Three Ways to Combat Greed in Our Affluent Culture

by Patrick Johnson |  Generous Church

The first idea is this: Pastor Tim Keller says that Jesus talked about greed and materialism much more often than other types of sin. And when you survey the book of Luke, it’s easy to see that Tim is right. Jesus talked a lot about how we handle our stuff. So that's the first idea. 

The second one is that we live in the most affluent country during the most affluent time of world history. Over the last 250 years, from the industrial revolution through today’s technological revolution, we have experienced the creation of unprecedented wealth. That's the second idea. Now think about these two ideas together. If Jesus believed it was important to warn us time and again about greed and materialism, and since we live in a country with extraordinary affluence, shouldn’t we begin to take seriously Jesus’ admonition to those entrusted with much?

But there’s a problem. 

"In the midst of such financial abundance, it’s very difficult to make an objective appraisal of our own heart. No one thinks they are greedy—it’s always someone else."

But if Jesus warned us about greed and if we have so many things with the potential to entrap us, then it would be wise to operate under the working hypothesis that greed is likely a problem for us. And so that’s what I want to encourage you to think about. 

As church leaders, how do we help our people to become aware of and avoid this trap of greed and materialism? Let’s consider these three ways to combat greed.

First of all, I think we need to start with confession. Like I said, no one thinks they are greedy. So we as leaders need to warn others about the sins of greed and materialism. We need to help people to understand that these may be problems that they struggle with and encourage them to confess them to one another and to the Lord. How do I know that? Because I struggle with these in my own flesh, and I live in an affluent country where it’s so easy to put my identity in other things besides Jesus.

The second step is to embrace the Gospel. We have a model and a motivator in Jesus. Here was someone who was rich in every way but yet became poor in every way so that we, through His poverty, might become rich. The good news is that Jesus, in His life, His death, and His resurrection, gives us the ability to break the hold of materialism and greed through Him.

And the third step is to call people to live generously as we model generosity in our own lives. 

"We have the power. We have the capacity as Spirit-filled people to live whole-life generosity, not just with our finances."

That includes our compassion and empathy—all the currencies of whole-life generosity that God gives us as we live, love, and serve together in community.

I'll end with this. One of my pastor friends told several Chinese church leaders that we in the West were praying for them because of the persecution that they face. The Chinese church leaders then looked at my friend and said, “We pray for you, the church in America, because of your prosperity.”

May we resolve to heed Jesus’ warning and lead people into this life that is truly life—the generous life—as churches and communities that follow Jesus.

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