By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sabbath, 11th Feb. 2012)
Greed is a Stinking Curse!
A miracle occurred in the wilderness during Israel’s sojourn from Egypt. It’s not one of those ‘notable’ miracles of the exodus that readily come to mind, but it teaches us a lesson of dependence on God for our survival and receipt of blessings as God has measured out (allocated) to us. It came with the fall of manna from heaven:
"This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’
"And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less.
"But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.
"And Moses said to them, "Let no one leave any of it over till the morning."
"But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.
"Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted" (Ex. 16:16-21 ESV).
Here is a wandering nation of recent ex-slaves taking their first faltering steps of faith in God in a dreary desert where scarcity is the norm rather than the exception. And yet God says don’t take more than is enough for you. Although you may gather as "much" as you can eat, all you really need is an "omer". Hence he who "gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack" when measured with an ‘omer’. Those who gathered much and hoarded out of greed invited moths and a bad smell!
Greed is a stinking curse, not a blessing! Instead of blessing others, it stinks of selfishness and vanity stemming from an ordinate desire to amass perishable possessions solely for personal aggrandizement, not to bring relief to the less fortunate. Eventually, it attracts ‘moths’ both now and in the life to come. The Master cautions in His Sermon on the Mount:
"’Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:19-21 ESV).
The Apostle James bewails the inescapable doom of those who exploit and oppress to satisfy their greedy souls:
"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.
"Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.
"Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
"Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
"You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
"You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
"Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
"You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand" (Jam. 5:1-8 ESV).
Brethren, greed is the last thing that should consume our souls in these last days leading to the Lord’s return. An ‘omer’ blessed by God after a day’s honest labour (2 Thess. 3:10) is all we need. Let’s not fret because of the apparent prosperity of the wicked (Ps. 37:1; Prov. 24:19-20). We are not really worse off than others as some of us tend to think. Satisfaction comes from God; the little we have cannot mean less satisfaction if it has been blessed by God. The following scriptures eloquently speak to this truth:
"Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it" (Prov. 15:17 ESV).
"Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife" (Prov. 17:1 ESV).
"Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked" (Ps. 37:16 ESV).
The secret is that both blessing and satisfaction comes from God.
Your Blessing is Guaranteed
In 2 Cor. 8 Paul applies the Israelite desert experience of an equal allocation of manna irrespective of how much one gathered to the Christian principle of mutual help where brethren who have plenty cater for those who lack so those they helped could in turn attend to them in their time of need. In the event, there will be no overabundance and no lack! Each will have an ‘omer’ (his just due) and no moths! He explained to the church:
"… I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness
"Your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.
"As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack’" (2 Cor. 8:13-15 ESV).
He who gathered much (manna) was no better off nor the less worse off!
Brethren, let’s trust in God for the equitable distribution of His blessings, even though times are hard and there nearly always seems not to be enough. God, who has by His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), shields His own from the harsh economic conditions blighting the general populace, as part of His comprehensive care for His people: "The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night" (Ps. 121:5-6 ESV). Again, He says in Heb. 13:5: "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee".
So work hard, but don’t join the rat race—at the expense of church, prayer and quality family time! It’s only the blessing of the LORD that maketh rich as stated in Prov. 10:22: "The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it".
The ”sorry" is in the greed, the avoidance of which God makes a condition for those He blesses. We read in 1 Tim. 6:9-10:
"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows".
Indeed, covetousness is a form of idolatry which places the (inordinate) desire to get above all else even God (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5). But the blessing of the Lord maketh rich; it satisfies. Prov. 28:20 says, "A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent".
So continue to be faithful to God, and He who looks after the sparrow will not forget your daily ration. You are far more precious to Him! The six days he has given us for work is sufficient to give us all the blessing we need for the week and beyond. He says in six days do ”all your work” (Ex. 20:9)in a tone of finality that implies (albeit subtly) that working on the seventh day is superfluous and adds nothing to the God-ordained blessing of labour received by working six days a week. What you will get is guaranteed in the six-day work week; Sabbath observance doesn’t take away from it. It rather unleashes great divine favour:
"If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
"Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it" (Isa. 58:13-14).
If so, why observe the Sabbath in a grumpy spirit as though you have incurred a great loss but have to observe it because you can’t help it? All you will have ever gotten by working on the Sabbath was made available during the six days of God-sanctioned labour (Ex. 34:21), for He rains "the bread of two days” every sixth day (Ex. 16:29). Don’t let greed put a damper on your observance of the Sabbath. You are to call it a day of delight and to rejoice in it. Don’t observe the Sabbath grudgingly with your thoughts filled with secular and business activities you wished you had been able to do on that day while you sit in God’s house of worship. In the sight of God, your observance of the holy Sabbath with such an attitude is abhorrent and even wicked:
"Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end,
"Saying, "When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances,
"That we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?"
"The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: "Surely I will never forget any of their deeds" (Amos 8:4-7 ESV).
The blessing of six days and indeed of every day is more than enough for you. Receive it as a blessing from the Lord, and your soul will be satisfied. Otherwise, greed never satisfies; it only makes you crave for more and more: "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity" (Eccl. 5:10 ESV). Contentment is a condition of the soul apart from one’s material possessions. If not, how could a labourer with his little sleep soundly, while the rich with his abundance is tossing all night in bed: "Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep".(Eccl. 5:12 ESV). As Christ Himself tells us in Luke 12:15, “life does not consist in the abundance of… possessions". The Apostle Paul wrote:
" … I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
"I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
"I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13 ESV).
The "secret" is Christ who strengthens and sweetens our life in all circumstances. He gives us inner satisfaction and strength at all times. He has promised us in John 14:18: "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (ESV). His blessing makes us rich (in a deeper spiritual sense of contentment) at all times. Trust Him always and you shall never lack (Ps 23; 34:9-10). Amen!