We have been in an awesome conversation this year called Rise Up & Stand Firm.  I’m thinking that at this point, if you have been walking with us, you are seeing just how significant this series is and also how personal and relevant this is to our lives.  I know it has meant a lot to me on a personal level, because we are talking about standing up as the people that God created us to be in a world that is designed to keep us from standing up as the person that God created us to be.  For so many of us we hear sermons and read in Scripture about this amazing life we should or could have in Christ, but it’s just not the lives that we are experiencing.  Which is frustrating and just adds more weight to the struggles of life that we all face.  This reality is that life is hard and it’s just not easy living in this world, and what we have been trying to do is pull back the curtain and let you see why that is.  We are exposing the Spiritual War that you are walking in every day…you may not clearly grasp the fact that you are opposed, you may have just chalked it up to life being difficult, but you face and feel this Spiritual Battle each and every day of your life.

This series has been building very deliberately and started by looking at five things we all deal with in life that can steal our ability to rise up and stand firm as the people God created us to be.  Then we spent two weeks really in the foundational parts of our faith where we focused on the big key, the central focus of this Spiritual War which is our hearts.  We wanted you to understand that everything comes down to the heart.  The things you say, the things you do, the decisions you make, the priorities you have, the love that you have and the ability to give that love or not…all of it comes down to the condition of your heart.  We wanted you to understand that everything about your faith is about how you live your life and your heart is controlling how you live your life!  That is why it is the central focus of the spiritual war.  Everything about living a new life in Christ is about life change, and life change doesn’t happen without heart change.

Then last week Ken kicked off the last part of this series that will take us all the way to Easter, as we look at different heart issues and conditions that we all face.  He opened this up by talking about guilt.  It was an awesome message that really showed us how guilt can keep us separated from God because we feel like we need to hide our mess from Him.  We know that we aren’t perfect, that we all sin and fall short of God’s glorious standard, which means that we all need to respond well in those moments where we mess up or we can become separated from God, which leads to spiritual death.  Guilt is something we must overcome, and Ken told us we can’t overcome it if we have secrets.  We must get honest with God and with others, no more hiding!  What an awesome talk last week on a massive subject!

Now today I have an opportunity to talk about the next heart issue, and it’s one that we are warned about a lot in Scripture.  Frankly, many people deal with it but don’t really want to talk about it, especially at church…the other thing is they may be dealing with it and not even know it because of how sneaky it actually is!  Today we are talking about greed.  Greed is a big deal, it comes up all over Scripture, and I would like to start with showing you some of the warnings about greed found in the Bible, then talk about how we can overcome greed, and show you examples of a couple exchanges Jesus had with people one struggling with it and some others who were not.

We are warned against the dangers of greed a lot in Scripture and I wanted to start today with showing you just a few of those warnings and then we will land in the one I want to focus on today from Jesus.  Let’s get started today with some of the wise words of Solomon on the subject of greed, he actually warns of greed a lot in His teachings, here are just a few…

Proverbs 15:27 Greed brings grief to the whole family, but those who hate bribes will live. NLT

Proverbs 28:22,25 Greedy people try to get rich quick, but don’t realize they’re headed for poverty v25 Greed causes fighting; trusting the Lord leads to prosperity. NLT

He makes an impactful statement on the love of money here in Ecclesiastes which helps us understand greed here…

Ecclesiastes 5:10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! NLT

We could literally do this all day, reading warning after warning about greed, this never-ending hunger of wanting more and never having enough, while we miss out on so much because of this heart issue.  So, this week as I was putting this talk together, I was thinking about how often the Bible warns us about greed.  When the Bible brings something like this up, over and over again, it tells us it has to be a pretty big deal.  Well when it comes to greed, I’m not sure we understand the true significance of this heart issue and what it does or doesn’t let us do in life.  On face value we look at greed and we would probably define it as a desire for money and material possessions, that desire to obtain more and more wealth…but it’s bigger than that.  I want you to see this, greed is bigger than just a lust for money, it’s a scheme of your enemy to take you prisoner, with the goal of literally taking away your ability to live out your faith.  Remember the Spiritual War is all about your heart because your heart is controlling your life and how you live it.  We know that a true life in Christ is about how we live our lives…and someone struggling with greed cannot live out their faith…because this need for more takes up all their margin, focus, and eventually their lives…but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  Let’s look at this warning from Jesus before we jump into the one that I want us to really focus on today because Jesus helps us see that this greed thing is absolutely a heart issue…

Matthew 6:19-21,24 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. NIV

Jesus reminds us that we must stay focused on eternal things, that the things of today just don’t last…and then He shows us something that we must slow down and clearly look at and understand about this greed thing.  He ties greed right to our hearts…did you pick up on that?  Where your treasure is, that is where your heart is and what do we know about the heart?  Your heart is leading your life, it’s your heart that is running the show.  This is so important and starts really leading us to where I want to take you today.  We are establishing something about greed.  First, it’s really a big deal.  We know this because the Bible brings it up all the time.  Second, we also now see clearly how greed is an assault on our hearts, which we know the heart is a big deal, the biggest deal, and the focus of this Spiritual War.  But I think for some of us we don’t think we have greed issues to deal with because we associate it with the rich, or the wealthy or the people with fancier stuff than we have.  We feel like we aren’t focused on money, or our material possessions so we think, we don’t have greed issues.  Well that leads us to this warning from Jesus that I want to spend some time in today…this statement from Jesus is really where my heart went as I was thinking through this talk. Check this out…

Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” NIV

I think for the most part when we think about greed we focus on money.  We think of the wealthy…or the person who is selfishly focused on collecting more and more things.  We think about mansions, jewelry, you know that fancy bling, bling type stuff.  But Jesus opens the door to something here that we need to look at.  Did you pick up on what He said?  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.”  It’s this idea of “all kinds” of greed that can catch us off guard because many of us can dismiss greed.  We don’t think it’s something we have to worry about because we don’t feel like we are prioritizing money or wealth over other things in our lives…but I think Jesus is helping us see that greed reaches a lot farther than that, it’s bigger than just money or wealth type stuff.  Are you with me so far?  I think this is a really important conversation and it needs to build off of this idea, Greed is a big problem and one we all face.  We know this because we see countless warnings about greed in the Bible.  Jesus tells us that it is a heart issue, and here in Luke is telling us to be on our guards against all kinds of greed.  Jesus is letting us know that while it can be about money, this greed thing is bigger and reaches much farther than our pocket books, it isn’t just a money thing.

Ok, so what is greed?  Greed is defined as an intense and selfish desire for something, and Jesus just told us to see that it can be money but it reaches much farther than that.  I want you thinking about this intense warning from Jesus here in Luke 12…

We have to watch out and be on our guard against all kinds of greed.  For some of us this can be about money, and material possessions for sure, but also it could also be about an intense desire for control, for power, for status, for your time…and the list can go on and on.  Many of us don’t understand that greed has taken our hearts and lives hostage, because we decide that this is all about money or what we own, but it is so much bigger than that.  I think of the mother who wants their own time and isn’t willing to engage their child.  They aren’t driving a Ferrari or living in a mansion so she doesn’t feel like greed would be an issue, but she is going to spend her time the way she wants…with a spouse or her child starving for attention as she does what she wants when she wants.  What did Jesus say? “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed!”  I think of the man who wants that title or big promotion at work and will trample all over everyone to get where he wants regardless of what it takes or who it hurts…what did Jesus say?  “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed!”

Greed is this intense and selfish desire for something, and that something can be anything…and the danger of greed is that it is never satisfied.  So, you have to keep feeding it and feeding it, and if it isn’t ever dealt with, it takes everything from you…which is its goal and I will explain why in a moment or two but it’s what makes it so dangerous and painful to deal with.

So, yikes, right?  How do we handle this greed thing?  It is a sneaky, scary, evil thing that can take out our hearts and frankly can take everything from us if we aren’t careful because it is just never satisfied…so what do we do?  How do we defend ourselves from all kinds of greed?  We give.  The only way to defeat greed is to be generous. 

Proverbs 3:9 Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. (MSG) 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. NIV

Greed is evil.  Greed takes our hearts out.  I want you to understand how far reaching this greed thing is, it is much bigger than a conversation about a lust for money.  Greed takes and takes and takes from us and if we don’t deal with it, greed will consume it all.  Once it takes everything you have, it has won.  Greed can stop us from loving others, can stop us from building into God’s kingdom, can bust up families, and enslave us to sin.  Remember, the way to defeat greed is to give but here’s what we have to understand, and I think what Jesus was trying to help us see.  You can’t give what you do not have.

It’s generosity that kills greed, but you cannot give what you do not have.  That sounds like a simple statement but think about it, once you fill up your time, you can’t give anyone your time.  Once you are out of energy you have none to share with anyone.  Whatever it is emotional margin, financial margin, you cannot give what you do not have!  Greed is always taking, and if it gets it all it does more damage than just making you look selfish to others, it stops you from loving, giving, and helping others including those you care about most experience God’s love in their lives the way we all need God’s love in our lives. Listen, you can’t give what you do not have…and your enemy knows it and uses greed to keep you stalled out and unable to help share God and live and experience new life in Him.

Check out this exchange Jesus has with this wealthy young man, I love this story, I know I can bring it up a lot…but I want you to think about what Jesus is helping this young man understand.  Remember He wants to be a disciple of Christ…a Christ Follower…and Jesus loves Him enough to show Him something…check this out…

Mark 10:17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good — except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”  NIV

Do you see it?  Think about it from the perspective of greed.  Jesus looks at this man and loves Him and tells him to give away his stuff and that he will be ready to come follow Jesus.  It crushes the young man and he walks away sad.  I love this, and I feel for the young man and can also picture Jesus watching Him walk away.  I think for so many this is yet another way the Bible is saying having money is wrong, and that just isn’t the case.  It’s a warning against greed, it’s helping this young man and all of us see what it takes to be a disciple of Christ.  We follow Jesus and as His disciples we love God and love others, we serve, we give…but the reality is that if we struggle with greed this ability to love, serve and give is being taken from us, we can’t give what we do not have. 

This is why we talk so often about walking in a relationship with God.  This is why we challenge you to rest, to slow down, and to center on God’s amazing love for you.  This is why we are spending so much time focusing you on your inner world and your heart condition because in the end it gives you health, energy, margin, time, and space to live out your faith.  It is greed that takes from you and the only way to combat greed is to give and you just can’t give what you do not have.  As I write this, I just keep thinking about Paul’s words here in Philippians 2!

Philippians 2:12 What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. 13 That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure. 14 Do everything readily and cheerfully — no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! 15 Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night. MSG

You see this is what it’s all about.  Sharing and giving God’s love to the world!  When we walk with God we have an energy from His love pouring in and out of us that allows us to serve, to be generous and share this amazing gift with the world.  I want you to think about this…a life of a disciple is a life of giving, loving, and serving…it’s a life of generosity…which your enemy the thief is using greed to take that ability to live a generous life away from you.  Remember you cannot give what you do not have.

So I want to show you another really special story in Mark that in my eyes shows four very generous people…this is another one of my favorite stories or encounters that Jesus has with people because I can just picture it so well in my mind.

Mark 2:1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” NIV

I love this story and see it as a story of generosity.  I want you picturing this scene as it unfolds.  These men show up carrying their paralyzed friend, and the place is packed with people cramming around Jesus trying to hear Him preach.  They are blocked, unable to get their friend in need to Jesus, and what they do next is just beautiful.  They go up on the roof and dig their way through and lower the man on a mat in front of Jesus.  Now this would have taken work, and effort…it also would have been a total mess raining dirt, clay, and thatch down on all who were inside including Jesus…but I picture Jesus looking up at those four men with so much joy because of their hearts and belief in who Jesus was…and what happens?  Jesus saw their faith and forgave the man’s sins!  Just awesome but it doesn’t stop there.

Mark 2:6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” NIV

I love this, it is such a beautiful moment, and after Jesus looks up probably covered in a mess of dirt and thatch roof materials with joy at these four generous men, who are giving their time and energy to help another, He hears the thoughts of the religious leaders…who ironically had great seats for the sermon and were not helping people in need but blocking them from getting to Jesus.  I can almost picture Jesus taking a deep breath, then dealing with the critical religious leaders, then Jesus heals the man as well!  He picks up his mat and walks out of there…healed and with a different eternal destiny than he had before this encounter with Jesus.  Why?  Because these four men were willing to give their time, their energy, and their effort to help him find Jesus.  I am so impacted by these four guys, and I want you to think about what I keep coming back to throughout this talk.  You can’t give what you do not have.  How does that hit your heart today?  Maybe you heard it before and didn’t really think about it, or maybe you felt like it was a story about faith or just a story to show Jesus’ amazing and miraculous power…but to me it’s a story about generosity and the Kingdom of God is expanded because these four men were willing to give.  Remember you can’t give what you don’t have. 

Do you see what I’m getting at here today?  We who follow Christ give…we love, we serve, we engage, and greed takes that away because we simply can not give what we do not have.  This is why greed is so dangerous and why Jesus would say things like this…

Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” NIV

As a people we don’t have a lot of margin, do we?  I do not know about you but with four teenagers, and a lot of activity, and a million things going on it’s not like we have a ton of time.  I look at my own calendar and realize how quickly it fills up.  The bummer is when we don’t have the time we can’t give others the time.  For so many of us we are so distracted with so many different things taking our attention.  We basically multitask our way through life.  We have to keep up with Facebook, and Instagram, and all of our social media, while working, tending to kids, and trying to pay the bills and get through life…because we want to do what we want, when we want.  The bummer is with so many things taking our attention we have no attention to give to things that may matter more, like our loved ones or the mission of Christ.  For so many of us we are so stressed out and anxious.  We are emotionally drained to a level that we just have no emotional margin or energy left to give to anyone else at all…and I want you to see this, that is intentional.  We just can’t give what we don’t have.

So as we close I hope you are seeing this today.  I don’t want this to get away from us.  Greed is not just about wanting money or wealth or fancy things above all else.  Greed is evil and takes our hearts out by stealing all the margin of our lives away, and leaving us with nothing…this doesn’t have to just be financial, this is emotional, spiritual and does so much damage in our lives and on this Earth because if we don’t deal with it will take it all from us.  Once it takes everything from you it has you…you are stuck, you no longer are a threat to the enemy because you have nothing to give.  Greed can stop us from loving others, from building into God’s kingdom, it can bust up families, and enslave us to sin.  We need to see it and we need to deal with it, today. The way to defeat greed is to give but here’s what is really interesting, and I think what Jesus was trying to help us the young rich ruler and all of us with when he exposed greed in his life and asked him to go create some margin in his life so he could actually be a disciple of Christ.  You can’t give what you do not have.

So as we close I would like to ask you a couple of questions.  I want you to personalize this for a moment.  Look in the mirror and look at your life, be honest about this and answer these questions for yourself.

  • Are you spending time with God daily, tending to your heart?
  • Do you take time to rest, to be still, to disconnect from the world and reconnect with God?
  • When you look at your life are you living intentionally?  Do you have boundaries, and take time to prioritize what you do?
  • When we talk about greed how do you picture it?  Is it just money and stuff or do you see it as more?  Was that a new thought for you today?
  • Do you see greed in your life in ways that maybe you didn’t before?  If so, that is great because now you can do something about it!  Identify areas of your life where you are greedy and begin to think through how to give in those areas.  This could be financial, emotional, this could be about your time and your ability to serve…what is it for you?
  • Are you generous?  Do you give?  This is how we get rid of greed in our lives! Who do you know that needs God’s love in their life around you?  Who do you know that you could give and be generous to the way those four men were to the paralytic in our story today?

Remember Jesus’ warning in Luke 12:15 it’s a big deal.

Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” NIV

Greed keeps you restless, always wanting more, it’s greed that takes and takes and takes from you until you have nothing left and that is the point, it’s what greed is up to in your life!  It’s trying to get you to a place where you can’t serve, love, or give.

Because you just can’t give what you do not have.