Greed And How To Overcome It

9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called… 1 Tim. 6:9-12

Notice verses 9 and 10: “… they that will be rich”. These words refer to those who want to become rich. If a believer wants to be rich in this world, he is playing with fire. No, no, no, it does not say that being rich is a sin; it is the desire to become rich that is wrong. It is this desire that God is fighting against. The Bible says that such a desire will make one to “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

In the epistles of the Apostle Paul, there are two things which he expressly tells the church to flee from: FORNICATION and IDOLATRY (1 Cor 6:18; 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22). I have capitalized both words because these are words that no man should miss seeing.

The two greatest sins that have plagued the charismatic, Pentecostal church throughout history are idolatry and fornication. Idolatry refers to the worship of things. Therefore, although it may refer to the worship of idols as the Roman Catholics and other mainstream sects do, and as we see Paul explaining in 1 Cor. 10:18-23, yet, under the New Covenant, idolatry principally refers to covetousness, the love of worldly things, including money. The Apostle Paul states this clearly in Colossians 3:5:

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry…”

In simple terms, idolatry, which is covetousness, is greed.

Idolatry and fornication go hand in hand. Once the body has been fed well and there appears to be peace all around, lusts which had long been submerged under the drought of hunger, lack of money and lack of status, gain strength and begin demanding to be satisfied, too. That is what we see with Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible states that their land was “even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt…” – Gen. 13:10.

Sodom was an incredibly rich country!

These were the same circumstances that set the stage for the tragedy that befell King David in the case of Uriah’s wife. It is worldly contentment.

In today’s world, we may not have literal lands that are like “even as the garden of the LORD”, but we have money. Money can give us everything we want. But money also has hidden dangers. We can very easily grow fond of it. And this mindset can sweep us off our spiritual feet in an instant.

The prosperity gospel that is preached today spawns many, many dangers to the believer.

I often wonder at the fact that every high-profile TV preacher that I have seen or read is a victim of either covetousness, fornication or both. Ever since Oral Roberts introduced the false “seed” gospel and ever since the days of the infamous televangelist Jim Bakker, who personified excessive lust for material consumption, including sexual perfidy, the graph curve of these two influences in preachers’ lives has only continued to steepen. Nearly every high-profile TV preacher, past and present, is a victim: Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, John Osteen, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Robert Tilton, Creflo Dollar, Ted Haggard, Paula White, Mike Murdoch, Ed Young, Joseph Prince, T. D. Jakes, Eddie Long, Jesse Duplantis, Paul Crouch, Rick Warren, T.B. Joshua and others.

At least these are the most prominent faces on Christian TV here in Africa.

I am not saying that these men have never loved the Lord. What is clear is that they were/are unaware of the dangers of the prosperity gospel that they embrace. They had never known what it means to identify with Christ in His sufferings and death. But God is a merciful God and I am sure that He has restored some of them.

Another evil that the love of money brings in a person’s life is pride. In Tanzania, people have a saying: “Greet people, your money will end!” It is a rebuff for the arrogance associated with the rich, who normally tend to ignore the lower classes.

But this worldly “richie” attitude has also crept into the church. I have heard some of the most arrogant and inane things coming from the lips of some of these very same TV preachers. This is the result of pride.

The problem, of course, is that these preachers never had any revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ. They were unaware of what the cross can do in their lives in terms of mortifying the lusts of the flesh in them. They are unable, therefore, to represent the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which says:

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mat. 16:24)

But, the gospel of the cross of Christ is the light at the end of the tunnel. In the midst of all this darkness, the gospel of the cross is the very gospel that Christ is revealing to the church again today. I say again because it was there in the early church, but it became submerged under the teachings of men who have always defended the flesh.

Notice verse 12, which says:

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

God has called us to lay hold on eternal life. That is a call that is in direct contradiction to the race to become rich. We ought to desire and pray for the revelation of the cross of Jesus in our hearts. This is what will make us to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Heavenly Or Earthly Agenda?

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Philippians 3:17-21

Scenario no. 1: If a rich and powerful man like Bill Gates came to any of the charismatic churches that I know of in our country during a Sunday service and declared that he was giving 500 million shillings to the church to do with whatever they wanted, he would of necessity have to make that announcement outside the church… and he would have to be inside his car (or plane) with the engines running because that place would literally tear up upon hearing such an statement.

The place would erupt into a riot that would see the Great Rice Riot relegated to the annals of obscurity. Every tree within a mile of that region would be left branch-less; young men would run 40 miles to the next town and back waving tree branches. Women would remove every extra clothing and accessory (they carry a lot with them to church) because handkerchiefs would not suffice for the hysteria that would ensue. There is no doubt also that the pastor’s wife would faint upon the implications of that amount of money registering on her brain.

After an hour or so, and after the riot police and the fire brigade had instituted some form of control over the situation, the pastor would stand up and, surrounded by everyone worth any name in that town, he would announce that “What you have just witnessed is the greatest miracle that has ever occurred in the history of this church and town!”

Scenario no. 2: If the same rich and powerful man were to stand in that same church and announce that there was a time in his life when he could not forgive his wife and that now, thanks to the grace of God in his life, he was able to walk in forgiveness towards his wife and that they were now enjoying their marriage, people would clap politely and that would be that.

Probably the pastor, still unsatisfied, would stand and ask this great man what brings him to this poor, humble church…

Such is the ‘earthly’ gospel we are hearing today that the heavenly vision has been completely obliterated from our view. We see and know only cars, lands, houses, church buildings, clothes, money, ‘food on the table’, healings, physical health, the best education for our children and many other such things.

In view of the above (very likely) scenarios we need to ask: Where is the heavenly vision for the church today? Indeed, what kind of vision does today’s church have?

Many years ago when I was a young man, a born-again friend of mine called me to his house to see the ‘blessing’ God had brought upon him. He had bought a new (second-hand) car and he had fitted it with every gadget that it could carry, including a multiple cd changer in the car boot. He spent the whole day telling me about that car, until I went brain dead. In other words, he was speaking and my brain was not registering one word that he was saying. I hung around only because his wife was a generous and wonderful cook, and I enjoyed her company and food!

Where is the today’s church headed? Does it have a heavenly agenda? What kind of gospel is it hearing? Is it a gospel that brings forth fruit worthy of people who are going to live in heaven with Jesus forever? Where are the men and women who are being changed in character into the image of Jesus Christ?

Something is amiss somewhere because seriously speaking, I do not understand how owning a car or a house can make me more like Jesus! More in what?

Clearly, another gospel is being preached in church today and it has desensitized us from the heavenly calling. The church today is answering largely to an earthly calling. The Apostle Paul calls the peddlers of much of the gospel we are hearing today enemies of the cross of Christ. What a perspective! Are we ready to swallow that – or are we going to stand our ground and defend the gospels and preachers we have so much come to love?

Do the scriptures here mean that God does not care about our earthly welfare? No, because God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mat. 5:45).

God takes care of even the ungodly. But that does not mean the ungodly are going to heaven.

What Paul is saying here is that the church must have a different agenda. We must have a heavenly vision and a heavenly mindset, not an earthly one. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” That is all the church can boast in.

The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Through the gospel of the cross that he preached, Paul became dead to the world.

That is why we need to understand the gospel of the cross of Christ that was revealed to Paul and the apostles. The true church can only boast in the inner working of the cross that continually breaks down our carnal nature and instils the character of Christ in us, till we are molded fully and swallowed up into the image of Christ, as it says in Ephesians 4:13: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”.

May the Lord help us. The Apostle Paul wept for the church in his day. True men and women of God will weep for the church of today.