire for all of your children and sacrifice it on the altar of what is good for a few but not for all. Open our hearts to the justice you desire for all and guide us in making it a reality. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

No gods at all?

Dust bowl 2Living in the Spirit
August 23, 2016

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 2:4-13

Has a nation changed its gods,
   even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
   for something that does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
   be shocked, be utterly desolate,  

says the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
   they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
   and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns
   that can hold no water. –Jeremiah 2:11-13

Have we traded in God for other gods which mean for no god at all? Jeremiah is not only condemning the people for changing gods but trading God, the source of living water, for a god they created that could not hold water at all.

The Dust Bowl in the Great Plains during the 1930’s was to a great extent created by humans. Plowing every inch of available ground in flat, straight rows for grain planting with no concern for the top soil resulted in disaster. Greed is often the idol that we humans replace for God. Oklahoma is a windy state at any time. The relentless wind coupled with no rain for days on end caused the earth to became dryer than dry resulting in precious, necessary topsoil blowing away. We learned from that mistake and in the recovery introduced new and better methods of plowing.

It is sad that we cannot take what we learn from one experience and apply it to similar ones. We do not even retain lessons learned if enough time has elapsed. The prophets of the Hebrew Bible warned the Israelites of coming disaster as the result of their misdirected choices of gods. They did not apply them any better in their time than we do today when we know the disaster that came when the Israelites ignored the prophets.

Following the oil bust of the 1980’s Oklahoma’s economy had to be diversified and proper funding for necessary governmental services allocated and steps were taken to do just that. Now we find ourselves in the same or worse situation because we revoked many of those steps that set our state on stable footing. While the current downturn would have still been challenging, it did not have to become a disaster that will take years to overcome.

Prayer: God forgive us when we create gods of our own making and turn away from you. In our repentance, guide us to your way. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Enough is Enough

EnoughLiving in the Spirit
July 30, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ –Luke 12:13-15

Our society, perhaps the world, is experiencing an epidemic of greed, which I believe will be our downfall if we do not implement the cure for it. It is a disease as old as time itself. Was Abel’s offering better than Cain’s? Should a mother’s favored son get the inheritance?

The prophet’s ranted against greed. Jerimiah said in Jerimiah 6:3,
For from the least to the greatest of them,
   everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
   everyone deals falsely.

Our scripture today quotes Jesus speaking about greed.

Greed is insidious. It creeps into all our lives in bits and pieces until it gains control. It is when we cross over the line placing greed as the driving force in our life that we cannot seem to escape it. The need for more grows greater than our need for God—more money, more power, more control.

The power of God’s love in and through us is the only antidote to greed. When we truly accept God’s love our need for more vanishes. When we share our love with others, we recognize that everyone having enough grows to be as important as any of us having more.

Prayer: Lord, fill my soul with your love so that there is no room left for greed and let my love be the source of everyone having enough. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.