March 4, 2012
Read the Lorax to the end of “There is no one on earth who would buy that fool Thneed.” How many of you have read the Lorax? Anybody catch the movie yet? For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story of the Lorax, he continues to beg the Once-ler to stop cutting down all of the Truffula Trees but his warnings are ignored due to the demand for his product, everyone wanted a Thneed. The Once-ler continues to build more factories, kind of like the rich man in the story who kept building more barns, and cut down more trees bringing in aunts and uncles and cousins to do all the work. Until eventually the story comes to its logical but sad conclusion when we pick up the story Read book from “And then I got Mad” to “I worried about it with all of my heart”
Kind of a dark story isn’t it? The Lorax was written by Dr. Seuss, or Theodor Geisel in 1971, the year I turned 11. Geisel stated that he made a point to not begin writing his stories with a moral in mind, he said that “kids can see a moral coming a mile off” And added that “there’s an inherent moral in any story”
But even with that in mind many of the Dr. Seuss books expressed his views on any number of social and political issues. Perhaps these wouldn’t have been as popular for children if the title had of reflected the underlying moral. The Lorax would be entitled “The Importance of environmental awareness in industrialized society” The Butter Battle Book would be “The tragic futility of the Nuclear Arms Race” The Sneetches would be “Racists and other Stories”, The Grinch would be “The Psychological Implications of Holiday Motivated Materialism” while Green Eggs and Ham might be known as “How the Fear of the Unknown Hinders the Development of Informed opinions”
And so at first glance the Lorax is a story about the environment and there are any number of resources out there to use “The Lorax” in the school system to educate children on the environment. And yet I would suggest that what happened in the book was only a symptom of the disease that infected the Once-ler and his kin.
That the real issue in the book and at play in Canada today, the underlying cause of our destruction of the environment and might I be so bold as to add ultimately the underlying cause of the destruction of our souls is “Greed”, or as I like to call it “The cult of the next best thing.”
Seriously the Once-ler didn’t destroy the Truffula Trees and chase off the Brown Bar-ba-loots and The Humming Fish simply because he could, he destroyed them for a reason. And that reason was greed. He wanted to be able to make and sell more thneeds
In today’s world the reason we pollute and waste and don’t pick up after our selves isn’t simply because we want to it’s because we are greedy.
Either we can make money by raping the planet of its resources or we don’t object to poor environmental practices because it would cost too much of our money to do it better or it would cost too much of our money to do it right.
So as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest way to heat our homes and power our cars then that is what we will use. Not because we are in favour of the emissions they poduce but simply because the alternatives cost too much. If tomorrow I came out with a better fuel than gasoline, a fuel that gave off absolutely no emissions and could be burned in everyone’s automobile without any modifications people would be all over it. But what if it cost twice as much as gasoline?
I was a fisherman before I was a pastor and my father was a fisherman and his father was a fisherman and his father was a fisherman, I’m not sure about his father.
But I do know that the reason we have fishing quotas is because if it was up to the fisherman they would catch everything they could sell, until there was no more to sell. As long as there was one fish left to catch and everyone was afraid that someone else might catch it instead of them that fish wouldn’t be safe.
That’s human nature. If we were honest most of us would have to say that we struggle with greed in some form or another. We might call it ambition or determination or the desire to succeed, but really it is the desire to have more stuff.
As we look at what we have and what we want the question shouldn’t be who wants more stuff? Instead it should be “How Bad Do We Want More Stuff?”
So this morning we are going to take a look at. . . .Greed.
Collins Dictionary defines Greed: Excessive Desire, especially for wealth or food.
American Psychologist Eric Fromm said “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
But not everyone agrees, Ivan F. Boesky said “Greed is all right, by the way … I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.” And Donald Trump said “The point is that you can’t be too greedy.”
On the other hand listen to where Jesus puts Greed Mark 7:21-22 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.
And if we go back to our the scripture that was read earlier Jesus said Luke 12:15 Then Jesus said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”
So with all due respect to Donald and Ivan maybe Greed isn’t all right. But it’s something that most of us have struggled with, that ever-consuming quest for more. After all most of us would agree with Woody Allen when he said “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.”
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Greed is a sin reserved for the rich.
We Can be Greedy for Stuff The Bible speaks a lot about money, but contrary to popular opinion it’s not opposed to making it or keeping it. After all Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Job and many others in the Bible were very wealthy. However the Bible gives several warning concerning how we acquire our wealth, what we do with it after we have it and what it does with us after it has us.
I’ve mentioned before about getting ready to move to Australia in 1990. We had sold most of our furniture, our car and the man had just come to pick up my Motorcycle and I was struggling with how little we had actually accumulated in 8 years of marriage and even more with the fact that I didn’t have any of it left. And it was then I realized not how much stuff I owned but how much stuff owned me.
This quest for stuff is as old as time itself and history is filled with accounts of the depths to which people were willing to go to get stuff. The Bible warns in 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
Sound familiar? It even works when we change it to read 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of stuff is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving stuff, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. The bible is saying be careful as to what motivates you, that’s why Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
It was John Wesley who taught the early Methodists Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can. Not bad advice, even after 250 years. By the way if you give to the church we have numbered envelopes available, makes it easier for you and also allows us to give you a receipt at the end of the year for tax purposes. This is a great country, if you were to give a 100 dollars a week to the church come the end of the year when you file your income tax the government will give you back about twenty five hundred dollars of the taxes you paid. Just mark on your communication card that you want a set and drop it in the offering box. Or even easier sign up for Pre-Authorized Debit.
The second type of greed that we can fall prey to is self-centeredness We Can Be Greedy for Self. We become like the little girl in grade one who went on a tour of a dairy with her class and after the tour when they had finished seeing everything the dairy had to offer the guide asked the class, “Now are there any questions?” and the little girl replied “Did anyone notice that I’m wearing a new jacket?”
One of Theodore Roosevelt’s children said this about their father “Father always had to be the centre of attention, when he went to a wedding he wanted to be the bride. When he went to a funeral, he was sorry he couldn’t be the corpse.”
We get to the point that all that matters in our life is me and my family, it’s not just that we want the very best for ourselves we don’t care if we have to take it from someone else. And then we justify it as looking out for our loved ones. Sometimes it goes to extremes. Remember ten or twelve years ago the mother in the States whose daughter was trying out for the cheerleading team in high school. In an effort to distract one of the other contestants so she wouldn’t do well in the finals she killed the other contestant’s mother.
And even though none of us would go that far, I hope, what goes through your mind when you are competing for a position, or one of your kids is trying out for a position on a sports team? And it’s natural I know, that when you hear of a fatal accident on a highway that a loved one is travelling you pray “Please don’t let it be my husband or wife or child” That’s not wrong but in it not being your loved one it’s going to be someone else’s spouse or child and I hope when you say “Thank you God for it not being whoever” that you take the time to pray for the family that suffered the loss.
When Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome he said this Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Other translations say giving preference to one another. Without trying to make people feel guilty at all, well maybe a little bit, how close do you try to park to the front door on Sunday Mornings? Do you try and leave the best parking spots for others, in particular for our guests? A number of years ago I came up with Guptill’s theory of spiritual relativity and it says “The depth of your personal commitment to Christ is directly proportional to the distance you park from the front door of the church.” And you don’t want to even get me started on how I feel about the best parking spot in the church parking lot having a sign reserving it for the pastor. You don’t want to go there.
It might be worth asking visitors to churches how they feel when they arrive and the best seats are taken by the regulars. And do know what, it’s my fault; it’s my fault for not educating you. If we are serious about reaching our community then we need to say to our guests: “we value you, we value you enough to give you the best parking spots, which are the ones closest to the doors and we value you enough to give you the best seats, which are the ones in the back and the ones on the isles.” “We value you enough to give you our time before and after the service, even though we have friends to talk to.” And if we don’t value our guests then we might as well shut the doors.
When we were beginning to talk about building in Truro I had one of our regulars ask me why we were building that he never had a problem finding a parking spot or a seat. And that was all he was concerned about.
James the brother of Christ gave the early Christians a warning in the letter he wrote to the early church, this is what he said. James 3:16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.
We Can Be Greedy for The Spiritual This is kind of an interesting twist on greed. Maybe you are wondering exactly how you can be spiritually greedy? How you could want too much spiritual stuff? I mean isn’t it good to be spiritual? As Christians shouldn’t we want more and more of the spiritual?
Let me digress a bit with a quote about money, now I know that we’ve already talked about money, that I’ve made my point about money and we really don’t have to revisit the first point at all. However bear with me. J. Paul Getty was one of the richest men of his time. He was a multi-millionaire when a million dollars actually meant something and he had this to say about wealth: “Money is like manure. You have to spread it around or it smells.”
I have met people who are as tight with their spiritual knowledge as Scrooge McDuck was with his money. They go to every conference offered, listen to ministry CD’s and Podcasts galore, watch nothing but Christian programming on television, have read all of the latest Christian best sellers, have 47 different translations of the bible and have no interest in spreading that spiritual knowledge around at all. And money’s not the only thing that begins to smell if it’s not spread around.
People who are spiritually greedy begin to view themselves as spiritually superior to others in the church, they’ve read more, heard more, consumed more. But they haven’t shared more. They never considered ministering to others with their knowledge, it’s like they are afraid that if they give it away they won’t have as much for themselves.
They are the great white sharks of Christianity, on a constant feeding frenzy, they aren’t discriminating about what they consume, as a matter of fact they take in so much from so many different sources that they don’t even know what they believe. And like the great white shark they perform no useful function.
Every Christian, every believer has been called to minister. I don’t mean we’ve all been called to preach but we’ve all been called to minister.
When your life is done and you stand before God and he asks, “What did you do to advance my kingdom” what are you going to say? Well I listened to every sermon that Billy Graham every preached. And? And I read every book that Max Lucado and Beth Moore wrote. And? And I listened to every CD that Chris Tomlin produced, and I went to all these seminars, and used five separate daily devotional guides and, and, and … And then God will say “But what did you do to advance my Kingdom?”
You ever wonder why God leaves us here after we become Christians? If our only reason for existence as a believer was to gain more spiritual knowledge and worship God wouldn’t we be able to do that better in heaven? He left us here to make a difference, and that will only happen when we minister to other people.
So what is the secret? The secret to not being greedy? Well the secret is keeping first things first. Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Not making stuff your primary concern, not making self your primary concern, not even making spiritual things your primary concern, but making the Kingdom of God your primary concern.
But how do we do that? First of all find out what the Kingdom entails, and you can only do that by reading the book, this book. The word of God. By talking to God, and listening as he talks to you, that’s called prayer. By learning about the Kingdom of God, that means coming to church and getting involved in a small group. And then taking what you learned about the Kingdom of God and apply it, do something with what you learned. You say that sounds like it requires work. Yeah but if it’s a priority then it gets done. Right? Jesus said Matthew 19:23-26 “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. I say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
You say that’s impossible, well that’s the same response that his followers had The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Here’s the secret Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
And when you know that you can’t do it by yourself then it’s time to ask for help. In John 15:15 Jesus makes the most incredible statement, remember this is God, the creator of the universe, master of the cosmos speaking and he says John 15:15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
Did you catch that, “Now you are my friends.” He isn’t just your God, He isn’t just your creator, He isn’t just your Saviour, He wants to be your friend. And He’s the one you need to call.
You have the opportunity to ask Almighty God for help, and here’s His promise to you, get a pen out and write it down it’s found in Psalm 91:15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honour them.
I can personalize that by adding my name. And you can personalize it as well, this time you fill in the blank as we read it aloud.
So what is the challenge today? Let’s go back to the Lorax and see where it ends. Read last two pages of book.