Beyond Greed - A cure (Parts III & IV)

In Parts III & IV of Beyond Greed we learn the secret of moving beyond greed in our lives: contentment and generosity.

"Giving and contentment are two sides of the one coin. Together they represent the positive alternative to greed. If contentment calls a halt to the grabbing dimension of greed, giving addresses it's keeping aspect." (page 117)
Contentment is being satisfied with what you have. It is the opposite of greed. Hebrews 13:5 says,

"keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have".
Rosner helpfully describes three reasons why Christians ought to be content;

  • God himself is content. That is, God, in creating and redeeming us, limited himself. In creating, he made something independent of, or other than, himself. In redemption, he became poor, he was content with less.
  • God promises his people a secure future. Christians have a glorious destination awaiting. No matter what happens in this life, we, like the martyrs of the past, like Paul and like Christ himself, can be content knowing what joy is set before us.
  • We can trust his goodness. God is good, not vindictive, and we can trust that whatever is happening to us is not out of his control, and is actually for our good.
It is interesting here that two of these are the reverse of "misplaced trust", one of the aspects of greed explored in part II of the book. I wonder if contentment can also be found in loving and being satisfied in God (the reverse of "inordinate love") and in obeying and serving God (thus the reverse of "forbidden service".) And just as greed is bound up with pride, so is contentment bound up with humility.

Christmas is a difficult time to be content. Most likely you have been pestered for a wish-list. You have been bombarded with advertisements really stretching your capacity for contentment beyond breaking point. And all that shopping has set you dreaming. Let me ask you a question. If every present this year was a dud, every single one ... The sizes are too small. You already have that book. Don't they know you hate pink?! ... would you be able to respond graciously? Could you be genuinely thankful for the gift, not because the gift matters, but the giver does, and because you are already content.

Giving is not grasping hold of, or keeping, what you already own. It's sharing food and possessions with others. It's relinquishing your legitimate right to them for the sake of the good of others.

This is the most challenging part of the book for me. I may (or may not) have mastered contentment, but I am so content with what I have that I don't want to let it, any of it, go. It was this chapter that opened my eyes to the greedy and mean spirit in my heart. I was particularly challenged by the picture of the early church and by the visibility of their generosity and giving. That a greedy person was recognizable shows that while it is an issue of the heart, like faith, it will show itself in action.

So, be generous. Give. When in doubt, give. And, don't just give what is left over. Don't just match luxuries to yourself with gifts for others. Go without so that you might give. Become poor that you might give. That's what Jesus did.

Because that's the key to all of this. It's becoming like Christ who became poor for the sake of others (2 Cor 8:9). It's the gospel of grace; undeserved kindness. It's knowing all that God has done for me in Christ that enables me to be content and knowing how kindly and generously He has dealt with this sinner that empowers me to be generous. It's the gift of His Spirit; watering, feeding and pruning, day by day to produce this most precious fruit in me.

Let's pray that it will be produced abundantly in all of us.

I would love to hear your stories of learning contentment and generosity.