We all recognize the grabbing, clinging, death-grip clutching we find at a clearance sale. We take note of the eyes looking at us as we look at stuff, waiting for us to hesitate for just even a second so that the ‘stuff’ in question can be snatched from our ability to possess. We are also familiar with holding onto the “stuff” to delay a decision until lurking eyes have passed. There is something devious and yet alluring about having something you think someone else may want. I remember all too well days at the local flea market lamenting over ‘the deal’ I missed now being joyfully carried off by someone luckier than me.
Any woman–probably man, too–who has ever been in a race for a good deal knows the crazy making greed produces…at least it’s easy enough to see in others.
This is how greed lies. It tells us we need more stuff. It assures us there’s a deal out there with our name out. It deceives us into believing that all this stuff is not about what it’s worth–but what we’re worth. “You deserve it!” it cheers. Sometimes the stuff we think we deserve is just that, stuff, but it can also be position, respect, privilege, even friendship.
Greed is an apple fallen not far from the tree of pride’s entitlement. Pride is always an image distorted to conform to the religion of self, singing its hymn of “I am the best!”
“Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God” Exodus 19:9-10. It’s easy to read a verse like this and think “Good thing I’m not a farmer. This is not for me.” We consequently overlook the all important phrase, “I am the Lord your God.”
Greed tells us “I need it all.” Pride tells us “You deserve it all.” The Lord tells us “I am all you need.” This levitical law was given to guard the people’s obsession with possessions because the Lord knew whatever obsesses us will ultimately possess us. God knew how easy it would be for all of us to forget our origins–that we were once poor and a foreigner. That which owns us is ultimately our god. Notice how quickly we grab to be the owner of just about anything? Greed lies to us that it’s the obsession is just about stuff, but the truth of the matter is that greed reveals what our heart worships.
A heart that worships self will always think it needs more–it consumes all that’s in its path on the altar of self-promotion: People, time, objects. Self is continually celebrated and coddled by the stuff–including good works– accumulated to be “noticed by man” (Matthew 6:1).
A heart that worships God will only need more of Him–it mirrors the One it worships by leaving stuff behind for others. It doesn’t need more attention, affirmation, and stuff because God is His provider. His obsession is with the One who made the stuff. Being poor in spirit, suffering loss, with gentleness, hungering and thirsting, with mercy, in purity of heart, making peace, even when persecuted and insulted–he is blessed (Mt. 5:3-11) by the One who declares “I am the Lord your God.”
The heart of Leviticus 19:9-10 is not only about leaving food behind–it’s about leaving behind the presence of God. It’s about sonship–we leave our worship of obedience behind so others see Who it is with whom we are obsessed. It lives with the acknowledgement that it’s not all about me. None of the stuff is ours anyway–all is a gift from God and as His children we are invited to re-gift. Greed and pride kills and steals and destroys–just like its father. The heart of all God’s commands are to help us look like Him for others to see–to show them He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (Ex. 34:5).
I wonder what would happen if we all took this to heart today. What if moms saw their time as an opportunity to mirror God, would they feel less resentful of their children’s demands on it? What would we give away today, instead of feeling the need to acquire? What if we all started mirroring God, namely as we see Him in Jesus, instead of trying to look like another average Joe? Who would we forgive? Who would we love? How much easier it might be to get over ourselves if we just got less obsessed with self and more obsessed with Jesus.
Maybe you don’t think the harvesting laws are for you. But what about any of these–same principle, just different application:
“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and to take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven, for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, for if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the [greedy] tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others. Do not even the gentiles do the same? Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ~Matthew 5:39-48
Greed is a dirty little liar. Don’t believe his lies today. Don’t live his lies today.
I’m still wrestling with re-gifting all that God has gifted to me. I would rather punch someone in the face than turn the other cheek. (Doesn’t sound very lady-like, I know. Sorry mom.) Yet I’m welcoming God’s work in my life so that others will see more of Him in me. If you’re struggling too, can we pray for each other?
This post is a part of Word Filled Wednesday. Join the conversation at Internet Cafe Devotions.