As He is teaching, Jesus is approached by an unknown man who cries out for justice: "Tell my brother to split the family inheritance with me." Jesus responds, “I am not the one to make that decision.” Jesus then tells a story about a rich man who has so much extra that he is worried about where to store it all, so he decides to build bigger storage space only to be told, “Time’s up, you are dead! Now what are you going to do with all this stuff you have to leave behind?”
The complaining man is actually each of us. We all have our own list of perceived injustices. We harbor resentment at the unfairness in life. We know this man had harbored his such thoughts and feelings enough to interrupt Jesus and publicly voice his complaint. Jesus’ response is an indication that He did not sense the man was a victim. Instead, He warns us all to avoid this sin.
The Greek word pleonexia is translated as Greedy or Covetous. It is a compound word which literally means “to have more.” I recently read a 4th century monk who said that once we seek more than we need there is no limit to our desires. In his example, he said when bread does not suffice we want jam on it! I was shocked; jam a step too far? I know he was an ancient, middle-eastern, desert monk, yet it does give one pause…
Jesus tells us, avoid “I-want-more” because life is not about piling up stuff. Yet, in truth, I know few Christians who haven’t embraced middle class materialism.
Today I will be in Children’s Church, talking to little folks about the dangers of “I want more”--but what can I possibly say to them? Many of these kids have dozens and dozens of shirts and pants. Jesus told people with one change of clothes not to want more and more. These kids have refrigerators and cabinets filled with all manner of food, much of it treats with little nutritional value. How can they understand Jesus’ word to people who generally lived day to day eating the same diet? (No cake, no coke, no chips)Not want more when we have many times more than what we need?
Why is Jesus warning us about the dangers of “I want to have more”? I can only conclude it is because it is dangerous. In order to become who God made us to be, pleonexia must be avoided. Our relationship with God, peace, love, joy--all of it is at risk if we suffer pleonexia. The problem is, our society is based on pleonexia. To want more is the American dream--it is a virtue in most places. Being dissatisfied is a badge of honor. Of course, our society is not the Kingdom of God, so, if Jesus says something that the world finds offensive or ridiculous, it is a moment to decide.