Bible Topics In The Christian Library
 
Chapter 10b
Greed

Excessive appetite for riches is called avarice, greed, or covetousness. As earlier stated, this lust is another common vice: a type of gluttony for money involving the lust of the eye. Its dynamics are similar to all the others; its pleasures are deceptive, and ultimately unsatisfying. Moreover, greed provokes a man to illegalities. It tempts people to commit dishonesty and fraud. Furthermore, Solomon said, these kinds of profits are short-lived.

Wealth dishonestly obtained shall waste away (Proverbs 13:11; SPRL).

He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house (Proverbs15:27; KJV).

A man making money by fraud chases a bubble to his own doom (Proverbs 21:6; MOFFATT).

men in a hurry to get rich incur guilt (Proverbs 28:20; MOFFATT).

He chases after wealth, the man of greedy eye, not knowing that want is overtaking him (Proverbs 28:22; JB).

Greed is another moral disease of the will, and, like all the others, it is in plague proportions today. The new proverb, "He who dies with the most, wins" is an effort to justify greed by this adulterous generation. The truth is, he who dies with the most loses the most. Excessive greed can ruin the economy of a nation. Modern economists say a nationís economy is "overheated" during economic inflation those times of rapidly increasing prices and wages. I suspect the root cause of inflation is "overheated" greed in the hearts of the nationís citizens. Raising interest rates appears to be the main strategy used by the rich and powerful of our country to combat inflation these days; they fight greed with greed. Solomon disapproved of profiteering by interest and overcharge. He who increases his wealth by interest and over charge gathers it for him who is kind to the poor (Proverbs 28:8; NAB). Paul said that greed fuels all manner of evils. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10; NIV). Solomon mentions a few of these evils. He referred to theft when he warned about adultery. Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; but if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house (Proverbs 6:30, 31; KJV). Effective and just penalties for theft include full compensation for the victim paid by the thief out of his own pocket, compensation being much more ("sevenfold") than simply returning in good condition what was taken. Moses' law (a model for any government) contains many guidelines for the application of justice in both criminal cases and civil disputes. Solomon also warned about cooperating with thieves, even when it involves simply not informing about them. The partner of a thief hates his own life; he hears the curse, but discloses nothing (Proverbs 29:24; RSV). Fraud and bribery are the other evils Solomon mentions. He spoke of two kinds of fraud: altering measuring scales, and changing property boundaries. The list of possible ways to commit fraud is mammoth and continually growing, but those two were apparently common examples during Solomonís time. A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight (Proverbs 11:1; KJV).

he [the Lord] will establish the border of the widow (Proverbs 15:25; KJV).

A just weight and balance are the Lord's: all the weights of the bag are his work (Proverbs 16:11; KJV).

Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 20:10; KJV).

Divers weights are an abomination unto the Lord; and a false balance is not good (Proverbs 20:23; KJV).

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set (Proverbs 22:28; KJV).

Do not move the ancient boundary stone or encroach on the land of orphans: they have a powerful guardian who will take up their cause against you (Proverbs 23:10, 11; NEB).

Bribery involves an unjust exchange where both parties seek more than they deserve. It is a corruption of justice, and is condemned by the Lord. Nevertheless, a bribe can have power almost magical power. It can solve a man's problems when nothing else can. Therefore, it is another widespread moral disease. He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth bribes shall live (Proverbs 15:27; ASV).

A bribe is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it; whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth (Proverbs 17:8; ASV).

A wicked man receiveth a bribe out of the bosom, to pervert the ways of justice (Proverbs 17:23; ASV).

A bribe does wonders: it will bring you before men of importance (Proverbs 18:16; LB).

To favour one side is not fair to sin, bribed by a bit of bread (Proverbs 28:21; MOFFATT).

a bribe destroyeth the understanding (Ecclesiastes 7:7; ASV).

In sum: Greed is a perversion of the heart that is responsible for a legion of evils, including theft, fraud, and bribery.
Rich and Poor

Wealth and money are not equally distributed any more than anything else is. They never have been, and they never will be, because Jesus said,

For you always have the poor with you (Matthew 26:11; RSV). But in the eyes of the Lord we are all alike what we own is irrelevant to our true worth. Solomon said, The rich and the poor are alike before the Lord who made them all (Proverbs 22:2; LB). And Jesus warned, saying, Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15; RSV). The Bible defines poverty in both an absolute and a relative sense. In Moses' law, for example, the word poor is used both ways. (See Deuteronomy 15:4, 11.) In the relative sense, the poor are simply people at the lowest economic level of a society. In that sense the poor of a prosperous country are better off than the rich of a primitive, backward society. In the absolute sense of the word, poverty refers to the state of being impoverished-going hungry, being clothed in rags, living in shacks. In some countries there may be few, if any, of this kind of poor people. In other countries they may comprise the majority. The same differences in connotation can be applied to the definition of the rich.

Recognizing who is rich and who is poor is not always obvious. Solomon said we cannot tell by a casual glance who is rich and who is not.

One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another man pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth (Proverbs 13:7; AAT). Solomon pointed out many advantages to being rich: A rich man's wealth is his protection (Proverbs 10:15; MOFFATI~)

the rich hath many friends (Proverbs 14:20; KJV).

Wealth maketh many friends (Proverbs 19:4; KJV).

The rich ruleth over the poor (Proverbs 22:7; KJV).

But he also pointed out some disadvantages. The rich are often targets for extortion; wealth tends to create arrogance; and the easy life of the rich dulls the pleasures of simple things. A rich man must buy himself off, but a poor man is immune from threats (Proverbs 13:8; NEB).

The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall is his own conceit (Proverbs 18:11; KJV).

The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly (Proverbs 18:23; KJV).

He who is sated loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet (Proverbs 27:7; RSV).

The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who is intelligent sees through him (Proverbs 28:11; NAB).

Sweet is the sleep of the laborer, whether he eat little or much. But the surfeit of the rich allows him no sleep (Ecclesiastes 5:12; AAT).

Agur added, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain (Proverbs 30:8, 9; KJV). Solomon warned against reviling anyone who is wealthy even in private. It will somehow get out; and they have power to take cruel revenge. in the inmost recesses of thy bed-chamber curse not a rich man: for a bird of the air will carry thy voice, and that which hath wings will tell thy saying (Ecclesiastes 10:20; LXX). Although Solomon was rich all his life, he wrote twice as much about the poor. There are not many advantages to poverty. The poor cannot lose what they do not have, and they enjoy more pleasure from common things. a poor man is immune from threats (Proverbs 13:8; NEB).

to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet (Proverbs 27:7; RSV).

Sweet is the sleep of the laborer, whether he eat little or much (Ecclesiastes 5:12; AAT).

But James also said, Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man, Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme that honorable name by which you are called? (James 2:5-7; RSV). Moreover, in this vain life under certain circumstances it is better to be poor than rich. Poverty is better where there is love, peace, and harmony than having riches where there is hatred, trouble, and strife. Also, a God-fearing man who has a good reputation and walks in his uprightness, though poor, is better off than a perverse rich man living in unrighteousness. Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith (Proverbs 15:16, 17; KJV).

Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right (Proverbs 16:8; KJV).

Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than a house full of slaughtered beasts, with strife (Proverbs 17:1; RSV).

Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his Lips, and is a fool (Proverbs 19:1; KJV).

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold (Proverbs 22:1; KJV).

Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich (Proverbs 28:6; KJV).

Better is a handful with rest, than both fists full of toil and chasing after wind (Ecclesiastes 4:6; MLB).

Nevertheless, poverty is truly a handicap. For one thing, justified or not, people resent the poor, and the poor must plead humbly to mostly deaf ears. The poor is hated even of his own neighbour (Proverbs 14:20; KJV).

The poor useth intreaties (Proverbs 18:23; KJV).

the poor is avoided by his neighbor (Proverbs 19:4; AMP).

All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him (Proverbs 19:7; KJV).

Moreover, poverty increases the temptation to commit theft. Agur said, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain (Proverbs 30:8, 9; KJV). There are many causes of poverty, some of which are self imposed. Perhaps the major cause is laziness. Others Solomon mentioned include neglecting education, impatience with the drudgery of work, overindulging in sensual pleasures, and joining up with known losers. Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but he who heeds reproof is honored (Proverbs 13:18; RSV).

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to want (Proverbs 14:23; RSV).

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want (Proverbs 21:5; RSV).

He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich (Proverbs 21:17; KJV).

Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your mind in the way. Be not among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags (Proverbs 23:19-21; RSV).

he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough (Proverbs 28:19; KJV).

These kinds of poor people deserve rebuke. But there are other causes of poverty not associated with moral failures. A man can be born into poverty, or he can fall into it later in life because of unforeseen consequences. Remember this sad story: There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture; and he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil, which he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go; and what gain has he that he toiled for the wind, and spent all his days in darkness and grief, in much vexation and sickness and resentment? (Ecclesiastes 5:13-17; RSV). Poverty tends to perpetuate itself. It leaves the individual without resources, and limits his opportunities. Being without money and the help that it gives is almost like being without hands and feet. poverty is the ruin of the poor (Proverbs 10:15; MOFFATT).

Where there are no oxen, the cribs are clean: but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox (Proverbs 14:4; LAM).

Moreover, the poor are most vulnerable to exploitation. They have no influential friends; they cannot hire clever lawyers; they can only weakly defend themselves against the predators of the world. There is much food in the ploughed land of the poor; but it is taken away by wrong-doing (Proverbs 13:23; BAS). Solomon issued a strong warning against succumbing to the temptation to prey upon these innocent poor people. Indeed, do not so much as ridicule them, he said, because those who do reproach the Creator of us all: He sins who despises the hungry (Proverbs 14:21; NAB).

He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker (Proverbs 14:31; KJV).

Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker (Proverbs 17:5; KJV).

He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want (Proverbs 22:16; KJV).

Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: for the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them (Proverbs 22:22, 23; KJV).

A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food (Proverbs 28:3; KJV).

In sum: Wealth is mostly an advantage. Poverty is mostly a hardship caused either by personal irresponsibility or injustice.
Generosity

The Lord is the ultimate source of all good things, and he is generous beyond measure. Those who walk in his ways are generous.

...the righteous giveth and spareth not (Proverbs 21:26; KJV). Throughout the Bible, we are commanded to contribute the first fruits of our labor our harvest, our salary, our profits to honor the Lord. Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine (Proverbs 3:9, 10; KJV). Here is another paradox: Generosity the giving of our money, goods, labor actually serves to multiply and enrich both our financial security and our reputation, whereas stinginess tends to erode both. One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered (Proverbs 11:24, 25; RSV).

all are friends of a man who gives presents (Proverbs 19:6; MOFFATT).

He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor (Proverbs 22:9; KJV).

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth (Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2; KJV).

There are two special kinds of withholding that Solomon said hurt a man's reputation: hoarding necessities, and making vain promises. The people will curse the man who holds back the grain, but a blessing will be on the head of the one selling it (Proverbs 11:26; MLB).

Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain (Proverbs 25:14; KJV).

Solomon advised against accepting a gift from a miserly man when he offers it. Your gratitude means nothing to him. He is a hypocrite, already calculating how to force it back from you, perhaps with interest. Do not eat the bread of the man who is stingy: do not desire his delicacies; for he is like one who is inwardly reckoning. "Eat and drink!" he says to you; but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsels which you have eaten, and waste your pleasant words (Proverbs 23:6-8; RSV). It is not only a responsibility but a privilege to give to the deserving poor, to help him climb out of the pit of poverty. Solomon said the Lord will repay the liberal man for his kindness. he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he (Proverbs 14:21; KJV).

He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor (Proverbs 14:31; KJV).

He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again (Proverbs 19:17; KJV).

Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard (Proverbs 21:13; KJV).

He whose eye is generous will be blessed, for he gives food to the poor (Proverbs 22:9; MLB).

He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse (Proverbs 28:27; KJV).

And Jesus said, It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35; RSV). But Paul warned against supporting indolence. If any one will not work, let him not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10; RSV). Solomon also said it was inadvisable to give to the rich, no matter how noble your motives. Like oppressing the poor, those who do will only suffer loss in the end. he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want (Proverbs 22:16; KJV). Regarding giving, Agur wrote these words: The leech has two daughters: "Give, give," they cry. Three things are never satisfied; four never says, "Enough": Sheol, the barren womb, the earth ever thirsty for water, and the fire which never says, "Enough" (Proverbs 30:15, 16; RSV). This saying is not clear to me, but perhaps it refers to certain kinds of people who beg perpetually. Sheol and the barren womb represent the end and the beginning of the cycle of life which goes on perpetually. Rain falls upon the earth, never satisfying its need, and a fire would live forever if it were kept fed. Whenever we gives to some people, they always come back for more, never satisfied. They are a type of sinner who preys upon other people in a more insidious parasitic fashion the leeches of society.

In sum: Generosity is a virtue, stinginess is a vice, and the Lord will reward each deed in kind.

Copyright 1997 by Walter L. Porter may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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