A few months ago I read an article about how greed was the greatest ‘acceptable’ sin in the church because most preachers don’t dare call out their congregations for fear of losing what little funding they currently receive. It’s true that some churches have an annual ‘tithing sermon’ whereby the pastor gets up in front of the congregation and reminds them about all the Bible has to say on the subject. This is the Sunday you don’t want to bring a guest.
However, tithing and greed are not always the same issue; they are not mutually exclusive. Some people who don’t tithe are not greedy, and some people who do tithe are greedy, so preaching on tithing is not the same as preaching on greed. Today I want to take a look at what Scripture has to say about greed, determine if the church is misaligned with Scripture, and close with some thoughts about how the church can address the issue (if necessary).
1. What does God’s Word have to say?
- The word “greed” or “greedy” occurs 25 times in the NIV translation; it is never used in a positive way
- Jesus Christ speaks on the subject 4 times in the NIV (Mt 23:25, Mk 7:22, Lk 11:39, 12:15)
- The Greek word for greed used in Luke 12:15 is ‘pleonexia’, which translates to: “greedy desire to have more, covetousness, avarice”
- Covetousness is prohibited by the original 10 commandments
- The greedy will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 5:10)
- Greed is equated with lust, exploitation, idolatry, and evil in the New Testament
- Greed is defined in Wikipedia as: “An excessive desire to possess wealth, goods, or abstract things of value with the intention to keep it for one’s self. It is applied to a very excessive or rapacious desire and pursuit of wealth, status, and power.”
2. Is the church misaligned with Scripture?
- Coveting and greed is a major element of Scripture, yet it is not frequently addressed in sermons
- The American addiction to money, performance and success should make this a top-10 sermon subject. The threat posed by greed to American Christians may be even greater than the threat of lust and adultery
- Church organizations are themselves greedy when they are unwilling to confront top givers in the congregation for fear of losing regular contributions (In my opinion this is why Jesus and Paul were not paid ministers)
- I once asked a friend why his denomination refused to change a rule in the face of a very convicting biblical argument. His response was that the church couldn’t afford to lose the older givers of the church
- Less than 20% of church members tithe. Some of the remaining 80%+ may have a legitimate reason why they are temporarily unable to tithe (however, Lk 21:1-4). The rest just don’t want to, and they use rationalizations and justifications similar to those I used to use to justify my pornography use
3. What can we do about it?
- Tithing is between you and God; I don’t want to know whether or not you are tithing, and I care only inasmuch as I’m concerned about your spiritual welfare. But you know what you’re supposed to do, so quit hiding behind rationalizations. I’ve used the same ones myself, and they are no good
- Churches in America should increase the number of sermons on the topic of greed
- The success of the church in the future may require part-time, unpaid pastors with a ‘day job’ outside the church who can afford to be less concerned with the financial pressure to please givers in the congregation
- Even if you do tithe you may have a covetous heart. That also is between you and God, but know that I’ll be praying for you
- Don’t feel guilty. I am not perfect, and I’m not saying that you should be. Making the decision to trust God with tithing is extremely difficult…but as you know the most difficult things in life are often the most rewarding
- I dare you to tithe just this month and see what happens!
What are your thoughts?