Tag Archives: Greed

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.

A Living Wage

nickeled and dimedLiving in the Spirit
July 10, 2016

Scripture Reading: Amos 8:1-12

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
   and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, ‘When will the new moon be over
   so that we may sell grain;
and the Sabbath,
   so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
   and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
   and the needy for a pair of sandals,
   and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’ –Amos 8:4-6

Oklahoma has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation for a while. Even in a major oil and gas economic downturn, our unemployment rate has only risen to about the national average.The problem for Oklahoma is not unemployment; it is underemployment. The median income in Oklahoma (half the population earns more than this amount and half less than the amount) is $46,235. The living wage for a family of four in Oklahoma with both parents working is $56,950*. Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times writer, chose to evaluate extreme poverty in Tulsa this year rather than traveling to a third world country, and he was stunned by the similarities to the problems he found.

Much of the underemployment results from low wages, an inadequately supported education system, and the inertia of those benefiting from the underemployment that causes them to ignore the reality of much of the state’s population living with inadequate earned incomes. The number with inadequate incomes also includes the elderly and persons with disabilities living on Social Security payments that are below the real cost of living.

Amos is speaking of us and to us in our scripture today. When did wealth become our god? Just as Israel did, we will pay a heavy price for the greed that is the norm today. While some reading this may be underemployed, we the people who can vote have a say in who makes the decisions about these issues.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for not investing the time and energy needed to find a way for all to earn enough to have adequate food, clothing, shelter, and other basic life needs. Let your love be our catalyst for assuring the well-being of all our neighbors. Amen.

*See at http://www.living wage.mit.edu
**http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/19/opinion/sunday/why-i-was-wrong-about-welfare-reform.html.)

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.

God’s Integrity Measure

solidLiving in the Spirit
July 4, 2016

Scripture Reading: Amos 7:7-17

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb-line.’ Then the Lord said,
‘See, I am setting a plumb-line
   in the midst of my people Israel;
   I will never again pass them by;
   the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
   and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
   and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’ –Amos 7:7-9

After two warnings God lets down a plumb line and finds the nation of Israel sorely lacking integrity, like children’s bocks stacked in such a way that a slight wind would blow them over. While Amos may have had some concerns about the actual structural integrity of Israel’s fortifications, he is definitely talking about the people’s being in alignment with God’s will. They weren’t.

I often thought as I listened to the evening news in recent years in the USA, how I could have save my time keeping up with daily events because a simple reading of the book of Amos would have told me all I needed to know. Israel suffered from an epidemic of greed and privilege much as we do today. What is important in our society is how much money we can take in no matter who we have to step on or over to get it. The end of the story for Israel was not good. They were taken into bondage and lost everything.

I do not understand this so much as punishment but the absolute outcome of wasting the abundance that comes from being in synch with God. It is not abundance measured by the stock market but fullness of a life centered in love.

Prayer: Lord forgive us for trading your abundant life for the lesser things in life that may appear to have integrity by can never be a trustworthy foundation for wholeness. 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.

Greed in the Name of God

Claws_Of_AxosLiving in the Spirit
June 6, 2016

Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 21:1-21a

So [Jezebel] wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, ‘Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, “You have cursed God and the king.” Then take him out, and stone him to death.’ The men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. Just as it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the assembly. The two scoundrels came in and sat opposite him; and the scoundrels brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, ‘Naboth cursed God and the king.’ So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, ‘Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.’—1 Kings 21:8-14

This story starts with Ahab wanting a piece of Naboth’s land that he did not want to sell and Naboth, as you see above, paid a high price for wanting to retain his ancestral land. After all, Ahad needed a garden plot closer to his house and he was not to be denied. The very idea of procuring a garden plot by falsely accusing someone of cursing God is absurd but is it very far fetch from what is happening in our own country as we sell our souls for transitory wealth?

I find it nearly as offensive when we misuse our tax dollars to line someone’s pockets. Private prisons come to mind when we cross the line of keeping them fully stocked with prisoners to meet a quota whether that is the best means of rehabilitating the prisoner or not. The buying and selling of candidates for office might also fit in this category.

Greed is probably more addictive than tobacco which I understand is one of the most addictive drugs, at least hardest to quit. The first step in recovering from an addiction is acknowledging that it exists but that is only the first step. The most important step is sharing that acknowledgement in repentance with God and enlisting God’s help in freeing oneself of its tentacles.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to see the grips of greed that have infiltrated my life and guide me to your way of ordering my needs and wants. 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.

Worshipping the Baal of Greed

log-eyeLiving in the Spirit
May 23, 2016

Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 18:20-39

So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ The people did not answer him a word.
–1 Kings 18:20-21

Sound familiar? It should. It accurately describes our world today. The Baal is money and the power it can buy. If we search deep in our souls, we would find that most of us have worshipped at its feet. Its power has oozed through every crevice of our lives. It is probably best reflected in our political systems right now. We cannot put the blame on the politicians for we created them. Demanding that they provide for everything we want without being willing to pay for it. The Common Good has lost all meaning; greed is good.

What passes for morality today is concern about where transgender persons go to the bathroom. According to the New York Times, the best estimate of the number of transgender persons in the USA is about .3% of the population (700,000 people). In 2014, 48.1 million Americans were classified as food insecure most elderly and children; 35 million Americans make less than $10.55 an hour which is well below the living wage requirements but above the minimum wage requirement of $7.25 an hour. Our prisons are currently filled with non-violent offenders, who are disproportionately persons of color with numbers running in the millions. And we are concerned about where people, who probably just want to be left alone, go to the bathroom? Have we lost our moral compass?

It is time for us to turn around and face our own trespasses. Reorganize our priorities and get in synch with the God of love who cares for all the children, adults too, of the world by following Jesus’ example.

Prayer: Lord forgive us for failing to take the log out of our own eye, while being overly concerned about a speck defined by us in our neighbor’s eye. 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.