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1 & 2 October 2022 (Pastoral Page) Pigs Get Slaughtered

By Dr Peter Lim

Some of us may have heard of this old saying about greed from Wall Street – “Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered”. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines greed as “intense and selfish desire for wealth, power or food”. The Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament has a rather picturesque description using the leech as a personification of greed (Proverbs 30: 15,16). The insatiable nature of greed, especially for wealth, is stated rather tersely in Ecclesiastes 5:10 – “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income”.

During the pulpit ministry last weekend, we were alerted to this warning from our Lord Jesus Christ – “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15). He then followed up this teaching with the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21). Let us be reminded that greed does not afflict any particular social class. The pauper can be as greedy as the tycoon. It is the state of fallen Man. The apostle Paul’s warning still holds true today – “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”. (1 Timothy 6:10).

Biblical wisdom literature has numerous adages on this subject. For example, there is a reminder not to “wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings to fly off to the sky like an eagle”. (Proverbs 23:4,5). It is therefore no wonder that Agur, the author of proverbs chapter 30 has proposed a sensible ethos for us to adopt viz. “give me neither poverty nor riches but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30: 8-9). The apostle Paul issues a warning along the same vein – “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap into may foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).

The Bible also provides some practical remedies for the malady of greed. One such advice is given by the apostle Paul – “Command them (the rich) to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:18,19). Paul is amplifying what Jesus Christ’s teaching about laying up treasures can involve (Luke 12:32-34). On this point, it is very heartening to note that some of the uber wealthy people of our time are also leading philanthropists. Bill Gates together with his ex-wife Melinda and Warren Buffett have pioneered a “club” whose members pledge to give away half of their wealth to philanthropic and charitable causes.

Another measure to counter greed is to practice contentment which is the antithesis of greed. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews urges his readers to “be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). Contentment does not come naturally to most of us. Even the apostle Paul had to learn the secret of “being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12). Thus, we need to cultivate and pursue contentment and make it our goal in life.

In summary, the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes provides us with a practical perspective on the issue of wealth and our response to it. “Then I realised that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and find satisfaction in his toilsome labour under the sun during the few days of life that God has given him – for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:18,19).

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Timothy 6:6,7).

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