Enemies of the Heart

Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot

I had an encounter recently with an 84-year-old senior that broke my heart. In his heyday he was a savvy investor who had amassed a significant real estate portfolio. But the person I met was bankrupt with regard for anyone or anything other than his assets.

Bitter, foul-mouthed, paranoid and perverse, he repulsed genuine relationships. His off-putting behavior was not the onset of some geriatric mental degradation; for among his peers and relatives, he was never known to be kind and thoughtful. As we spoke, it seemed his entire identity and world was anchored to his assets and no one was going to have a share of it.

Jesus cautioned that possessions does not make a person. “Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot” Jesus said in Luke 12:15.

Note, amassing wealth and possessions is not discouraged. In fact, the Scripture teaches that a good parent leaves an inheritance for their children’s children (Proverbs 13:22).

Solomon also wrote in Ecclesiastes 5:19 “Moreover when God gives any man wealth and possessions, the ability to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work, this is a gift from God.”

Jesus’ caution is about our attitude towards what we own. Are we mastered by it? Is our wealth too precious to be shared? Do we hoard at the expense of helping others? Are we beholden to thresholds that will not be tapped even to save someone else’s life?

Jesus calls it foolish to amass wealth for yourself and be stingy towards God and by extension to others (Luke 12:20-21).

Andy Stanley in his book Enemies of the Heart describes greed as a mindset that says “I owe me”. Greed is self-seeking, self-absorbed and insatiable. You always want more for yourself but are never quite satisfied. Of the four enemies of the heart, Stanley says greed is the most subtle. It can live undetected in us for years while quietly ruling our hearts.  

How do we break its power? By giving generously.

When we understand that everything we ‘own’ comes from the one who gives us the ability to create wealth, we are liberated from greed, and from the fear of not having enough. Our perspective shifts from worshipping and idolizing possessions to honoring God who is the source of all blessings.

Let Jesus’ sobering statement that “life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” be a reminder to prioritize and worship the giver of all wealth over wealth itself.

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