Lent 1c

Preached: February 21, 2010

Greed Isn't just for the Rich
Joshua 7:16-26

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit stirs our hearts is Joshua 7

Joshua got up early in the morning and gathered together Israel tribe by tribe. The tribe of Judah was taken. He gathered together the clans of Judah. He took the clan of the Zarhites. He gathered the clan of the Zarhites leader by leader, and Zabdi was taken. He gathered the household of Zabdi man by man, and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.

Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord the God of Israel and give him praise. Tell me what you have done. Do not hide it from me.”

Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly it's I who've sinned against the Lord the God of Israel. This here is what I've done: I saw in the spoils a beautiful Babylonian cloak, five pounds of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing over a pound. I desired them and took them. See, they're buried in the ground inside my tent with the silver underneath.” Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent. And behold, it was buried in his tent with the silver underneath. They took the things outside the tent and brought them to Joshua and all the sons of Israel. They poured them out before the Lord.

Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan, the son of Zerah, the silver, the cloak, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had. They took them to the valley of Achor (Trouble). Joshua said, “In whatever way you've troubled us, the Lord will trouble you today.”

All Israel stoned him, and they burnt them with fire when they had stoned them with stones. Then they piled up over him a large heap of stones that's still there today. And the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor (Trouble) still today. (Joshua 7:16-26)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“ . . . greed, for the lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” ( http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Gordon_Gekko or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7upG01-XWbY ). Those are the infamous words of Gordon Gekko, the villian played by Michael Douglas in the 1987 movie Wall Street. We love to hate the greedy rich. We find satisfaction when justices punishes the Madoffs and Petters in their Ponzi schemes. Suspicions lurk in us that many more on Wall Street or in big business have been less than honest in their pursuit of wealth. How dare they say greed is good!

But greed isn't just for the rich. It grabbed the heart of a common man like Achan. It grabs at our hearts as well. Only Jesus is greater than greed.

A. Greed grabs at our hearts

1. When are we guilty of greed?

Greed isn't just for the rich. It grabs at our hearts. To see that, let's consider the case of Achan. Through Moses the Lord had brought his people, Israel, out of slavery in Egypt forty years earlier. Now under the leadership of Joshua, Moses' successor, they were entering the land of Canaan, the Promised land.

The first battle on the west side of the Jordan was against the fortified city of Jericho. God delivered the city into Israel's hands. You know well what happened. For six days with the Ark of the Covenant they marched once around the city in silence with only the seven priests in front of the Ark blowing their trumpets.

On the seventh day they marched around seven times. For the seventh time around when the priests sounded the trumpet, Joshua had given the people this command: “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury” (Joshua 6:16-19 NIV). Even as the Lord gave them the city without a battle, they were to give back to the Lord everything in the city by utterly destroying all in it and placing the precious metals into the Lord's treasury.

And what did Achan do? He desired what the Lord had forbidden. He confesses: “When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them” (Joshua 7:21 NIV).

That brings us to the first point: Greed grabs us when we want what God has forbidden.

But God hasn't forbidden us from having more money or stuff, has he? So how can wanting more stuff be greed? You're right in that God hasn't commanded has to live in poverty. He hasn't said, “If you have more than X number of dollars, you're greedy.” Even great men of faith like Abraham, Job, and David had earthly wealth.

But before we sit back comfortably thinking this is one sin we are safe from since only the rich are greedy, lets see from God's Word what he has forbidden:

The Apostle Paul writes, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8 NIV). So if any discontent is mixed in with our wanting stuff, that's greed.

Jesus pointed out how our heavenly Father takes care of the birds and the flowers. So no matter how little we have, if any kind of worrying is mixed in with our wanting, that too is greed.

On the other hand if we figure we have enough so that we can trust our resources for security and comfort, that is another kind of greedy, a greed that loves the peace and happiness money buys. Then we're like that rich fool who built bigger barns, saying to himself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19 NIV). It was a short retirement. He died that night.

And finally, if we are not at every moment willing to give up all the money and all the things we have to follow Jesus, then greed infects our hearts, just as it did that rich young ruler who thought he loved God until Jesus told him to sell all he had.(Luke 18:18-30). Greed grabs all of us, not just the rich

2. Why is greed so bad?

And don't rationalize it by saying, “We'll I'm not that greedy,” or “Since everybody has some sort of greed, it mustn't be that bad.” In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul calls greed idolatry (Colossians 3:5). For instead of trusting in God for security and happiness, greed clings to money and wealth. Instead of loving God above all, greed grabs the power and pleasures money can buy. It breaks the First Commandment. “You shall have no other gods.” Greed is not good.

And don't think, “But no one else gets hurt because of my greed. No one loses their life-savings when I'm greedy.” Maybe Achan figured, “Who will know if I take this stuff. It's not going to harm anyone. Why let it go to waste?” But he had broken the Lord's covenant. So the Lord withdrew his help from Israel. When they went up against the small town of Ai, thirty-six Israelites were killed and the rest of the soldiers driven off. Achan's greed cost them their lives. Still worse, when the rest of the Canaanites heard that little Ai had come out on top, wouldn't they pin Israel against the Jordan and destroy them? Greed ruins our relationship with God and with the people around us.

But yet how can we keep greed from grabbing us? It springs up so easily. Achan simply saw the beautify robe, the silver, and the gold, and he coveted them. Greed isn't just for the rich. No matter how much or how little we have, greed is ready to grab our hearts and pull us away from God.

B. Jesus is greater than our greed

1. Why is Jesus' victory over greed in the wilderness Good News for you?

What good news you heard in the Gospel today! Yes, greed isn't just for the rich. It grabs us all, but it could not grab Jesus. He is greater than greed.

In the wilderness for forty days, Jesus had nothing, not even food. But was he greedy to have it? Did he fall to the temptation to turn those stones to bread, failing to trust his heavenly Father to provide? Greed did not grab him. When the devil showed him all the splendor of the kingdoms of this world, did Jesus covet their riches? Not at all, he loved his heavenly Father rather than what the world offered, even though that meant the torturous cross. Greed could not grab him.

And here is the Good News, dear friend: What Jesus did, God counts as your record. Jesus' perfect trust in God for his daily bread, without any worry or greed, counts for you. His perfect love for God that treasured God above all in complete contentment counts for you. His perfect obedience that forsook all earthly wealth and walked the way of the cross counts for you. Jesus covers our greed, our love for money, our worry, our discontent, our running after the empty treasures of this world. For you see, what Jesus did, he did not do it just for the rich or just for the poor, but he did for all sinners. He did it for you, dear friend. Jesus is greater than your greed.

2. What leads us to confess our greed?

Did Achan trust in the promised Messiah to cover his sin of greed? He certainly shows a lack of faith at first. He rejected God's covenant by taking what God had forbidden. He tried to hide his guilt, burying the stolen goods. He kept silent about his sin as the process of finding the guilty party went on beginning in the early morning, zeroing in on his tribe, clan, family, and household. Was he hoping that God didn't know, that somehow he might get away with it? How greed blinds us! All these are signs of unbelief, signs that he did not trust God for forgiveness.

But when Joshua lovingly confronts him with his sin, saying to him, “My son, give glory to God . . . Tell me what you have done” (Joshua 7:19 NIV), then he made that full and complete confession. He no longer hid his guilt. He even explained how the silver was underneath. Was that because he had been caught dead to right and figured his best chance for leniency was to fess up? Then he died in his sin and went to hell.

But did he make that confession because he realized that he could not escape his guilt and his only hope for eternal life was forgiveness from the coming Messiah? Did he confess his sins believing that even though he had broken God's covenant, yet the Lord is faithful. Did he confess, trusting the Lord's gracious promise to send the Savior he so desperately needed, the only One who could take away his sin and guilt? Then even though he suffered the death penalty as the earthly consequence for his sin, that day he entered Paradise, just as the thief on the cross did.

So dear friends, confess your greed. Don't try to hide it buried in excuses. Don't wait until it's too late. See it for what it is. Idolatry. Confess your greed, your coveting, your selfish desires, your wanting what God has chosen notto give you. Confess it with the confidence that looks to the cross and sees the Lord's promises fulfilled. He is faithful. He punished Jesus for your greed so that Jesus' perfect trust and love for God counts for you. In faith hear Jesus words, “Dear sinner, I have died for you. You will be with me in Paradise.” Those words are not just for the rich. They are for you, dear friend. Jesus is greater than our greed.

3. Describe your priceless Treasure.

When Jesus is in us and we're in Jesus, greed loses its overwhelming power to grab us and drag us to hell. For with Jesus, what need do we have for the riches of this world? They all pass away. But the blood of God, shed from Jesus' wounds, has ransomed and redeemed you for eternity. No earthly treasure could ever do that. How precious his blood! How beautiful his wounds! How lovely his cross! So fix your hearts on your priceless Treasure, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313