Life of a Disciple In The World 6- Seven Deadly Sins: Greed

The Life Of A Disciple In The World
The Seven Deadly Sins
Session 6: Greed- The Fire To Acquire

Core Teaching:            Greed is a Major Sin that runs wild in today’s world.  The love of money produces all sorts of evil.  Jesus teaches that the greedy accumulation of things is a rejection of dependency on God.

Session Goals:            This session focuses on the 5th Deadly Sin, Greed.  Students should be able to identify Greed in their own lives, discover how possessions can keep us from God, and decide how to begin to respond to those persons most in need.

Supplies:                        Bibles, Whiteboard/Newsprint, Markers, Masking Tape,

Sunday’s Newspaper, a copy of the Student Leader Help Sheet for each discussion/small group leader

Memory Verse:            John 10:10b NRSV

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

(Write on the Board and encourage Youth to memorize this week.)

Scripture:

Luke 12:15-21 NRSV
James 4:1-2 NRSV
Luke 6:20-26 NRSV
1 John 3:11-17 NRSV

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Class Session

Opening Prayer- Student

Announcements, Attendance, and Offering- Teacher

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Introduction to the Lesson- Teacher

Greed.  It may be the Northern Hemisphere’s most socially acceptable Sin. 

Jesus came to give us “abundant life” and we can see through the Gospel stories exactly what he meant by living abundantly.  One of the basic Christian convictions about the Seven Deadly Sins is that they rob us of the abundant life that Jesus offers.

Different terms have been used over the years to hint at slightly different shades of meaning-

  1. 1.     Greed: n. an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.
  2. 2.     Covetousness: adj. excessively and culpably desirous of the possessions of another.
  3. 3.     Avarice: n. immoderate desire for wealth.

Today we are going to explore the 5th Deadly Sin of Greed.  We will explore whether the “abundant” living Jesus calls us to is the same idea as the “success” we have been conditioned to try and achieve.  To set our minds in the right direction listen now to the “Parable of the Onion.”

Once upon a time, there was a peasant woman and a very wicked woman she was.  And she died and did not leave a single good deed behind.  The devils caught her and plunged her into the lake of fire.  So her guardian angel stood and wondered what good deed of hers he could remember to tell to God; “she once pulled up an onion in her garden,” said he, “and gave it to a beggar woman.”  And, God answered, “You take that onion then, hold it out to her in the lake, and let her take hold and be pulled out.  And if you can pull her out of the lake, let her come to Paradise, but if the onion breaks, then the woman must stay where she is.”  The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her; “Come,” said he, “catch hold and I’ll pull you out.”  And he began cautiously pulling her out.  He had just pulled her right out when the other sinners in the lake, seeing how she was being drawn out, began catching hold of her so as to be pulled out with her.  But she began kicking them.  “I’m to be pulled out not you.  It’s my onion not yours.”  As soon as she said that, the onion broke.  And the woman fell back into the lake and she is burning there to this day.  So the angel wept and went away.

(The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

 

Small Group Discussions- Student Leaders

Key Questions (These should be answered during the discussion below)

  1. What is Greed?
  2. What does it mean to be rich toward God?
  3. How much is “enough”?
  4. How can I learn to respond to those in need by rejecting the pull of greed?

Big Issue

“Show me the money!”  “Money Talks!”  “Money, that’s what I want, yeah that’s what I want.”  “The person who dies with the most toys wins.”  Whether it is a movie line, a proverb, a song lyric, or a bumper sticker….getting more of valuable stuff is not far from many people’s thoughts.

Some people, with the good intent of staying clear of the snare of money, often misquote the Bible; “Money is the root of all evil.”  But that is not what the Bible actually says:

Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.  1 Timothy 6:6-10 NRSV

So it is the LOVE of money (and not the money itself) that is the root of many different types of evil.  This “love of money” is what we would today call Greed.  Greed is the root of many conflicts within an individual, between people, and even between nations.

“Among the ancient Jews there was a hope for shalom.  This word was used not only as part of the greeting and parting expressions which marked the encounters of Jewish friends; it also carried the image of the kind of world in which they longed for all people to live.  The word shalom, commonly translated ‘peace,’ meant something far more than ‘peace of mind’ to the people of Israel.  It conveyed the image of living in a caring community in which there would be no greed and all people would care for one another even as God cares.  To the Jews, shalom was what we Christians call the Kingdom of God- a society in which everyone has enough of everything needed for joyful living.”  (Tony Campolo, The Seven Deadly Sins, Victor Books, 1987, p. 131.)

The Kingdom of God is the place where we live out the “abundant life” that Jesus promised us.  It is not a life filled with “stuff,” it is a life filled with God.

Faith Link

Rich Toward God– Read Luke 12:15-21 to the group.

  • What is Jesus saying in this parable?
  • What advice does Jesus give us?

q  What we can grasp (possessions) will never make us rich toward God, and what can make us rich toward God cannot be grasped.  The things that give true satisfaction in life can not be owned or quantified.  The things that can be owned can leave us wanting more.

  • What “things” do you store up?  What is one item you could never have enough of to satisfy yourself?

q  The more we have, the more we want.  We keep grasping, spending ourselves, our time, our energy, our resources for money, toys, gadgets, meals, things.

  • What basic needs do people have?
  • Is it wrong to want more than the basic things?  Why? or Why not?
  • What could the rich man have done differently?

q  There are two views of the world:

  1. The Secular– It is materialistic and centers on the self.  People who live with this perspective say “I am the only reality.  There is nothing bigger out there.  The world is indifferent to me.”
  2. The Religious– Christians image that the world is NOT indifferent to us.  Something, actually Someone IS out there.  We are NOT accidents of biology but creatures of a loving God whose care and concern have been revealed to us in the person of Jesus.
  • Do you see these contrasting world views in the Bible story?
  • Give examples of these contrasting world views today.  Are people’s world views as distorted today as they were in Jesus’ day?  More?  Less?  Why?
  • So, according to this Bible story, how do you think we can become “rich toward God” in how we live?

What is “Enough”?– Read James 4:1-2.

  • How could these headlines relate to what James is saying?
  • Youth Killed for Basketball Shoes
  • Woman Beaten and Robbed in the Park
  • Corporate Executives Charged with Fraud
    • Do you think James is being too extreme?
    • How would you define “enough” to someone else?

q  There are 3 basic kinds of goods in the world:

  1. Necessary– food, clothing shelter
  2. Useful– things that makes us more comfortable, tools that make work easier, books, art, entertainment
  3. Extra– luxuries
  • Should everybody in the world have the things in the necessary category?  Do they?  If not, how should Christians respond?
  • Should everybody have access to the things in the useful category?  What if they do not?  How can/should Christians respond?
  • How should we think about the extra category?  How do you think James would respond if Christians had luxuries while some people still didn’t have food, clothing, and shelter?

q  According to Giving USA households earning less than $5,000 per year gave 5.9% of their income to charity while households earning $100,000 to $150,000 gave 4.1% away.  Those earning $500,000 to $1,000,000 per year gave only 3.7 percent of their income away.

  • Do you think these statistics point to Greed as we have defined it?
  • How could we define “enough” in dollars? $1 a day? $5 a day?  $10 a day?  $100 a day?  $1,000 a day?
  • How could we define “enough” in house size/type?  Cardboard?  Concrete?  Brick?  1 room?  2 rooms?  10 rooms?  Electricity?  Plumbing?  Swimming pool?  Game room?  Garage?
  • How could we define “enough” when it comes to meals?  A bowl of rice?  Steak and baked potato?  Cookies and ice cream?  1 meal a day?  3 meals a day?  1 meal ever 30 hours?

Do YOU rely on God?- Read Luke 6:20-26 to the group.

q  This is Luke’s version of what we call the Beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 5:3-12).  Luke presents these things in a different form with a stronger emphasis on the role of this world’s goods.  Luke’s Gospel has often been referred to as the “Gospel of the Poor” and it seems as though Luke does not want us to miss the connection between what we have and how we use it and our relationship with a loving and gracious God.

  • Are you more familiar with Luke or Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes?
  • Who do you think Jesus’ audience was?  Were they rich or poor or both?
  • Why do you think Luke included Jesus’ warnings (woes) and Matthew did not?

q  “You will never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you’ve got.”

  • Have you ever heard this saying?  What do you think about it?
  • According to Jesus in this Scripture, what does it mean to rely on God?
  • How easy is it to rely on God in this way?
  • Why does it seem easier to rely on our stuff rather than on God?
  • Do you think having too much can divert us from God?
  • How could not having enough divert us from God?
  • Can a poor person be greedy?  Why? or Why not?

Life Application

Read 1 John 3:11-17

  • Have you ever failed to use the gifts and blessings you have from God?
  • According to this Scripture, how can we find balance between things and what God wants us to do?

q  The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, was convinced that Scripture taught that there was enough for everyone and that it was the responsibility of those who have to share with those who have not.

q  John Wesley had a rule about the appropriate use of money (it could be applied to things we have as well):

“What way then…can we take that our money may not sink us to the nethermost hell?  There is one way, and there is no other under heaven.  If those who ‘gain all they can’ and ‘save all they can’ will likewise ‘give all they can’ then, the more they gain the more they will grow in grace, and the more treasure they will lay up in heaven.”            John Wesley

q  Sometimes in “laying down our lives,” what we really means is all the time we spend working to make money, laying down a life that provides for others who can not provide for themselves.  Parents do this by working to support their children until they are adults.  Sometimes grown children support their elderly parents.

  • Using Wesley’s idea of gaining, saving, and giving, how can you combat Greed by giving financial support, no matter how small it is, to someone who desperately needs support?

q  Take the Sunday morning paper and cut out a few articles that give tangibles examples of what has been discussed today.  Post these on the wall with a label above saying “Greed” so they may be referred to in future weeks.  If there is not time for this in class, ask for volunteers to get it done before next week.

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Joys and Concerns- Teacher: Write these on a piece of butcher paper.

Closing Prayer- Students:            Pray for God to open our hearts to those who do not have the “necessary” things in life and for God to open our minds to help us know how to respond to a brother or sister in need.

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