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Be on Guard Against Greed

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
January 5, 2022 9:00 am

Be on Guard Against Greed

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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January 5, 2022 9:00 am

As we continue our “In Step” series through the book of Luke, Pastor J.D. preaches about a sickness that most of us have, but few of us realize—the sickness of greed.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Did you know that Jesus warned against the dangers of greed far more, far more often than he warned about the dangers of sex. Greed is a silent deadly killer.

It's a kind of money sickness and one of the worst symptoms of that sickness is a blindness to your condition. Welcome back to Summit Life with J.D. Greer, pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. As we continue our brand new in-step teaching series through the book of Luke, Pastor J.D. preaches today about a sickness that most of us have but few of us realize. It's the sickness of greed.

Part of what makes greed so deadly is our inherent blindness to it. And the interesting part is that Jesus simply assumes that greed is a problem for all of us. But thankfully, he also offers us a radical gospel-shaped antidote.

If you're just joining us for the first time and want to catch up on this teaching series, listen online at And now here's Pastor J.D. with a message titled Be On Guard Against Greed. Luke chapter 12, if you've got your Bible. Luke chapter 12, if you have your Bible. We are in week number two of a series called In Step in which we're looking at walking with Jesus in a way that makes our lives secure and eternally significant. Last week we saw Jesus warn religious people that it is possible for them to look like they are right with God but be self-deceived. Today we're going to see Jesus warn us about the toxic nature of greed, which is, I'm going to show you, an invisible sickness, Jesus says, that afflicts all of us. Luke chapter 12, like many people, I am fascinated by that show Hoarders. I don't watch it all the time, but when I do catch an episode on, it's like I can't turn away.

Anybody else like that? It's just something tragically fascinating about that show. Just about the whole concept. You go into somebody's house and they're up to their eyeballs in broken tennis rackets and durable cages and copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. When they stage an intervention on that show, they almost always bring in, if you've seen it, you know this, they almost always bring in two people. The first is an organizer and the organizer deals with the what, right?

Getting rid of all the junk. The second is a psychologist who deals with the why. What is it that makes this person compulsively collect all that stuff? You need both people.

You need the organizer and the psychologist because there's no use dealing with the what if you're not going to get to the why. They're just going to rinse and repeat. This show, that show Hoarders, I think demonstrates what we're going to look at today and that is that greed is not ultimately about our possessions. Greed is ultimately about the fallen conditions of our hearts. That's what Jesus is getting at in Luke 12. Let's just take a look at this passage.

Luke 12 verse 13. Somebody from the crowd called out to him, teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. Scholars, by the way, say that this was a very common problem in Jerusalem. Older brothers could manipulate the laws that run the books in a way that would allow them to cheat the younger brothers out of upwards, they say, of two-thirds of the family inheritance.

It was a system that was just open to abuse and injustice. Jesus's response, verse 14, friend, he said to him, who appointed me a judge or an arbitrator over you? He then told them, watch out and be on guard against all greed because one's life is not in the abundance of his possessions. And then he told them this parable.

Okay, let's stop right there for just a second. Now first, if these opening verses sound familiar to you, it's because we use this story in our flag series to illustrate how Jesus avoided getting entangled in the specifics of earthly justice questions so that he could focus on fulfilling his primary mission, which was preaching repentance, preaching the gospel and calling people to follow him. But today, today what we want to do is we want to look at what he actually preached to this younger brother. What was it that he warned this younger brother and the crowd that was listening and the older brother, what did he warn them about? Greed. Underline that word greed if you underline stuff in your Bible. Watch out, he says, watch out, be on guard against greed.

Several things that I think you should note here. First, why is Jesus preaching this message to the younger brother? The younger brother is the one after all that was being wronged. You would have thought Jesus would have said, hey, go get your manipulating older brother and bring him back here. He's the one that needs to hear this greed message. But Jesus preaches it to the younger brother also. In fact, verse 15 seems to indicate that Jesus is preaching to both of them. See the word them there in verse 15?

He says, I'm not going to jump in and settle this matter. Both of you, both the one who was wronged and the one who is doing the wronging, both of you got the same problem even though one of you is in the right, one of you is in the wrong, both of you got the same inner problem and that problem is greed. Here's the first thing I want you to write down if you're writing stuff down. It is possible for you to live clean and still be consumed by greed. It is very possible for you to live in just an exemplary way and still be consumed by greed. In fact, look at the way that Jesus words the warning.

Watch out, be on guard against greed. It can sneak up on you and it can take you over without you even knowing it. Did you know that Jesus does not use this kind of language regarding any other sin? Jesus never says, for example, watch out and be on guard for adultery.

Why? Because it doesn't really sneak up on you like that. You know when you're committing adultery. It is hard to commit adultery and not know it. What do you know?

You're not my wife. That's just not how it works. But it's very easy to be greedy and have no knowledge of it at all. All that to say, Jesus' assumption is that all people, both religious and irreligious, both those who are living unjustly and those who are living justly have a problem with greed.

So I'll say it again. It is possible for you to live clean, to be a good person, to do everything right, and still be consumed by greed just like this younger brother. Did you know that Jesus warned against the dangers of greed far more, far more often than he warned about the dangers of sex? Greed is a silent, deadly killer. It's a kind of money sickness.

And one of the worst symptoms of that sickness is a blindness to your condition. So Jesus is going to go on to tell them a parable. He's going to say, watch out, be on guard against greed. And then he's going to tell them a story that is designed to help you diagnose your money sickness. Before we look at that story, I want to suggest to you that everybody listening to me right now, wherever you are, ought to start with the working hypothesis that you have a problem with greed. I don't think Jesus would have presented it that way to the younger brother who was being wrong.

I don't think he would have taught this way if that is not something he wanted us to assume. And let me just say, okay, that as Americans, I think it's just part of the air that we breathe. Let me be very clear, because I know some of us are pretty sensitive about this. I love this country. I love the Protestant work ethic that fuels our success. And I think that we are one of the most generous countries on earth. But one of the curses of being prosperous is that as possessions increase, so does our appetite for more.

I want you to consider a handful of things here, okay? Americans make more than four times as much as the average person elsewhere outside of America, but we spend 98% of that on ourselves. We spend more money in this country on eating out than we do giving to charity, more money on our pets than we do helping the poor, more money on pornography than we do on combating oppression and injustice.

And by the way, that's not just because we're in a tough spot right now. Americans give less to charity today, percentage-wise, than we did in the Great Depression. Or consider this, a household income of six figures puts you in the top half of 1% of people worldwide.

Top half of 1%. And yet only one-third of Americans who make six figures say they feel like they have enough money to buy what they need. The richest one-half of 1% and the richest part of the world feel like they don't have enough.

And that translates into an addiction to debt. 71% of all credit card balances in this country have only the minimum monthly payment made every month. They say Americans spend, on average, $1.26 for every dollar that we earn. We save less than any industrialized nation in the world. Germans save at a rate, they save about 10%.

Americans save at a rate of negative 0.5%. So it's not a great situation. And our addiction to possessions distorts everything.

It distorts how we look at life. I heard about a guy with a brand new BMW who opened up the car door after he parked it on the road. And as he opens up the car door, get out on the street, a car whizzes by at 35 miles an hour and tears off the door of the car.

Right? He starts, a police officer runs over and this guy's wailing, oh, my BMW, my brand new BMW. And the officer said, man, what's wrong with you? Your left arm got torn off also. The guy looks down to where his left arm was and he goes, oh, my Rolex, my Rolex.

What's wrong with my Rolex? That's not really a true story. But I think it's clear. I think it's clear that like this younger brother, we've got a problem with greed. And here's where Jesus diagnoses and prescribes a solution for money sickness. Verse 16, let's pick up there again.

A rich man's land, he said, was very productive. And he thought to himself, what should I do since I don't have anywhere to store my crops? I'll do this, he said, I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones in their place and I'll store all my grain and my goods there. Then I'll say to myself, you have many goods stored up for many years.

Take it easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself. But God said to him, you fool, this very night, your life is going to be demanded of you. And then those things that you've prepared, well, whose will they be then? That's how it is, Jesus says, with the one who stores up for treasure for himself and is not rich toward God. Then Jesus said to his disciples, therefore, I tell you, don't worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.

For life is more than food and the body's more than clothes. You see the pagan world, verse 30, they're the ones who run after all such things, but your father knows that you need them. You seek his kingdom and then these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor, therefore, provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth can destroy.

For where your treasure is, well, that's where your heart's going to be also. Tim Keller says that Jesus identifies in this story, seven symptoms of money sickness. I'll just give you seven symptoms that could diagnose whether your heart has money sickness, right? Symptom number one, boasting. Boasting. This man gloats about his wealth.

I need bigger barns, I need a bigger house. Wealth gives this man a sense of confidence and a sense of self-worth. For the money sick, how you feel about yourself is determined by how you compare financially to everybody else. I heard James Carvel, the political analyst, say one time, he said, when you finally do get to the top, your first inclination is not to rejoice, it's to look around. Right?

Who else is up here where I'm at now? Greed is inherently competitive. So even if you don't have a lot of money, you can still have this symptom. You ever catch yourself looking at others, comparing yourself to them, lamenting that you or your children don't have the opportunities that they have. Does a lack of money make you feel lesser? Does it make you feel deprived? If so, then you've got money sickness. Symptom number two, worry. If you've got money sickness, you are constantly worried about the future.

You see this in verse 22. What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink?

What are we going to wear? What's going to happen to my retirement? What's going to be the future of this economy? What if I never make the kind of money that will afford me really nice things? You worry this way because you think the good life consists of material things and you're worried about never having those or not getting money to have that kind of life or losing the money what you've gotten it. You think there's really no way that I can have the good life unless I have that money.

That's why I'm worried about it or worried about losing it once I have it. Symptom number two, symptom number three, money comfort. Money comfort. See what this man does? Verse 17, he thought to himself.

He's talking to himself. He's comforting himself by telling himself that all of his money is going to guarantee his safety. Self, you've got many goods laid up for many years.

Life is going to be awesome. When you've got money sickness you take comfort in money. You take comfort in money.

How about you? You're the kind of person who feels safe when your financial prospects are abundant? Do you feel intolerably vulnerable when they aren't? That's the heart that gives birth to greed. You need possessions in order to feel secure. The irony is at that point you no longer own your possessions.

They own you because you need them in order to have that feeling of security. But that's symptom number three. Symptom number four, we see stinginess. In this man's multiplying prosperity he never thinks about what his money can do for others or why. He never asks why God gave him so much. As a religious Jew, because that's the context of who Jesus was talking to, this man surely paid his tithe to the temple. But generosity was not the joy of his heart. It's not where his mind naturally went.

He was most excited about living a life of luxury and ease and building bigger barns. That's why he talked to himself about those things. Greedy people often will give out of a sense of duty but they have no joy in being generous. It hurts them.

They might tithe but it hurts so they only give what they feel obligated to give and then they go back to their life of bigger barn building. Symptom number five, overspending. When you got money sickness, money becomes the medication for whatever negative emotion you feel. When you're sad you think, I'll buy something. When you're bored, I'll get something new.

I need a bigger barn. That's why debt becomes such a problem. Your savior is your credit card. It's your bottle of pills.

You medicate life strains with stuff. An excessive amount of things is a sure sign of money sickness. I know some of you men right now are thinking about your wife's closet but don't do that. Okay? Think about whatever it is you collect.

Symptom number six, can't turn it off. You got this incessant desire to pile up more and more. It just never seems to be enough. I'm sure when the guy in this story was a young man, I'm sure he thought, man, if I could just have enough money to buy some nice clothes, man, that would be the life. Maybe get a nice chariot to be able to cruise around Jerusalem, man, that'd be awesome. And then he got that and he thought, man, what would it be like one day to own my own farm, have my own workers? And then he gets that and he makes, well, I could just build a barn and have some excess crops I could sell. Then he gets that.

Now here he is needing a bigger barn. A symptom of money sickness is never being satisfied. Enough is always right around the corner. It's just never quite where you are.

It's just a little bit ahead of you. When I was thinking about this this week, when I was in high school, I wanted a pair of Air Jordans so bad but they were absurdly expensive. And my parents were like, you want us to pay $70 for a pair of tennis shoes?

Are you out of your mind? But I thought, man, if I could just have a pair of Air Jordans and a G-Shock watch, that's what I wanted. And I thought, man, if I could have that light, I would like, what else is there to want in life? And guess what? I eventually got those things.

In fact, I'm wearing both of them right now. But when I got those, that ended up giving away to something else. It was almost like a cruel joke. Real satisfaction and real security of soul is always just beyond me. Money sickness is like that.

It's always out there just beyond you. It never lets up. It reminds me of that CEO that was interviewed in Forbes magazine that I often quote, who said, I spent my entire life climbing the ladder of success only to get to the top and find out it was leaning against the wrong building.

Symptom number six is can't turn it off. Symptom number seven, stockpiling. Money sickness drives you to save excessive amounts like this man. We're not talking about a wise investment plan.

That's biblical. We're talking about saving excessively or failing to be radically generous along the way. You feel like you can't do that because money is the entire basis of your security for the future. People who have money sickness can't be truly generous because money is their security, and so they can't give it away. You see verse 33 where Jesus tells them to give away their possessions. Keep in mind that back then all they had were possessions.

They didn't do savings accounts or stock portfolios. All they had was possessions. Possessions were your retirement. Possessions were what you left to your children. So when Jesus says give away your possessions, Jesus is not telling you to get rid of some things. He is telling this group to reduce their savings and cut into their net worth. A lot of them are like, I can't do that.

My identity is tied up in that and my security is tied up in that. Jesus said that's because your money is sick. Seven symptoms of money sickness. Boasting, worry, money comfort, stinginess, overspending, can't turn it off, and stockpiling. You got any of these?

You have any of these? Point to your spouse if you think they have some of these. No, don't do that. I'm just kidding.

Okay. Thankfully, Jesus in this passage points us to the cure. I count four things in this passage that he gives us a cure. Number one, he tells you to wake up to the brevity of life.

This is a strangely effective cure. Verse 20, wake up to the brevity of life. This man's security gets brought down by one sentence from God. One sentence that God will say to every single one of us at some point in our lives.

Verse 20, tonight your soul is required of you and then all these things that you work for and you store it up, whose will they be? This man went to sleep that night totally confident about tomorrow. He was getting up early to play golf.

That night about two o'clock in the morning unexpectedly his heart stopped. Psalm 90 verse 12 says, thinking often on the brevity of life is the beginning of wisdom. Lord, Moses said in the Psalm 90, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to learn wisdom.

It's only by firmly embracing the brevity of your life that you're going to begin to order your life in the right way. I remember learning this lesson as a kid by playing my favorite board game with my mom. We used to play almost every afternoon. Monopoly. I love the game my mom and I played all the time.

I love getting boardwalk and park place and Pacific and Pennsylvania Avenue. I got that whole side of the board, that last little section of the board. I loved watching her, or anybody else playing with her, I loved watching her face wince when she would round the corner with her little car and know that she was going to have to land on one of my squares coming along that side because I had a monopoly there.

There's just no way that she could get through without landing up on one of my squares. It was loaded up with hotels and basically bankrupt her in one move. I remember my mom smiling with approval, telling me I was getting the point of the game. After I'd taken all her money and trounced her, she probably taught me the biggest lesson of all of Monopoly and that is when she took the board and she scooped all of it up at the end, put it back in the box and said, son, you won. You made all this money, but it makes no difference because it all goes back in the box.

Now go clean your room. All that money you had didn't make any difference. You understand that at death, it all goes back in the box.

It is literally as worthless as all my accrued power in part place and boardwalk in a game that lasted for an hour and a half. Then after it all goes back in the box, then whose will all those things be? Only one life to live will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.

The seven symptoms of money sickness. I guess you'd resonate with at least one of them, right? Don't miss tomorrow when we learn Jesus's cure to our illness here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. If you missed any part of today's message, or if you'd like to hear teaching from Pastor J.D., visit our website to browse the online sermon archives.

You'll find this and more online free of charge at And it's not too late to get your 2022 Summit Life Planner. As we look ahead to a new year, a lot of people are setting goals for themselves, whether that's financial or health goal, whatever it may be.

And J.D., do you have any thoughts for our listeners as they're looking ahead and making these plans? No matter what you do, you cannot add any more seconds to your day. So the question is, how do you make the most of your days and how do you use them well? Well, it takes plenty. The easiest way to waste your life is not through some big dramatic decision.

It's through not capitalizing on a bunch of small moments. And the first of the year is a great moment to say, God, what have you been doing in my life? What do you want to accomplish in my heart this year? What do you want to accomplish through me? This planner will help you ask some of those questions, examine what God is saying to you through scripture and in communion with the Holy Spirit. Setting goals of any kind is important. Health goals, education goals, financial goals.

Those are great, but most important ones are spiritual goals so that you can say when you and I stand before God, I lived 2022 the way that you wanted me to live it. I think this is a tool that will help you get your mind around that and get started on it. Don't miss this resource.

I really think it'll make a difference in your year. Just go to where you can get your copy. We'd love to get you a copy of that 2022 planner. It comes with a full year Bible reading plan. Plus, it's a great tool to help you stay organized, and it'll be a great reminder to tune into this program each day. And today is the last day to reserve your copy, so contact us now. Summit Life is funded by listeners like you, and we are so grateful to consider you our partners in ministry. You can request the planner when you make a single gift of $35 or more, or when you commit to monthly giving as a gospel partner.

It's really easy to sign up. Just call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or you can give and request the planner online at That's If it's easier to mail your donation, our address is J.D. Greer Ministries, P.O.

Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 277-09. I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us tomorrow when Pastor J.D. shows us what Jesus has to say about guarding against greed.

If greed is a sickness that we can have without even realizing it, then what's the cure? That's Thursday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-01 17:27:32 / 2023-07-01 17:38:04 / 11

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