What is Greed?
Each of us must ask ourselves, “Do I despise God’s daily bread by grasping greedily [and often anxiously] for something more?” Of course, this doesn’t mean earthly riches are inherently sinful (see 1 Tim. 6:17–19). We must, however, recognize that the manic pursuit of them is symptomatic of a deeper discontentment with our divine lot. We do well to be watchful and to recall the words of Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
You might have heard about Forrest Fenn’s hidden treasure. In 2010, the millionaire Fenn squirreled away a chest full of valuables worth an estimated $1 million. Hundreds of thousands of people searched for the buried treasure, which wasn’t discovered until June of 2020 by a medical student named Jack Stuef. As exhilarating as I imagine a treasure hunt would be, Fenn’s quest also proved deadly. Five people lost their lives in the process of trying to find the treasure—one of them was even a pastor.
When the quest for temporal goods is viewed as ultimate, it becomes an all-consuming cancer. Wisdom says that greed for unjust gain takes away the life of its possessor (Prov. 1:19). Our Lord Jesus listed greed among the pollutions of the human heart, right along with murder and adultery (Mark 7:21–22, NASB). In Luke, He prefaced the parable of the rich fool by saying, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). The original word behind covetousness is the same word used for greed in Mark 7:22. It’s the Greek word pleonexia, which is defined as “the state of desiring to have more than one’s due,”1 or “a strong desire to acquire more and more material possessions or to possess more things than other people have, all irrespective of need.”2 Thomas Aquinas simply defined covetousness, or greed, as “the immoderate love of possessing.”3
But have you ever heard someone confess to being greedy? Perhaps more importantly, have you ever asked God to forgive you for greediness? Based on how infrequently this particular sin is named, one gets the sense that the immoderate love of possessing is something we rarely, if ever, struggle with. This would have surprised the Apostle Paul, who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that in the last days men would be lovers of money (2 Tim. 3:2).