What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
You may remember the name Ivan Boesky. He was a Wall Street tycoon who went to prison for insider trading in the 1980s. He was also one of the models for Michael Douglas’s character, Gordon Gekko, in the movie “Wall Street.” At the height of his career, Boesky gave an address at a business school commencement, and he said, “Greed is all right, by the way. . . . I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.” Newsweek later wrote, “The strangest thing, when we come to look back, will be not just that Ivan Boesky could say that at a business school graduation, but that it was greeted with laughter and applause.”
Greed is nothing to joke about. The problem with greed is not what it gets you but what it costs you. The price tag for greed can be quite high. For Ivan Boesky, the price tag of greed was imprisonment. For you it might be bankruptcy, termination from a job, the dissolution of your marriage–or even your eternal soul.
That is the point of the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12. In the first twelve verses of this chapter, Jesus was speaking against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. But somebody interrupted Jesus’s teaching with what he felt was a much more urgent issue. Look at verse 13: “Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’” This man was telling Jesus, in essence, “I want my inheritance, and I want it now.”
Jesus said He was not interested in being a judge in small claims court. But then in verse 15, He warned His audience about a disturbing attitude in this young man: “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed.” Jesus saw in this young man the dangerous attitude of greed.
The word “greed” comes from two Greek words–one meaning “more” and the other meaning “to have.” Greed is that insatiable desire to have more and more and more. But the problem with greed is that it can never be satisfied. It does not matter how much money you have or how many accomplishments you have racked up, there is always that desire for more. Think of a sailor out on a life raft in the middle of the ocean. The sun beats down on him, and he has an unquenchable thirst. But if he begins to drink the salt water, it only increases his thirst for more until he becomes dehydrated by the salt and ultimately dies. The problem with greed is not what it gets you but what it costs you–and it can cost you your life.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Loosening Your Grip On Greed” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
As quoted in Bob Greene, “A $100 Million Idea: Use Greed for Good,” Chicago Tribune, December 15, 1986, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1986-12-15-8604030634-story.html
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org