There is concern among the Christian community about an ultra-erotic novel titled 50 Shades of Grey. While it must be admitted that this writer knows very little about the novel, it is certain that the Christian needs to avoid those things that would tempt them. While I will leave the book 50 Shades of Grey to be critiqued by another more knowledgeable about the book than myself, it does seem to me that there is another problem. For the sake of argument, let us call this problem 50 Shades of Green. What is 50 Shades of Green? It refers to a greed-driven life. While there is nothing wrong with possessing nice things, especially if one has worked hard for those things; there is something wrong about a life that is focused more on possessions and power than on the things in life that really matter (God, family, friendships, parenting, and the like). The Bible presents at least four problems that come by living a greed-driven life. Those four problems will be addressed in this article.
Greed Brings Immorality
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10). Some have misinterpreted this verse to claim that “money is the root of all evil.” However, Paul writes that the “love” of money is the core root of evil. Thus, a greed-driven life is a catalyst for immorality. Have you ever thought about what drives individuals to rob banks, steal information from another person’s bank account (e.g. identity theft), and even commit atrocious acts of abuse? Greed is the engine that drives such actions. It stems from the desire to have more.
While there is nothing wrong in one desiring to improve one’s life, it is wrong when one has an incessant desire, or craving rather, for more things. Part of the problem is that a person will never know contentment under such circumstances. I have known more than one person who has worked themselves to an early grave. Why? Perhaps, it came from a desire to possess more or to do better than everyone around them. In such cases, a person will not know peace and contentment. Rather, for such a one, life will be one continuous competition in which no ultimate winner will ever emerge.
Greed Brings Hypocrisy
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean” (Matthew 23:25-26). Jesus said of the Pharisees that they were guilty of hypocrisy. Why did they become hypocrites? Greed! Recently, Eric Metaxas wrote a powerful article for the Christian Post titled What We Can Learn from Young Atheists: What Turned Them Off Christianity. Metaxas writes, “Here’s something that one of the students told Larry Taunton; he said, “Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change [the lives] of others. I haven’t seen too much of that” (Metaxas 2014, http://www.christianpost.com/news/learning-from-young-atheists-what-turned-them-off-christianity-124151/). The Pharisees were not changed by their belief system. Jesus called them on their hypocrisy. The Pharisee’s hypocrisy was driven by greed. They wanted people to look to them for answers. They wanted to be liked. They wanted power. They wanted to have all that came with fame and popularity. However, the Pharisees sacrificed their integrity at the altar of greed. Jesus teaching and Metaxas’ article should remind us that we should not allow greed to warp our mentality. Greed should not cause us to warp the message of the Bible in favor of entertainment. Greed should not cause us to be so driven by proclamation that we fail to undergird the message by a close, personal relationship with God. Perhaps, part of the weakened state of the American church stems from congregations placing more focus and attention on the building in which they worship instead of the God in whom they serve.
Greed Brings Idolatry
“Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Atheists and agnostics will commonly call themselves “free-thinkers.” Yet, it seems that once one enters a “free-thinking community,” one loses the freedom to believe in God. If one chooses to believe in God in the “free-thinking community,” the community may not be as open to them as they once were. So, how free-thinking is the “free-thinking community”? Nonetheless, a greed-driven life leads one to idolatry. Idolatry is a lifestyle that leaves God out of the midst. Idolatry is the worship of a material thing over the Creator. It should be of no surprise that the “free-thinking community” refers to themselves as “pagans” or “the godless.” The free-thinkers do worship something. Perhaps the object of their worship is found in themselves. The object of worship could be that of their perception of science. The object of worship could even be in the free-thinker’s own fight against religion. Whatever the case may be, something is still worshiped.
As tragic as it is for the free-thinker, it is far more tragic for the believer to fall into greed’s idolatrous trap. When a person claims to be a Christian, the person should realize the value of life and of creation in general. When anyone allows greed to take control, the person will then justify his or her actions to obtain a particular thing. For a Christian, this may allow for unChristlike behavior. The Christian should remember that Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands” (John 14:15). How much do you love Jesus as opposed to materialism?
Greed Brings Atrophy
“They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep” (2 Peter 2:3). Peter was writing to the church concerning false prophets in the end days. In fact, I would suggest that every believer makes oneself familiar with the teachings of 2 Peter chapter 2. Peter warns the church about the problem of greed. A greed-driven life will lead one towards atrophy (or destruction). One will find that the more one is driven by greed, the less one is concerned about family, friends, or even God.
I will never forget a time when I met a Christian businessman. He was asking about how serious he should take the commands of Jesus in the workplace. I told him that he should take the teachings of Jesus very seriously. However, there were others who tried to justify his actions in business. I admit that I do not know what those actions entailed. But, if Jesus is God incarnate (which I believe He is) and if Jesus is the truth (which I believe He is), then what He taught and what He instructed in how we should live should be taken seriously, regardless of whether the context is in business, or in the life of one’s family. Now obviously, context is the rule. Nations cannot turn the other cheek whilst they are being bombed. They must protect their citizens. Of course, Jesus was not addressing national polity in His messages. Jesus was addressing individuals. Context is the key. Nonetheless, the clear teachings of Jesus should be followed by the one who claims Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Otherwise, a person will find oneself eroding in their relationship with God and in their relationships with others.
Do you need evidence that greed erodes? Just look around you. Nations will war against other nations because one nation wants what the other possesses: the driving force—greed. Businesses will ruthlessly overtake every other smaller business that they can drive out of business: the driving force—greed. Companies will charge hidden fees to obtain more and more of your money: the driving force—greed. Groups of individuals will ruthlessly take the lives of others that cause them problems: the driving force—greed. American sports constantly face union strikes that often interrupt American pastimes: the driving force—greed. The NCAA is potentially facing an implosion: the driving force—greed (be it from players or from the NCAA…you be the judge). The United States of America was once the greatest superpower in the world. The nation’s standing is eroding: the driving force behind this erosion—greed (and the rejection of God). Why do great churches crumble? Why do great leaders fall? The reason…they begin to look more upon themselves and their desires than toward the direction and leadership of the One who first gave them life: God. Greed is a dangerous monster. Don’t be found to hold 50 Shades of Green. Be found to be driven by God…not greed. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate the one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24, NLT).
Metaxas, Eric. “What we can learn from young atheists: what turned them off Christianity.” Christian Post.com. (August 1, 2014). http://www.christianpost.com/news/learning-from-young-atheists-what-turned-them-off-christianity-124151/. (Accessed August 4, 2014).
Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the Holman Christian Standard Version. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009.
Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007.