Living in the United States means living in the context of consumerism and greed. It is part of the air that we breathe. Living in the U.S. opens each of us up to the temptation that money will solve our problems.
While this is clear during the whole year, it is true especially during the Christmas season. We see extravagant decorations, we buy expensive gifts, and we throw crowded parties.
Greed is an issue to be taken seriously. Rather than shrug our shoulders at it, we are called to combat greed. After all, according to Colossians 3:5, greed is idolatry. Greed is dangerous because it tempts us to hope in money and possessions instead of hoping in God.
In light of the seriousness of greed, we can direct our attention to 1 Timothy 6:6-10, where Paul gives us guidance on three ways that we can actively combat greed in our lives.
First Timothy 6:6 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” He says this because in verses 3-5 he was rebuking “Christian” teachers who were “godly” only in order to gain money. Paul says that godliness does bring us gain, but only when it is married to contentment.
We are content when we are grateful and satisfied with what God has given us. In light of this, we can combat greed when we embrace gratitude.
This past Summer I got to spend a week in Haiti with one of our GO Teams. During the trip, we had to deal with the inconvenience of having cold showers. Each time I took a cold shower, however, I was struck by the fact that most of the people living around me would have loved to have regular access to a shower, hot or cold.
And most of the people would have loved to have air conditioning in their houses. And most of them would love to be able to walk to their refrigerator and get a cup of cold, clean water. Compared to most of the world, those of us in the U.S. live like royalty. We do well to thank God for his blessings.
And this is to say nothing of the spiritual blessings God has given us! We are forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus. We have the hope of eternal life because of Jesus’ resurrection. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Anytime we begin to think that our unhappiness in life is based on our lack of money or resources, we would do well to embrace gratitude and promote it in our families.
Differentiate Needs and Wants
Paul goes on in verses 7-8 to say, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Paul does not say, “If we have new cars and Disneyland passes, we will be content with that.” Those things are luxuries.
Paul says that we will be content with our basic needs being met. This is what God promises us when he promises provision. He does not promise us that he will provide anything that we happen to think will solve our problems.
You may not have enough money for the vacation that you want to take, for the Christmas gifts you want to buy, or for the entertainment that we want to take in. But God doesn’t promise us those. When we have to deny ourselves some luxuries, this gives us the opportunity to recognize that “things” do not bring us true life.
If you find yourself upset with God because you don’t have more, consider the needs that he has provided for. Do you have food? Do you have clothes? If so, then you have plenty of reasons to thank God.
Look Down the Line
Paul concludes the passage in verses 9-10 by directing our attention to what happens to people who are greedy: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Asking for more money is asking for extra temptation. Setting your desires on riches is opening up greater possibilities for wandering from the faith and experiencing grief and destruction. Greed is destructive.
The fact is, we don’t have to look very hard before we will realize that riches do not lead to happiness and fulfillment. When we look at the wealthy celebrities in our culture, we see a culture full of divorce, depression, immorality, and emptiness. Do we really want that?
Whenever you begin to feel tempted to look to money as the solution to your problems, simply look at those who have great riches. Then ask yourself if you really want to trade lives with them.
God is the great provider. And Christmas is a great time to celebrate God’s gift by celebrating his ultimate gift in Jesus. As you approach Christmas this year, don’t allow greed to gain a foothold. Fight for the purity of celebrating Jesus as God’s greatest gift to us.