- I Want It All and I Want It Now
- Exodus 16
- Lyndol Loyd March 31, 2019
Scripture tells us that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and that when God looked out upon his creation that He declared, “It is good.” Unfortunately, it isn’t long after God makes this statement that sin enters the picture and distorts the goodness of what God created.
Ever since Adam and Eve decided to disobey God by doing the one thing He asked them not to do, sin has been a reality. It has been part of the human condition, and as part of the human condition it is part of your condition and my condition. It is a reality which we all have to deal with in life.
It is interesting the way sin works. It calls out to us. It entices us. We experience just enough temporary emotional benefit from it that we find ourselves giving into it and making choices that we otherwise wouldn’t want to make. Eventually, we end up paying the price for it. Many of us end up settling for lives of brokenness when God desires to offer us wholeness.
For the past several weeks we have been examining the Seven Deadly Sins as outlined by Gregory the Great in the sixth century. Here is the thinking behind this kind of a series: this isn’t about loading guilt upon people. This isn’t about making you feel bad about yourself. If you want to feel bad about yourself, you don’t need the church to make that happen.
Our aim in this series is to move beyond these sins that we love by experiencing God’s grace for daily living. We don’t want to merely talk about specific sins. We want to examine their corresponding virtues. When these virtues are at work in our lives, we will find that God enables us to move from brokenness to finding and experiencing true wholeness, life in all of its fullness. Today we look at two deadly sins – Gluttony & Greed.
When I hear the word gluttony, I have this picture in my mind of Henry VIII taking a huge bite out of a giant turkey drumstick as the juices drip off the end of his beard. But since that isn’t a very current model for the idea of what gluttony is in our modern culture, I think we might be well served to start by updating the idea of gluttony in a way that connects with our culture in 2019.
I would suggest to us this morning that consumerism is the modern-day manifestation of gluttony. Gluttony is an excessive amount of love for consuming things from food and beverages to other addictive behaviors, including excessive shopping and collecting.
I don’t know if you find yourself living under the illusion that sometimes captures me. It is the illusion that I can do everything I imagine in the lifetime I’m given. I want to think that I can do it all – go all of the places I want to go, do all of the things I want to do.
But this “I can do it all” mentality sometimes allows us to behave in short-sighted ways. Maybe you can relate to this. For instance, I want to lose weight and be healthy, but I want to eat everything I like in whatever quantity satisfies me at the same time.
Gluttony focuses us on instant fulfillment of our most pressing, urgent, and immediately perceived need. Gluttony actually causes us to work at cross-purposes with ourselves.
Gluttony says, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” It’s a sentiment that is suited to both the fear of living and the fear of dying.
We cannot buy, eat or drink, collect or shop our way to heaven. The only known agency providing eternal life is God Himself by the power that raised Jesus from the dead.
The sin of gluttony and consumerism is a tool we use to dull the pain of facing our fears and gives us a false sense of comfort. It is one of the ways that we numb ourselves from feeling hurt, pain or anything else we might be uncomfortable with in life.
When I hear the word, Greed, I think of Ebenezer Scrooge. This past Thanksgiving, our family, saw a production of “A Christmas Carol” at Ford’s Theater while we were in Washington, D.C., visiting our daughter. I was struck with how easy it was for the audience to laugh at Scrooge and his miserly ways, but it also struck me that the laughter which was taking place is somewhat uneasy because it taps into that little bit of Scrooge that resides in us. We want to identify with the more upstanding Bob Cratchett than with our struggle with greed.
The historic name for greed that is often attached to the seven deadly sins is “avarice.” It covers the gamut of greed, miserliness, and stinginess. Each of these words expresses the insatiable desire to have and to hoard. Some people hoard money. Other people hoard possessions.
Avarice, or greed, is not the sin of having. To think of it this way leads to all sorts of trouble. Greed is the sin of holding, possessing, and counting for the pure and simple fascination of saying, “Mine.” Think of a two-year-old.
It is the misuse of what we have. It can also be an inordinate desire to have what we don’t have. The “mine” that lies at the center of greed is what twists a natural desire to be productive and take reasonable responsibility for our lives.
Greed can take shape in a number of materials, but money is the most frequent. Why money? Money is the means with which all material things are acquired and kept. Money is easy to count, easy to stack, and standardized in value. For many people, money is merely the way you keep score.
Money isn’t the problem; it isn’t good or bad; it is neutral. It is our attitude toward it and how we handle it that causes us problems, especially when that attitude is one of greed.
Greed drastically reduces our contact with God. Who needs to say, “In God we trust” when we believe our good fortune is purely the result of our own accomplishments?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t object to hard work and good pay. In fact, I feel that good pay for the talents we share is a noble aspiration of any working person.
I think the place where we fall in our culture is that we have totally blurred the line between wants and needs. We have so much that we don’t really know the difference between wants and needs.
In some ways, gluttony is like greed, but there are some distinct differences. Gluttony bids us to attack and consume. Greed motivates us to have and to hoard. Let’s examine all of this in light of scripture.
In the Old Testament, in Exodus 16, we find the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of captivity. They are a month into their journey out of Egypt, and the people are beginning to complain.
They aren’t living in slavery anymore, but they are hungry. When people have been traveling, and they are hungry, it makes for whining and complaining. “At least back in Egypt we had enough to eat. We are going to starve to death out here. Way to go Moses. We might as well be dead.”
God has observed their behavior and says to Moses, “4 I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.”
So Moses and Aaron go to the people and tell them about the plan God has given to them. They tell them that God has heard their complaining and that He is going to send them meat at night and bread in the morning.
Each family is instructed to take only what they need for that day, nothing more, nothing less. They are given very specific instructions not to stock up. But some of the people don’t like these directions very much.
In their minds, they have been wandering around out in the desert for days, they have been hungry so why would it hurt to put a little extra aside for tomorrow just in case they happen to need it, just in case God decides not to send the quail and the bread the next day.
We pick back up with the story in verse 19, “Then Moses told them, ‘Do not keep any of it until morning.’ 20 But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them.”
The Israelites had difficulty trusting God was going to meet them at the point of their need, so they hoarded and consumed. Ultimately, it came down to an unspoken belief that they didn’t know if God was trustworthy enough to supply their needs or not, so they took action for themselves.
When we fail to trust God to take care of our daily bread, we step onto thin ice. Greed and Gluttony proclaim that God isn’t our provider, but rather we must exercise effort to get for ourselves what we believe God can’t or might not provide.
We claim the right to take care of ourselves. We set the rules of engagement. We say God helps those who help themselves, and then we help ourselves to whatever we want.
Greed and Gluttony cause us to establish degrees of entitlement. We offer ourselves what we think we deserve.
In the end, Greed and Gluttony are serious misunderstandings of the true nature of things. Nothing that we have is ours. Everything is a gift from God. Everything we have is on loan; we are merely stewards. This is the reality of all things in this world regardless of how we might try to assert our own truth.
We don’t live to accumulate or consume. We live to love, share and generate goodness. We can do that as poor persons, as middle-class persons, or as extremely wealthy persons, unless we fall victim to the deceitfulness of greed.
So how do we guard ourselves against the cry of Greed and Gluttony in our lives? As with all of the deadly sins, treating them and keeping them in check is accomplished only by continuous readjustments of attitudes and behavior over a long, steady period of time accomplished not in our own strength, but in God’s strength made available to us.
It isn’t easy to develop new habits which help us change our old ways of living. Habits come from a combination of knowledge, desire, and skills.
Two virtues that will go a long way toward helping us in our battle with greed are Peace and Goodness. These are both taught by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament as he lifts up to us what are called fruits of the Spirit.
Peace is the abiding sense that we are in God’s hands and that all is well. We don’t have to strive. Peace is a sense of everything being whole, in its right place and in its proper priority. Peace feels wonderful. It replaces the strain of feeling torn apart. Peace allows us to disengage from the menacing distractions that snare us and enables us to look at God, life, and ourselves in a new way.
When we experience the God of peace, we want to live in God’s peace. We desire to harmonize with God and others. Our rugged individualism begins to melt away in favor of a more community-focused understanding of life.
At this point, how much I have or can consume isn’t nearly as important as how “we” are all doing.
Those who find peace with God and in God discover that the secret of life has little to do with what we have. The secret of life is all about who we have. Or in God’s case, Who has us.
It is when we tune our lives to wholeness and purpose that we really begin to live and find peace in living fully, as we were created to do. The great thing is that this peace can be self-replenishing. The more inner peace we experience, the more we want it for ourselves and others.
Peace paves the way for our second virtue of goodness. Goodness is the idea of being in tune with justice and right living.
An example might be if a tornado were to hit part of the Texas panhandle and cause a great deal of damage. The virtue of goodness would mean that you send money to help, you hop in your car and go to offer aid without your first thought being, “What’s in this for me? Is this a good investment for me?” Goodness causes us to live outside of ourselves.
To learn goodness is to realize that all good things, even our assets, come from God. When I was a little boy growing up in a very traditional church, one of the things that happened each week after the offering was taken was that we sang what is known as the “Doxology.”
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
Truer words have never been sung. Praise God because He is our source. Goodness causes us to focus on the Giver and accept what we have as “on loan” assets, checked out from heaven for the redemption of a fallen world.
Interestingly enough, when we turn from greed to peace and goodness it often results in generosity. When we give, we discover that it is our true destiny. God uses it to build a fire within our souls.
There is an old illustration of birds that makes my point. Birds have feet and can walk. Birds have talons and can grasp a branch securely. They can walk. They can cling. But flying is the characteristic action of a bird and not until they are flying are they at their best.
God Himself, by nature, is generous and giving. It is also who He created us to be, and we as his people are at our best when we reflect this aspect of the One who made us. Giving and making a difference in the lives of others is something we were designed for and is part of our very nature.
Armed with the virtues of peace and goodness, we can take captive the enemies of greed and gluttony.