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No Free Lunch

January 2015
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No Free Lunch “‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’ is a popular adage communicating the idea that it is impossible to get something for nothing” (quote source here). The phrase was popularized by Nobel Prize winning free-market economist Milton Friedman (1912-2006) in his 1975 book with the same title. The adage “indicates an acknowledgement that in reality a person or a society cannot get ‘something for nothing’. Even if something appears to be free, there is always a cost to the person or to society as a whole” (quote source here).

There is no free lunch, folks. And while looking for it at the bottom of it all is greed. In a 2012 article titled, Greed, Justice and Deception,” by Edward Hadas, the opening paragraph states:

Greed contributes to all the economic and financial woes of prosperous societies. The United States and other rich countries produce much more than is needed to support all of their people in comfort, so if desires were all truly modest, there would be few problems. Greed encourages people to decide that their own share is too small. Greed influences the popular desire for GDP growth (more, faster), financial gains (higher house prices as a human right) and total economic security (guaranteed pension, come what may). Voters’ greed encourages governments to spend more and tax less (quote source here).

He goes on to state:

The problem is profound, and not merely economic. In all domains, greed can be crude. Think of a toddler reaching for a sibling’s toy or slice of cake. But it often masquerades as a virtuous desire for a deal that is “only fair.”

. . .Greed distorts everyone’s perceptions and judgments. The rich are particularly easy targets in a society which is theoretically committed to equality. Consider how bankers responded to their boom-time bonuses – almost all measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. On most trading floors the mood on announcement-day was funereal. To a man (there were few women traders), they were persuaded that their rewards were unjustly low. Only members of their charmed circle could possibly see anything other than greed at work.

However, the temptation to feel hard done by is not limited to the rich; it is universal. The welfare state with its entitlements culture has helped propagate disguised greed among the poor; the inflation of house prices did the same for the middle classes. If bankers were greedy when they lent excessively to homeowner-speculators, the borrowers were at least as greedy when they signed on for loans they could not afford to repay. The rapid increase of medical costs, for rich and poor alike, is best explained by disguised entitlements-greed in a domain where justice can easily be invoked to demand the prolongation of life at any cost (quote source here).

“Greed distorts everyone’s perceptions and judgments.” A concise definition for greed is “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed” (quote source: Merriam-Webster.com). Of course, I dare say that all of us have a rather warped idea of what constitutes a “need.” And most of what we think are “needs” are really “wants.” For example, we may not really need a new car, but we sure want one. And the iPhone 5 ends up being replaced as soon as the iPhone 6 hit the market. And clothes? Well, you get the picture. The list of “wants” is endless. Our actual needs are really very, very basic–food, clothing, shelter (and I’m not talking about the fancy and/or expensive stuff either), safety, love. Beyond that, we get into our “want” categories. And that’s where greed takes hold.

The Bible has a lot to say about greed and none of it is good. The following is taken from GotGuestions?org in answer to this question:

Question: “What does the Bible say about greed?”

Answer: There are many warnings in the Bible about giving in to greed and longing for riches. Jesus warned, “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). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal… You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:19 and 24). Did Jesus pursue the acquisition of money? No. On the contrary, He became poor for our sake (2 Corinthians 8:9) and had “no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). The only disciple concerned with wealth was the embezzler Judas, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Greed and a desire for riches are traps that bring ruin and destruction. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” and Christians are warned, “Do not put your trust in wealth” (1 Timothy 6:9-1017-18). Covetousness, or wanting more than we have, is idolatry. “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). The principle to remember is contained in Hebrews 13:5: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

It is the love of money, and not money itself, that is the problem. The love of money is a sin because it gets in the way of worshiping God. Jesus said it was very hard for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:16-22Luke 10:17-31). By instructing him to give up his money, Jesus pointed out the young man’s main problem: greed. The man could not follow Christ because he was following money. His love of this world interfered with his love for God.

People are more likely to cry out to God when they are in need than when they have plenty. Too often, the wealthy become complacent and self-satisfied and ascribe their riches to their own efforts instead of acknowledging that every good gift comes from God. The easier our lives become, the more enjoyment we derive from our wealth, the greater the temptation to store up treasures on earth, instead of in heaven. If we focus on earthly things like material wealth and possessions, then we fail to give God the glory and worship He deserves. We are to serve God, not waste our time trying to become rich (Proverbs 23:4). Our heart’s desire should be to store up riches in heaven and not worry about what we will eat or drink or wear. “But seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25-34). (Quote source here.)

Gain the world lose your soul“The only disciple concerned with wealth was the embezzler Judas, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.” That should give every single one of us who call ourselves Christian a big pause for thought. What are we willing to do to get rich if we could do it? If we are willing to do anything, including betraying anyone to get rich (and no reason is good enough), we are on very shaky ground. And we are exactly like Judas.

Also, as stated above, Greed and a desire for riches are traps that bring ruin and destruction. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” and Christians are warned, “Do not put your trust in wealth” (1 Timothy 6:9-1017-18). Covetousness, or wanting more than we have, is idolatry.” And in answer to the question, “Why is the love of money a root of all kinds of evil?” GotQuestions?org makes the following statement:

Why is the love of money a root of all kinds of evil? To help us answer this, we must look at the passage in its greater context. Near the end of the letter (1 Timothy 6:2–10), Paul is exhorting Timothy regarding the need to “teach and urge these things” to his congregation, “these things” referring back to earlier material in the epistle. Paul then warns Timothy about false teachers who will seek to warp and pervert the content of sound doctrine for their own greedy gain (verses 3–5). Now notice what the apostle says at the end of verse 5: “Imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” These false teachers do what they do for the fame and notoriety they achieve, along with the financial rewards it brings.

Paul wants to steer Timothy away from that trap. In doing so, he tells him the real source of “great gain;” namely, godliness with true contentment (verse 6). Contentment, in a biblical sense, is the recognition that we come into the world with nothing and that everything we have is a gift from God’s hands (verses 7–8). Yet those who desire to be rich (i.e., those who have the “love of money”) are the ones who are led into temptation and fall into a snare (verse 9). Paul concludes the passage by telling Timothy that the love of money leads to all sorts of sin and evil. (Quote source here).

As Edward Hadas stated in his article at the beginning of this post, greed is incredibly deceptive. We can often see it in others, but not in ourselves. And in America, the desire to be rich is everywhere and it has invaded the church culture, too. It has even invaded pulpits and entire congregations.

Greed is never satisfied. “The greedy will use deception to acquire material goods. The greedy will lie and use false pretenses to acquired goods at the expense of others” (quote source here). In an example given of a woman who won the lottery, she stated afterwards, “People are so mean. I hope you win the lottery and see what happens to you” (quote source here). When it comes to greed, it touches everybody, and it can destroy everybody, too. Jesus made it very clear when he said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). And don’t even fool yourself into thinking you can somehow be the exception to that rule.

The bottom line on greed is this:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:7-9).

Greed destroys everything it touches, and it will destroy us in the end if we allow it free reign in our lives. We live in a culture that consumes anything it can get its hands on without any thought for the consequences. Don’t get pulled into that mess, and if you are already there, get out now . . . .

Do not be deceived . . .

God is not mocked . . . 

Don’t learn that lesson the hard way . . . .

YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul,” by TobyMac (with Kirk Franklin & Mandisa):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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