Each of the characters in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory represent a different sin that plagues humanity. We started by looking at gluttony. Then we considered sinful pride. Our topic today is greed.
3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
The Madness of Greed
Greed is a terrible sin. We make a big deal out of things like murder and sexual immorality. But the Word of God says greed is just as bad as being a sexual pervert. In fact, the Word today says a greedy person is an idolater. Imagine a person who bows down and worships a statue--thinking it is God. That person is a fool. They turn their back on the One True and Living God in favor of an inanimate statue made by human hands. They reject God for something that cannot help them. They are evil and the greatest of all fools.
Greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs. Our desire can be for more food, money, status, or power. It may be like Varuca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wanted the golden egg and the goose that laid it (and a party and a feast, a bean feast!). What we want is not the issue; it’s that we greedily want more, more, more! And no matter how much we get, it is never enough. The ironic thing about greed is the greedy person is never truly satisfied. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! “The more they have, they emptier they feel.”
Do you think it is only a coincidence that so many in America feel empty and dissatisfied? We are one of the wealthiest nations on earth. We have so much! A study was done that showed Americans spend more money on trash bags than the combined Gross Domestic Product of the poorest 90 countries in the world. (I.E., if we take 90 of the poorest countries on the planet and combine the amount of money they spend on everything—food, shelter, clothing, medical care, the basic necessities of life to survive and everything else—it is still less than the amount Americans spend on bags to hold all the stuff we throw away into the garbage heap.) And yet, Americans, so often, are the ones who feel empty and dissatisfied with life. We feel like we need more. Ecclesiastes 5:10 has never been truer. “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! “The more they have, they emptier they feel.”
Veruca Salt probably didn’t realize how her temper tantrum was so disgusting. We rarely realize how awful our greed is when we are in the midst of it. When we are consumed with getting what we want, we don’t realize (or care) how bad we behave or who we hurt; all we care about is getting what we want. Greed can lead people to the most heinous crimes, because people will do anything (and feel justified in their actions) to get what they want. Greed (disguised as the harmless idea that “we need it”) becomes the justification to hurt others, to steel, to murder. Parents, driven by greed to acquire more stuff, neglect or abuse their children. Greed leads countries to go to war as they vie for power and millions die in the process. Greed causes one person to gorge themselves while another starves to death. Worst of all, greed drives a wedge between us and God—the source of life and all that is good. We try to fill the emptiness in our soul with stuff when it is God alone who can satisfy. Greed drives us away from the only One who can truly satisfy our deepest longings.
How Can We Break Free from the Madness of Greed?
First of all, we must repent. To repent means to admit you are wrong and stop doing it. Of course, most people will nod their head in agreement when I say we need to repent of greed. I don’t think most people understand the full ramification of what I’m saying. So let me try to make it more clear. Take a moment to think about what kind of sin is the worst imaginable sin of which you could be guilty? I mean something that in your mind is so terrible, the shame and sorrow of it would almost kill you if you were found to be guilty of it. For some, maybe this would be some sexual perversion you can imagine--something that if anyone knew about it, you would absolutely die. If it’s not some sexual sin, maybe you killed someone or abused someone. Maybe it would be to abandon your family. I don’t know. What would it be for you? Now, I want you to understand, greed is just as horrible and disgusting and shameful in God’s eyes as whatever that other sin you thought of was. Now, we need to repent of greed knowing it is an abomination to God. We need to fall on our knees and admit: “I’m so sorry I’m greedy, Lord! I was wrong! Help me stop being greedy!”
Now, if we’re truly going to break free from greed, we’ve got to replace the darkness of greed with the light of Christ. What I mean is, you’ve got to let Christ fill your soul. Greed is us trying to satisfy with stuff an emptiness that only Christ is capable of filling. You’ve got to fall in love with Jesus. Does that sound cheesy? I’m sorry, but I don’t know how else to describe it. When you fall in love with someone, you want to spend all your time with them. You crave their presence, their affection, their time. You want to be with them more than anything else. You spend your money to buy them gifts—sometimes even frivolously. You don’t care because they are the most important thing in your life—more important than anything you have. A real relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the only thing that can truly satisfy the human soul. So instead of indulging your deeping cravings by greedily seeking material things, let Christ fill your emptiness instead.
Practice contentment. The Bible tells us again and again to learn to be content with what we have. Hebrews 13:5, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.” 1 Timothy 6:6, “True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” The secret to being happy and satisfied is not getting more. There is nothing out there that you’re missing that you need to be happy. Christ has already given you everything you need. What is needed, is a change in your own attitude. When you learn to be truly thankful for what you have and content with it, you will be truly happy and at peace. On the other hand, if you cannot be happy, satisfied and content with what God has given you right now, you will never be able to be content with the things He might give you in the future. So, work hard to simplify your life. Get rid of stuff you don’t need rather than trying to get more. Make it your goal to get by on as little as possible. The simple life is the contented life; it is the happy life.
Be generous. The opposite of greed is generosity. Generosity naturally flows from a person who is filled with the love of God. Greedy hands are closed; generous hands are open. In Psalm 23, it says, “You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.” I love that image. It’s like a cup that’s filled to the brim and the waiter just keeps pouring and the liquid is running all over the table. That’s how God blesses His people. He loves us so much and gives us the things that really matter. He gives us so much, we can’t hold it all. The greedy person tries to get another cup (and another and another and another…) so they can catch and save it all up. The generous person is happy to share the abundance of the Lord. Generous giving is a powerful antidote to greed. It massages our stiff, greedy fingers open as we let go of things that do not satisfy. In giving, we find far more satisfaction than we ever found in the things themselves.
The greatest, most generous gift ever given was the body and blood of Christ our Lord. Jesus gave His precious life so that we can be forgiven of our greed and every other sin. Let us then repent and turn to Him for forgiveness and grace and healing. The life He wishes to give us is so much better than the stuff we greedily hoard.