The Subtle Slavery of Money: The Deadly Sin of Greed

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is though this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. - 1 Timothy 6:10
Photo by  liz west

Photo by liz west

Money is a reality that almost all humans must face at some point in their life. At some point in our lives, we get our first job, begin to save money, and spend that money. It becomes readily apparent that the more money you have, the more you can buy. Some of us might even experience this prior to our first job. Growing up, some of us have parents who have more resources than others. In looking at our friends’ lives, we are driven to compete and have what they have. I’m amazed at my four year old son. He has no idea what money is, but he knows that he likes toys and wants them for himself. 

As we grow older, have our own family, and enter into a career, we quickly recognize the “quality of life” we can live. The more money we have, the more things we can buy. If we’re not careful, we become overcome with the love of money, or as the church has called it, the deadly sin of greed. 

God’s Good Gift Twisted

Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” People all the time quote this verse, but they often misquote Paul. Many say, “money is the root of evil.” Did you catch the mistake? Paul never says money is the root of evil. Rather, Paul emphasizes that the love of money is the root of evil. In order to survive, we all need money. We need the proper amount of resources to provide for some of our most basic needs like water, food, shelter, and clothing. In order to acquire those things, it takes money. The problem with money is that it transforms from a good resource God has given us to sustain our basic needs to something we love and desire. At its core, this is greed: the love of money.

In Hit List, Brian Hedges reminds us of the subtlety of greed. He says, “Greed isn’t usually obvious. It wears a mask of respectability that renders its presence in our lives difficult to detect. You may not be a miser or a pirate, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Greed has a way of gripping our hearts without us even realizing it.” 1 We all need money to survive and in our culture, having money provides us with incredible opportunities, opportunities that are good for us. The problem is that we are prone to idolatry. The very things God has given us, we begin to worship. Therefore money begins to grip our hearts and rather than worship the Giver of money, we worship his gift of money. Rather than pursue the Giver, we pursue the gift.

Finding Contentment in the Giver and Not the Gift

The weapon against greed is contentment. Hedges defines contentment simply as “being satisfied with what you have.” 2 Are you satisfied with what you have? Are you satisfied with what God has given you? If you struggle with greed or dissatisfaction on any level, contentment can be difficult to obtain and live in. In defeating greed, Hedges provides three great features of Christian contentment:

  1. Contentment isn’t dependent on circumstances. “Christian contentment is a satisfaction in Christ that transcends circumstances altogether.” 3 Life is always changing. Many of the circumstances that come our way are completely out of our control. There’s little to nothing we can do about them. I was once told that life is 90% what happens to us and 10% how we react to life. I believe that is true. If we place our contentment in money and possessions, we will be sorely disappointed. Either in this life or the next, those things will fade away. Perhaps you have little money and resources. Why should you seek to find your contentment in something that you do not have or something that if you had plenty of would still only leave you empty? Let’s find our contentment in the one thing that does not change: God and his love for us.
  2. Contentment is something we must learn and cultivate over time. Contentment is hard to come by. It requires patience and effort. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul shares what he has learned about contentment: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Contentment was not something Paul was born with; it was something he had to cultivate in his life. What do you need to do now to begin to cultivate contentment in your own life?
  3. Contentment comes from the strength of Christ. At the conclusion of Philippians 4:11-13, Paul reminds us of where our contentment comes from: I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Hedges reminds us that “Christian contentment isn’t based on your temperament. It’s not the result of strong willpower, or self-induced detachment from the pains and pleasures of life. It is a grace, a fruit of Christ’s work in our hearts and the strength-giving ministry of his Spirit.” 4 Do you want to be content? Look to Jesus and not yourself. Remember that he has given us everything we need to be content. Are you finding your contentment in Jesus alone?

Defeat the deadly sin of greed in your life by finding your contentment in Christ alone!

Check out some of the previous posts on the Seven Deadly Sins:

1Brian G. Hedges, Hit List: Taking Aim at the Seven Deadly Sins (Minneapolis: Cruciform, 2014), 76-77.

2Ibid., 80-81.

3Ibid., 81.

4Ibid., 84.