Friday, March 18, 2011

Moses (Part 3: The Problem with Greed)

The contrast between Temperance (Self-Control) and Greed, image courtesty of www.sirjohnsworld.com

The Problem with Greed: Unlike lust, greed has a much different focus. The Greek word for lust, epithymia (e-pē-thü-mē'-ä) means desire, craving, or longing. While the Greek word for greed, pleonexia (ple-o-ne-ksē'-ä) means a greedy desire to have more.

With lust, I want to be gratified. With greed, I always need more gratification. Greed is the thirst that cannot be quenched. Greed stands in opposition to Christ who proclaims:

Jesus answered,Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”1

Greed is unquenchable!

Christ quenches!

Three important points in Numbers 11, beginning at verse 4:
  1. Greed begins with a craving for more. How quickly we forget that God requires obedience. They had not departed the camp at Taberah, the Place that Burned and Consumed those who complained of hardships, when some of the foreigners in the camp began to complain about the food. The dissatisfaction with God continued to increase. Instead of repenting and submitting, more complaining sprung up. They no longer were satisfied with simply manna. They reflected on life back in Egypt, as though they lived in luxury, instead of slavery. They spoke of eating fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic; implying that in Egypt that they only ate the freshest and choice foods. They forgot that as slaves they were only given the scraps that the Egyptians discarded.
  2. Every family began to wail. Unlike the previous group of complainers who were on the outskirts of the camp, this complaining engulfed the entire camp. Just as a little leaven leavens the lump, the complaining infected the entire camp.
  3. Moses was troubled. Here we see Moses now frustrated with his ministry and calling. His frustration leads into a series of questions posed to God:
    1. Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? (v.11)
    2. What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? (v.11)
    3. Did I conceive all these people? (v.12)
    4. Did I give them birth? (v.12)
    5. Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? (v.12)
    6. Where can I get meat for all these people? (v.13)

    Rather than seek direction from God, Moses vents his emotional exhaustion to God. Finally, at the end of his rant, he offers a suggestion to God:

    If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.2
God then addresses the problems cited in the order of priority:
  1. God instructs Moses to bring seventy men before Him.
  2. God will endow each with a portion of the same Spirit that is in Moses.
  3. God requires the people to be told to consecrate themselves; tomorrow their wailing for meat will be answered.
In hearing God, Moses fails to understand God. He rationalizes that in a camp of six hundred thousand men, there is not enough meat to feed everyone. It reminds me of the logic Nicodemus used when Jesus told him, “You must be born again.3

Moses raises two questions regarding how the entire camp can possibly be fed meat for an entire month.

How can God make such a promise?

The LORD answered Moses,Is the LORD’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.’”4

Sadly, I have too often questioned God’s ability just as Moses in this situation. A fellow blogger recently reminded me of the differences between God and me when she said,

Remember his ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours.

I have friendship with God, and as a result, I have peace with God; but this does not mean I have equality with God. While the Lord may at times reveal to me aspects of His will, He does not seek my counsel to guide His sovereignty.

How can I (or anyone else) understand the deep things of God if Moses himself could not understand how The I Am would feed the entire camp of Israel meat for a month?

The next day we see the results of greed:
  1. For two days people went out and gathered quail.
  2. No one gathered less than 1 ¾ tons of meat.
  3. A plague broke out in the camp before the people could finish consuming the meat.
The plague killed all those who craved other food.

Greed will drive me to think, say, and do things that are harmful. While lust doesn’t seek to establish a relationship because lust seeks to get, greed establishes an unhealthy bond through a pattern of unrestrained abuse. The more I’m driven to crave a thing, the more uncontrollable I become in the abuse of it. Drugs, alcohol, food, and sex all reveal a pattern of abuse when my behavior is uncontrollably driven by greed.

How do I resist greed?

Resisting greed requires spiritual self-control. It also requires humility. One does not truly experience spiritual self-control apart from humility. Greed is always produced in my life when I lack self-control in an area. I lack self-control because I have not submitted. I have not submitted because I refuse to humble myself. I refuse to humble myself because of my pride.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.5

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.6

The key then to resisting greed is living my life in humility and submission to the Lord; this will in turn develop spiritual self-control in my life.

Lord Jesus,

I want my life to honor You by living a life of humility, selflessness, and self-control. I want an attitude of giving, picking up my cross each day and following You. You see Jesus, the only thing that really matters are hearing the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!...Come and share your master’s happiness!" I join with other believers today in prayer, asking for blessings of health, peace, employment and joy. I pray for that friend lying at the point of death. I ask You Father God, to remember him and just as You remembered Hezekiah, answering his prayer and restoring his health. I pray for that infant child lying in a hospital, only needing for You to speak a word. I pray for that father lying in a hospital with a stroke, and I ask You Lord to touch and heal his body. Look now on those men and women dealing with unemployment, or facing a layoff. Open up windows of opportunities on their behalf. Our faith and hope abide with You dear Lord. No other help do we know. Thank You Father for hearing and answering our prayers. In Jesus name. Amen.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays

Footnotes:
  1. John 4:13-14, NIV
  2. Numbers 11:15, NIV
  3. John 3, NIV
  4. Numbers 11:23, NIV
  5. James 4:10, NIV
  6. 1 Peter 5:6, NIV
References:
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  3. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  4. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6

17 comments:

Stuff could always be worse said...

We all need this lesson about greed! Very thoughtful post...
kim

Wanda said...

The photo is quite intriguing. I always glean something new from your postings.

Patti Hanan said...

I always deepen my understanding of scripture when visiting your blog. I like how you compare greed to a thirst that can not be quenched. The example of what happens to the Isrealites because of their greed and complaining is a good warning for us. I like how you point out that greed is overcome by self-control and "one does not truly experience spiritual self-control apart from humility." So true.

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

I wish corporate leaderships could read your post today. I often wonder how many companies and cities laid off people just to pocket more money for themselves,just because they could get away with it during this hard time in our country. Our city even closed the Library on Fridays,I'm thinking really,did they really need to do that.It's all GREED! Thank-you for this post today.
Blessings,
Ginger

sarah said...

I"m so glad His ways and thoughts are so much higher than mine b/c mine are so puny an limited...good post....

Charlotte said...

Great lesson on lust and greed. Moses and the Israelites provide so many good examples for us today. Thank you for sharing your insight.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Loren said...

Wow!! So much wisdom here! God has anointed you and I am so thankful for your obedience in sharing!

Lisa notes... said...

I like your distinguishing between lust and greed, and how we can combat greed. Thanks for sharing.

Esther Joy said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog. Looks like we've both been reading in the book of Numbers. I wrote my http://esthersjoyinthemourning.blogspot.com/ about Numbers 16, and would love your comment on that, too. Your blogs indicate that you are a student of the Bible, so my latest "light bulb moment" may be "old hat" to you!

Pamela said...

I like how you didn't just point out the sin, you gave solutions to overcoming it. And such a beautiful prayer--it's mine, too, to live a life of humility, selfishness and self control.

Blessings, Pamela

Clif said...

Another in depth study of a timely topic. This is something that most of us need to think about and pray about. Thanks for your help.

Anita Johnson said...

This is so well written I have to go back and read parts one and two now. Your closing prayer is beautiful. After 3 years of unemployment and now a new career for my husband, I can so relate to your words. Have a good week...enjoy spring.

Donnie said...

I do feel that a lot of problems in our government is greed. They have and want more of a lot of things. I pray for our country and I thank you for a very insightful post because greed affects us all to some extent.

Saleslady371 said...

I've been like Moses a few times myself, telling God how the solution should come instead of humbling myself and asking for His help. I look back at those days and blush!

Joan said...

I so appreciate your posts each week and come away learning something new each time.

Thank you for the prayers for my husband and I.

Blessings,
Joan

micey said...

great study!

Sharon Kirby said...

This was so well done - such a thorough study.

As always, I have learned something. I have been convicted and challenged - inspired and encouraged.

My pastor said once that the secret of contentment was wanting what you have. It's the world's message to want more...

And all the things we fret about - all our frantic grabbing for gratification?

There is one answer for everything we need - "Is the LORD’s arm too short?"

Thanks for sharing.

GOD BLESS!