Rev. Glen Shoup is the Executive Pastor of Worship and Congregational Care pastor for those who have last names beginning with J – L.
Greed is good, greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA… Those words (as most that came of age—as I did—in the 1980’s can tell you) were spoken by that sage philosopher and morally challenged corporate raider Gordon Gekko. And I think what made Oliver Stone’s fictional character in Wall Street so entertaining and simultaneously resonating was the fact that he personified both the cultural mores of the years leading up to the movie’s release in 1987 and that inner appetite towards acquisition we all confront. If some is good, then more is better.
But truth be told, the 1980’s (or the 2000’s) don’t have the corner on the market when it comes to love of money. In fact, as we find in our reading today, the apostle Paul was trying to remind his young associate, Timothy, that even seeking to follow God can get twisted, prostituted and commercialized for personal gain. Paul, in fact, says that some actually…think that godliness is a way to make money! (I Tim 6:5). As a pastor, I’ve had more than one conversation in the last 15 years with persons who couldn’t understand why we/I wouldn’t allow them to market their service or business to their fellow church members. After all, they were Christian and they just wanted to be able to let their fellow Christians know that they provided this good or service so that when they had need for that good or service, their fellow church members could know where to go for reliable and trustworthy service. And some I truly believe had nothing but the best of motives (and some were nothing more than those who thought that godliness is a way to make money). Of course this example is just one dimension of what Paul was communicating to Timothy in our reading today.
To me, the far more compelling and important message Paul has for Timothy (and for us) is found in verses 9 and 10—and the way the translation provided in today’s GPS articulates this is so poignant and compelling. But people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful passions that plunge people into ruin and destruction. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal (I Tim 6:9-10).
Why? I mean we know that this is true, but why? Why has the seductive and numbing lust for more, proven time and again to be so overwhelming and shipwrecking in so many families, marriages and lives? Why are verses 9 and 10 so true? …Well I think the answer to that lies in what’s truly underneath the seducing power of greed. And I would suggest that what’s ultimately behind our pursuit of wealth is our pursuit of power and control. After all, what is money if not power? What is wealth if not control? The ability to buy whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want, wherever we want is the most accessible picture I know of as to what it looks like to have absolute power and control over our lives (and the lives of others, at least the others in our life). You see, the real reason why greed isn’t good, the ultimate reason why Gekko had it wrong is that at the end of the day, the seducing power of money isn’t even found in the money; it’s found in that deadliest of the 7 deadly sins—Pride. I don’t need anybody else to be god for me, I can be god for myself…thank-you very much! And the tireless lust for acquisition and more, is really nothing more than a tireless acquisition for power and control—a seducing and killing pursuit to sit on the throne of your life and rule…absolutely.
The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal. But as for you, child of God, run away from all these things. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. (I Tim 6:10-11)