Givers and Takers

Of Love and Greed

Jim Allen

Some of the most endearing believers I know give of themselves day after day with no thought given to their provision. They have an outward-looking focus that sees the needs of others long before their own. They live above want, free from wallowing in what they can do for themselves. Though the following story is a slightly modified version of the original ancient fable, it shares a winning principle I think you will like.
A man spoke with the Lord about the difference between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth. The Lord said to the man, "Come, I will show you the difference." They entered a room where a group of hungry people sat around a huge pot of stew. Everyone in the room was livid, quarreling, and starving. Each person held a spoon that reached the pot, but each spoon had a handle much longer than their own arms such that it could not be used to get the stew into their own mouths.

"Come now, I will show you heaven," said the Lord.

They entered a room identical to the first, the big pot of stew, the group of people and the same long-handled spoons. But here everyone was gleeful, loving, and well-nourished. "I don't understand," said the man. "Why is everyone happy here and miserable in the other room? Everything is the same." "Here, they have learned to serve each other" said the Lord. (Galatians 5:13-14)
I like this story about the comparison between two kingdoms. It shows the reality of life on earth. Everyone is a player in this reality game. Everyone has the opportunity and may choose to be in one kingdom or the other. But mixed in among believers are the selfish in thought and deed and self-serving in purpose. They are blind to the needs of others. They live floundering in greed, wholly unaware they are malnourished in truth, lacking faith, and empty vessels.

One empty vessel I knew was a neighbor who lived one house away. We worked for the same company. He was married with two children and aspired to be a music evangelist. His name was Dan, and he was very open about sharing his faith.

One day he told me about Roy who was thinking about selling his classic Mercedes sedan for several thousand dollars. I knew Roy as he too worked for the same company. He was a believer, a super nice guy, and married with two children. Though he was struggling to make ends meet and had his own demons to fight, he found ways to help others — including me on one occasion. He was a precious soul.

The downside to this story is Dan knew a buyer in another city who would pay twice Roy's asking price for the Mercedes. Dan, not telling Roy, made the deal with the buyer, and gave Roy the amount he wanted while pocketing the rest. While some would define this dubious deal as the free market in action, the Bible calls it greed when in excess (Luke 12:15).

Was Dan self-serving? If the transaction were reversed, would Dan appreciate Roy pocketing an exorbitant amount of money from the same sale? Jesus said, "Whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do even so unto them" (Matthew 7:12).Though Dan was operating within the law, was his deed biblically honorable?

A little compassion on Dan's part would have gone a long way in helping Roy meet his financial need. Dan did not need to pocket half of the money from the sale. Compassion among believers is a powerful witness to demonstrate that the Gospel is more than just a story (2 Corinthians 3:2). Love is seeing an opportunity to serve, and compassion is the resolve to act on that love without including self (1 John 3:17).

But an act of greed by a believer is also a powerful witness to unbelievers, many of whom heard about the swindle from the lips of Dan himself. In boasting about this deal, Dan's unbelieving coworkers saw his prowess (to take advantage of a good and decent person) as pure greed. They were offended that Dan did not tell Roy about the other buyer. They did not see the spirit of Christ in Dan and neither did anyone else.

Dan, knowing Roy's financial need, could have served up a blessing by alerting him to the buyer willing to pay double for his Mercedes. Surely heaven knew Roy's need and herein Dan's woeful shame for seizing half of a double portion blessing that surely belonged to another.

Sometime after the swindle, Roy passed away. I and others were deeply saddened by the passing and that Dan had taken advantage of this gentle and caring soul including his family. Dan, apparently unmoved by the passing, went on to seek his fame and fortune as a music evangelist, but in the end failed. Some supposed his true nature unfolded over time for all to see, and what they saw was not valued by many if any (1 John 2:15).

In closing, God is able to comfort despairing hearts, give rest to exhausted souls, and impart needed blessings (2 Corinthians 3:2). But to hunger after another's blessing as did Dan is pure greed, that dreadful desire to want more than what is necessary (1 Corinthians 6:10).

God works in and through the believer to do His will regardless of how small the blessing to others may appear (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 6:10). Serving up a blessing to another is an expression of love, that wondrous quality of the soul, invisible and born from within that always places another before self (John 15:12-13).

Image Credit: liz west; "Greed"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Hardships  | Personal-Life  | Personal-Relationships  | Sin-Evil

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Published 11-19-2014