Avarice

Preaching and Worship Resources about Avarice

Avarice, also known as greed, is easily accepted in any culture that venerates wealth. Isn’t greed the motor of success? Yet greed is a notorious folly, a root of all kinds of evil.

In Scripture

Examples: Achan in Joshua 7 Gehazi in 2 Kings 5:20ff The arrogant” of Habakkuk 2:5: “. . . like Death they never have enough.” The Pharisees of Luke 16:14, “who were lovers of money” and were likely the first audience for Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The greedy tenants who murder for gain in Jesus’ story in Mark 12:1-12; the false prophets of 2 Peter 2:14 who “have hearts trained in greed.

Warnings: “Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households, but those who hate bribes will live” (Prov. 15:27). “The greedy person stirs up strife but whoever trusts in the Lord will be enriched” (Prov. 28:25). “You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matt. 6:24). “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).

Vice lists Mark 7:22; Romans 1:29; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5

Points to Ponder

Not mere covetousness, which may be restricted to just an item or two, and not necessarily a luxurious item or two;

Not miserliness, the disposition to hoard, which might or might not accompany greed;

Not stinginess, or tight-fistedness, which might or might not accompany greed.

Un-pretty company In the New Testament’s vice lists, greed shows up next to some of the sins that often derive from it: deceit, strife, theft, murder. In Colossians 3:5, pleonexia (greed) sits next door to porneia (lust), each a flaming and dangerous desire.

Greed as folly Like other forms of idolatry, excessive desire for wealth often competes with desire for God, distracting the greedy from their transcendent source of security. Greed can be socially isolating, interfering with natural forms of fellowship. And it can be as addictive as it is insatiable. The person who centers life on his stock portfolio will find that it is never rich enough, never thick enough. Greed is unfulfillable. But it is, meanwhile, a notorious troublemaker. In most economic settings, capitalist or not, greed ignites a host of crimes including extortion, graft, blackmail, kidnapping for ransom, theft, kickbacks, bribery, trading on insider information, and other forms of dishonest gain—all of which, in turn, tend to incite malice and strife. Like the six other deadly sins, avarice is a root sin that generates a lot of other sins and a lot of misery. It also generates ironies, such as the spectacle of communist party officials who want their position not because they believe in communism, but because they want power and the wealth produced by power. (Powerful and rich communist party officials are exactly the kind of people Marx was against.)

Greedy culture Self-control around wealth is a challenge to Christians living in any culture in which greed is freely stoked and indulged. Snobbish advertising, incessant marketing, celebration of the wealthy as the true winners in the human race (money is how you keep score) makes economic modesty look like the refuge of chumps. In such a culture the church will need to become subversive, cultivating anti-success symbols, behavior-modification giving plans, covenants of fiscal responsibility among members, and the like. While trying to subvert greed, the church will also celebrate the achievements of talented and generous money-makers who use their wealth to wonderful effect. The fact is that if money is needed to support the church’s ministries, somebody has to make it.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.