“And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!” -How The Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Suess
A few months ago, I began a study on the ancient concept of the Seven Deadly Sins. While no single Biblical passage lists all of them together, warnings against each are peppered throughout. Fortunately, God also gives us the flip side…the seven positive traits that He wants to build into our lives as antidotes. This week I want to explore the third one…GREED…and it’s cure, Generosity. (Mostly because the Holiday Season is upon us…)
When defining Greed, Thomas Aquinas said, “It’s a sin directly against one’s neighbor, since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them.” So, Greed is the desire to acquire more than God has planned for you (especially in the area of finances and possessions) and results in an unequal distribution to the point that others are deprived.
Did you know there are people in this world that only have two towels? No more, no less. When those two towels are dirty, they wash them. When they wear out, they buy two more…high quality towels, so that they’ll last a long time. “Why do I need more than two?” said an elderly Swedish woman to an American couple. “Det Ãr lagome.” What she said in Swedish doesn’t exactly translate in English to “it’s enough.” The word “lagome” (rhymes with home) means something more like, “exactly the right amount.”
What a delight to learn this word “lagome”! When I think about over-consumption and consumerism in America, I am stuck with far less pleasing words. “Enough” sounds as though it has the word “barely” in front of it. For some reason, “enough” never sounds like…enough. “Balance” sounds difficult…I’m always losing mine. “Sufficiency” carries the whiff of technical jargon. Even “simplicity,” the current fad-word-of-the-moment, tends to only appeal to those with either a moral commitment or a serious case of feeling overwhelmed.
I have developed a small fascination with the word “lagome” (exactly the right amount) lately, because it has an attractive quality that “enough,” “sufficient” and even “simple” often lack. Clearly, here in America we are far beyond the limits of “lagome.” Since the beginning of November, I have made it a point to wander into Costco and Walmart…huge retail warehouses full of consumer goods, on sale with cheap pricing. The spaces are large enough to house a submarine assembly plant. You can buy everything from taco shells to trampolines to model wooden boats. Walking down the aisles of these large stores has allowed me to indulge in several radically different feelings: raw consumer lust, great moral outrage and aching environmental angst.
I was complaining to a foreign friend of mine about the huge retail warehouses in America…and his responses were more practical than mine. “I suppose people can save quite a lot of money there. It’s usually better to buy some things in larger quantities.” It was his next comment that blew my mind, though. “But perhaps the problem is that it’s just too tempting to buy more than you need in such a place.”
The Apostle Luke clearly warned Christians when he said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist of abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15) Perhaps a vision for a sustainable world should include not just enough for all, but “exactly the right amount” for all, with fewer temptations to acquire more than enough. Instead, we should “delight ourselves in the LORD, and He will give us the desires of our hearts.” (Psalm 37:4)
Since the Christmas Season is upon us, I would like to offer a few practical methods of avoiding Greed during the Holidays…and how to apply Generosity instead.
Greed: 4 Warning Signs (Luke 12:13-21)
1) When we spend more than we make. Proverbs 22:7, Ecclesiastes 5:10
2) When we’re willing to compromise our values to get ahead. (People who yearn to get rich, fall into temptation and often get trapped into doing many foolish things that plunge them into ruin and destruction.) I Timothy 6:9
3) When we’re not giving generously. (The righteous are always generous and lend freely.) Psalm 37:26
4) When we’re more preoccupied with making, spending or saving money (compared to the time we spend with the Lord). Matthew 6:24-25
Generosity: 4 Principles To Live By
1) Generosity is more than an amount – it’s an attitude. (True generosity isn’t an occasional event. It comes from the heart and permeates every aspect of a person’s life…touching their time, money, talents and possessions.) Ephesians 4:28, Acts 20:35
2) Generosity is measured not by how much you give, but by how much it costs you. Luke 21:1-4
3) Generosity requires a work of God in your heart. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Mark 7:21-22
4) Generosity will grow in your life when you obey God (when He tells you to do something). 2 Corinthians 8:5 & 9:6-7
This is my prayer for you, found in Proverbs 30:8-9 (bold word added for emphasis), “And then he prayed, ‘God, I’m asking for two things before I die; don’t refuse me – Banish lies from my lips and liars from my presence. Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little (LAGOME). If I’m too full, I might get independent, saying, ‘God? Who needs Him?’ If I’m poor, I might steal and dishonor the name of my God'”
I pray that the Lord gives you direction on how to bless others this Holiday Season…Happy Thanksgiving (…and Christmas)