Read Jeremiah 22
Focus on verse 13, 17
It seems it has become fashionable, or at very least, politically correct to target the greed of large corporations and multi-billionaire business owners as one of the great evils of capitalism. Clearly there appear to be some people and perhaps some corporations whose malfunctioning moral compass has led them to become greed driven. The only dispute I might have with this observation is that greed is not limited to those who have a lot of money and/or stuff. Wealth is not a prerequisite to being motivated by greed. Greed is also not directly correlated with wealth. What I am suggesting is that not all wealthy people are greedy, and not all poor people are free of greed.
In today’s reading we find a fairly accurate description of the motivation of greed, and it has little to do with how wealthy a person is. What it does pertain to is the integrity of the person.
Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice,
who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing
and does not give him his wages, (v. 13)
Wealth alone is neither good not evil…it is however, something that can be used either for good, or for evil. It is also something that can be acquired either honestly, or dishonestly. I would venture to guess that in America we have some of each. There are individuals and corporations that while functioning by the letter of the law, violate the spirit of the law, which in my view would qualify as “building one’s house by unrighteousness”. On the other hand there are also individuals and corporations that are very successful, who go above and beyond the letter of the law in order to comply with the spirit of the law to assure that they are not expecting their “neighbor to serve them for nothing.”
The bottom line, when it comes to greed is that it is a matter of the heart. Jeremiah describes this in verse 17:
But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence. (v. 17)
We can usually hide the darker secrets of our heart from the people around us, but we cannot hide the secrets of our heart from the Lord. To assume a person is greedy because they are wealthy is as foolish as it is to assume a person is generous because they are poor. Only God truly knows our heart. I suspect this is why King David wrote in the Psalms, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!” (Psalm 139:23)
We can know the true motivations of our own hearts, only as we draw near to God and allow Him to illuminate the dark places that lie within us by His Holy Spirit. This can be an emotionally frightening or perhaps even painful experience, but it is one of the key steps to gaining true freedom from the sin of greed…and perhaps also a multitude of other vices.