Tag Archives: Greed

Greed Addiction

Ordinary Time
January 18, 2018

Scripture Reading: Psalm 62:5-10

Those of low estate are but a breath,
   those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
   they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no confidence in extortion,
   and set no vain hopes on robbery;
   if riches increase, do not set your heart on them. –1 Corinthians 62:9-10

God is magnanimous. having been made in the image of God, we are fully capable of being magnanimous too. So why aren’t we? And, why are we sometimes guilty of wrapping greed in sanctity?

Magnanimous means:
1. having, showing, or suggesting nobility of feeling and generosity of mind: devoid of meanness or          pettiness

2. showing or suggesting a lofty and courageous spirit.

The Indian Removed of the 19th century dubbed Manifest Destiny was nothing, but greed run amok. Slavery, often justified by using Biblical quotes, provided labor that garnered greater profits for their owners. Today, companies not paying a living wage, reap the fruits of their employees’ labor driving the stock market to record highs while forcing their staff to rely on food stamps, Medicaid, and child care subsidies. Our society disparages people receiving these benefits. Private prisons, to make a profit, rely on an ample, and continuous stream of persons convicted of crimes and have little motive to rehabilitate them. The military industrial complex depends on war or the fear of war to be successful. And there is no question in my mind that our so-called immigration problem could be quickly solved if some folks weren’t profiting greatly off the backs of undocumented aliens.

So how do we move this mountain of greed and attain the abundance that Jesus desires for all of God’s children? A first step might be revisiting what that abundance looks like and what it means to have enough.

Regarding our epidemic of greed, faith groups universal must ascertain whether they are contributing to the problem through investments or even underpaying their staff. Individuals too would reap the benefits of examining their investments, attitudes, and behaviors. Justice requires us all to speak for those without voice or power.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we get caught in the grip of greed. Show us ways to live your love in all aspects of our lives. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/magnanimous

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.

Light

Christmas
January 1, 2018

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:1-8

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.  –Genesis 1:1-5

Starting a new year with the story of creation is fitting. Even more fitting, the story of creation starts with light. We are in the process of celebrating the Light of Christ coming into the world in human form. Light opens new doors of understanding as the dark shadows disappear and we see more clearly.

Our society is currently having problems processing that which is clearer now. We are more racist than we thought we were. Sexual harassment is more a norm than the exception. Greed and lust for power are replacing compassion and the Common Good.

Insight is the catalyst for change if we turn around from the negative drivers in our lives and seek God’s guidance in creating a world where all are welcomed and loved, and all have enough of life’s necessities to thrive and develop.

Racism is a form of creating hierarchies of worth to enhance one’s self-esteem. It too gets tangled with greed as it justifies our right to have more than another. Misogyny is lust for power again building up self-esteem by taking control of another.

For some reason, I had a lot of desserts left over from my Christmas dinner. I froze it in individual serving with the intention of eating some of it as a special treat over time. It now calls to me every time I pass the refrigerator enticing me to designate all times as special. Greed works that way as it takes over our lives. It whispers we deserve it even when it is ultimately bad for us. I guess we could say the same thing regarding lust for power.

Christ’s light is available for all to access shining forth to show us a better way of living. It is time we followed his light.

Prayer: Lord, protect us from being enticed by greed and lust for power. Show us your better 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Fear Not Be Whole

Advent
November 29, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Restore us, O God;
   let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
   how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
   and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
   our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
   let your face shine, that we may be saved. –Psalm 80:3-7

This Psalm hits a little too close to home. Our allies no longer feel we are trusted partners. Thus they work together without us, dealing with trade and climate change. I image our enemies are laughing among themselves too. We can blame this situation on our elected leaders, but I think we need to look more closely in the mirror. We are the ones who elected them whether enthusiastically voting for them or failing to vote at all. Greed and lust for power run through every fiber of our society from the poorest to the richest, the weakest to the strongest.

We have lost our way. Our compass seems broken. In C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund, the younger brother, follows the Wicked Witch into evil enticed by an ample supply of Turkish Delight. What entices us from following Christ? What is lacking in our lives that we are willing to fill the gap with anything but the right thing? I think I know deep in my heart what is right most of the time; I just do not want to do it. Why? I think part of it is my own stubborn desire to be in control when everything about me seems out of control. Fear often drives the need to control drives. Evil strikes at the moments we are most vulnerable. We see it in toddlers as they try to assert their autonomy. Apparently, we retain some of that need for independence all of our life. As adults, we just channel it differently. We follow one who commands us to Fear Not.

How do we reconcile wholeness and independence? Where does interdependence or oneness fit in our lives? Finally, how do we square personal desires with God’s justice? We are made whole through our relationship with Jesus Christ as we are made one with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Once we accept Christ, we accept the call to do justice. We can never view the world again from isolated autonomy what is right for me must also be right for all God’s other children.

Prayer: Lord, make us whole so that we can be full partners in your mission of a world ruled by love where there is no fear. 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.

Role Models

Living in the Spirit
November 19, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:14-30

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” –Matthew 25:24-30

I will admit that I see the world uniquely, some might say peculiarly. When I read the words above, I instantly thought the man who hid his talent reminded me of the very wealthy citizens of the USA who work so hard to avoid paying taxes, investing their time and energy in exploring tax loopholes or moving their money to offshore accounts. They prefer to buy politicians rather than invest their wealth in improving their country. The other parable that applies here is The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21). The church may contribute to their delinquency as it craves the mite the rich might toss its way. Of course, there are the Warren Buffett’s of the world who seem to gain joy from their philanthropy.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the example, of those who hoard their wealth, is the rest of us see them as role models. If we become just like them will we be rich and famous too? Greed causes much of the grief in our world today. Christ as a role model gives generously of himself and thrives on the wellbeing of others.

Prayer: Forgive us, O Lord, when we chase after the ways of the world rather than following your example. Guide and direct us to follow you more nearly. 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.

Dealing with Greed

Living in the Spirit
October 1, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:13-46

‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’ –Matthew 21:33-41

Greed is epidemic in our land. So caught in it, we rarely recognize it in ourselves. God trusted us with the earth and all that is in it but we have not honored that trust by using it wisely and we deny that any of our actions relate to the devastating results. Profit drives our healthcare system not the well-being of our populace. Profit also drives our legal justice system. Growth is an important part of a capitalistic system. Thus our prison population grows in numbers and in years of sentences to sate the thirst of the for-profit prison business. While large corporations make larger and larger profits many of their employees earn less than a living wage and are dependent on food stamps, child care supplements, and Medicaid to survive.

Is this the world God intended? Does this describe the abundant life Christ envisioned for all? How do we turn these circumstances around? I think it starts with each of us examining ourselves and repenting of any part we may be playing in this process. We then must come together and find common ground on which to build the Common Good.

Prayer:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked* way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

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.

What Do We Treasure?

Living in the Spirit
July 30, 2017

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. –Matthew 13:44-46

I worry about the greed and lust for power that is epidemic in our land. It is so common place we accept it as normal. Some intentionally pursue either or both. The prophets of the Hebrew Bible spoke eloquently about these sins, and their words ring true today. I fear our results will be the same as that experienced by the people of ancient Israel if we do not change our behavior.

What do we treasure? It is important to identify what we treasure. Jesus said, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21.) What are you willing to sell everything you have to purchase? Are you willing to sell your soul? Greed devours souls.

Our economic system demands below living wage incomes to reap greater profits, which results in the inability of larger and larger numbers of people to purchase the products being sold. Such a system cannot be sustained. My Mom would have called that cutting off your nose to spite your face.

We see it in our personal lives, and it spills over into our civic lives as cuts are proposed in Social Security and Medicare to pay for increased military spending which has not resulted in peace. It does support the continuation of a vast military industrial complex. Are we destined to be at some level of war forever? Fear undergirds greed.

Prayer: Forgive us of our greed and lust for power. Help us to hear the wisdom of your prophets and Jesus and recognize what our treasures really are. 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.

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.