This weekend I was responsible for welcoming people during our three church services. When I am offer the pastoral greeting I know pretty much what I’m going to briefly say yet prepare people’s hearts for worship. The actual greeting went well but when I started to pray this past Sunday out came the words… “Lord, keep us as a church from being greedy with the gospel.” What in the world was I thinking?
Greed or avarice has long been considered by Christians to be a sin, meaning that it’s one of a handful of attitudes and behaviors thought to be serious as it, for the Christian, undermines living life in a way that is consistent with an eternal kind of life. Even for those who aren’t Christian it cuts against a consistent way to live life where one lives well. Typically, greed is thought of by people as a “disordered” love of riches or material possessions. When the word is mentioned our minds naturally go to Gordon Gecko in the movie Wall Street and his statement, “Greed is good.” Older Christians, like Thomas Aquinas, thought this love was “out of order” in that one’s desire and love for riches trumped everything else, including love for God and others.
So what was I thinking when I prayed those words? Greed is accurately described as hoarding anything precious, not just money or possessions. The gospel is incredibly good news for us in the condition we are in. In fact, the Kingdom of God is often described by Jesus as a treasure (Matt.13:44), something of great value and importance. To hoard the gospel then or to be greedy with the gospel is to take this incredible treasure that God has bestowed upon you and keep it only for yourself.
A simple way to think of it would be for a person to be grateful to God for graciously giving them the riches of forgiveness, an eternal kind of life, and the promise of resurrection and then turning around never to share or live that out before others. A person enjoys what God has given them but it doesn’t “come out of them” for the good of others. Whether it’s “keeping quiet about Jesus Christ” or refusing to open their heart to others who are different than them in personality, ethnicity, or socio-economic level, the truth is they are hoarding the good of the gospel.
Our gathering at church is incredibly counter-cultural! While those outside the church think that whatever good in their life is to be consumed, we gather to declare that the good that has been given us is not meant to be hoarded but to be given away. The gospel is too important to be greedily stored only for our own needs!