We talked about the message of James in theology class today. James had plenty to say about greed. In this respect I think you would do well to read this essay by Greg Boyd (yes, that Greg Boyd; you may not agree with his open theology but here he is spot on) about the sin of Sodom. Greg writes:
The irony is that we often hear conservative Christian leaders publicly crusading against the sin of Sodom. And we have to grant that, if ever a nation was guilty of the sin of Sodom, it is indeed America. Yet the sin of Sodom for which we are most guilty is not homosexuality; it is greed, gluttony and apathy toward the poor! And if there’s one ungodly aspect of American culture that the Church has succumbed to, it is this sin.
Yet, instead of confessing that we Christians tend to be guilty of the sin of Sodom, many leaders rather pin the label on homosexuals. They’re trying to take the “speck” of homosexuality out their neighbor’s eye and don’t notice the “plank” of greed, gluttony and apathy in their own (Mt 7:1-3).
While our culture along with the prince of lies who rules it conditions us into thinking and feeling that possessing things gives us life, the truth is that whatever we think we possess actually possesses us. Owning things doesn’t give life: it sucks life out of us. The perpetually hungry life of pursuing wealth and possessions is a form of diabolic slavery.
In contrast to this, Jesus’ call to manifest the beauty of God’s self-sacrificial Kingdom is a call to experience abundant life (Jn 10:10). Yes, we must die to the self-centered part of us that is in bondage to the hoarding-god. But if we will crucify that old enslaved self, Jesus promises we will find true life.
Yes, Greg comes off a little soft on the sin of homosexuality. Still, he makes his point. Our Lord offers us an Emancipation Proclamation from our deadly slavery to greed. “Outrageous generosity” should characterize every one of us who claims to be a follower of Jesus. The believer is both a pauper and a plutocrat (see 2 Cor. 6:10). Because we have nothing, and because all we have belongs to God and we are only stewards of it, we can escape the miser’s worries about hanging on to everything in our lives. And, because we belong to God and are joint-heirs with the Son and have everything, we never need fret about our resources. We have all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of being both poor and rich.
As everyone knows, I insist upon a complete dichotomy between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God, and that the kingdom of God is advanced only through powerless, self-sacrificing love. This is not a kingdom that fits anywhere in Constantinian Christianity since it is transnational. So if my poor brothers and sisters in Africa need help, it is my obligation to do whatever I can to help them. Why should we abdicate this responsibility to governments and NGOs?
I think it’s high time we let the Spirit of God start to do His work of generosity in our hearts!