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Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Cure for Pleonexia

Colossians 3:1-11 and Lk 12:13-21 are the texts

Jesus says, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.”

I am not going to use this as a whip today, but I would say that if your home is larger than 400 square feet and it does not have a dirt floor, if you do not carry a bucket to a river for your water, if you have heat and air conditioning, a vehicle and safe, flat roads, and if diarrhea is an irritant and inconvenience, but not a deadly disease, then by the world's standards you are rich.... And if you think rich only refers to people in Forbes' lists then what I have to say may apply to you!

Greed, the Greek word pleonexia literally means ‘having more’. There is nothing wrong with wanting more, unless you have enough. Greed is a disordered desire to have more for the sake of having more. Greed is rooted in insecurity & fueled by a sense of insatiable deprivation. Want and Need are normal, Greed is not.

Greed is a twisted, sick & sinful reaction to need. The show on TV about "hoarders" give but one sad insight into greed run amuck. Yet a careful look at our attics and the size of our "barns" (houses) is a sad reminder that we are all touched by the illness. Greed is also “faith-less” flowing out of a radical mistrust of God and other people. It is coldly competitive. It destroys everyone it touches.

God is generous… generous and gracious. He is a Giver. We have seen this in the Gospel readings all summer. Let's review:

Jesus healed the boy of a Roman soldier, an occupier.
Jesus stopped a funeral procession and raised a dead man for compassion sake.
A woman pours oil on Jesus’ feet in gratitude for God’s generous mercy.
Jesus exorcises demons from a Gentile man living in tombs (unclean, unclean, unclean) then responds to the rude treatment He gets with graciousness . 
Jesus refuses the apostle’s request to call down fire on Samaritans who rejected Him. He does not respond in kind to their mistreatment.
Jesus shares His power and authority with His disciples for the sake of others.
Jesus allows a woman to sit at His feet giving her equivalent status to men, showing her unparalleled respect.

Over and over again we have see God, in and through Jesus, showing mercy and kindness to the “undeserving.” He refuses to retaliate against enemies. He rescues and blesses people for compassion’s sake. He acts with compassion and mercy, treating people better than they expect or deserve. God's mission statement?
His mission is to be incredibly generous with His time and talent and the treasure which is within Him, benefiting others He meets. Always. even when they are not deserving or grateful.

On a recent flight I had an experience of generosity. I was trying to balance Levi, his car seat, his stroller, and two bags. Ann sent me on ahead while she remained at the gate undergoing an extra-thorough examination by the TSA team. [Apparently, counter-terrorism experts have decided that moms, armed with baby wipes and formula, are a high level security risk!] As I struggled to keep Levi right side up and everything else spilling all over the floor, the pilot, on his way to the cock pit, grabbed some of my stuff and said, “Let me give you a hand.”

The simple act was quite helpful to me and quite generous of him. The pilot’s job description does not include baggage handler. What he did and how he did it were an act of grace. It was unexpected and unmerited. He could have just as easily said, “Please get out of my way so I can get to work.” Instead he chose to help.

That is how Jesus reveals God to be.
God is the pilot of the “airship earth.” God’s focus and concern is more global than our own. It is easy to imagine God is too busy with the big picture to take note of what is happening to us in our little lives. It is a rational assumption that we do not matter. We may not have faith; we may not trust that God really cares. So, we turn to ourselves. We spend our time, talent and energy gathering so we won’t feel dependent. We get more and more—building bigger barns and silos to store our stuff. Sadly, it is a failed mission before it starts.

Greed has no goal line. It only has a horizon.
If we have one, we need one more. 
If we have ten, we need one more. 
If we a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand… a million, it does not matter. 
We still need one more.
We can never rest. Or feel gratitude. Ever….
We cannot see the needs of others; we just feel our desire for more and compete with others to get it.

Because Jesus loves you, He says, “Avoid it in all its forms.”
We do not need bigger barns. We need to
Trust God….Be grateful….Be generous…Be at peace.

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