Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2017
I See, I Want, I Take
I See, I Want, I Take
Texts: 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; Matthew 12:3-7, 22; Genesis 3:1-6; Isaiah 56:11; Matthew 26:14-16; 2 Peter 1:5-9
January 13, 2018
A recent article in Business Mirror (of all places) extols the Christian virtue of generosity. “Some say that gift-giving became integral to the (Christmas) holiday to commemorate the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh the Three Wise Men offered the Baby Jesus sleeping in the manger. Yet the greatest generosity to celebrate and emulate—and not just during the Christmas holiday—was that of God the Father, offering His only Son for all of mankind’s salvation.” Heady theological stuff for a business journal.
We are not alone in this notion of generosity; Islam shares the same view. According to the Koran, “Charity does not decrease wealth.” Hinduism emphasizes a similar teaching as Jesus’ words in Luke 14:12-14. Christ said not to favor your friends at banquets, but the poor who cannot return the favor. The Bhagavad Gita states, “Charity given, without consideration of anything in return, is stated to be in the mode of goodness.” It would actually harm both the giver and the recipient to extend charity with some expectation of return.
Buddhism considers this notion of selfless giving one of the religion’s “perfections.” A Buddhist’s generosity should arise from recognition of the interdependence of every living thing. One commentator notes: “Practicing selflessness in this way is also an antidote to greed.” In Judaism, charitable giving is associated with Tzedakah, a Hebrew word that literally means “justice” or “righteousness.” According to the Mishnah Torah, “the highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished, so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.” Confucianism equates charity and generosity with “benevolence,” “humaneness,” “goodness” or “altruism.”1
Obviously, not all practitioners of these different belief systems—including Christianity—follow this tenet of their faith. If that were so, we wouldn’t need this week’s lesson. Since there are, however, people in all walks of life who “see, covet, and take,” it’s good to see exactly what scripture says on the matter. How should a faithful Christian relate to materialism?
The lesson outlines the steps that occur in a person’s heart that lead to a life of greed, and how to avoid going down that road. It begins with seeing. If we see something that attracts us (beyond the basic necessities of life), then we have to decide what we do with that attraction. Are we willing to let go of the lure and be satisfied with our lives, or do we instead feed the desire? If we do feed the fascination, then we move to the next step toward greed—we covet that thing! Those who continually crave what they don’t have gradually become greedy people. Whenever covetousness tempts us, we have the opportunity to decide for ourselves—we can choose to live lives of contentment and peace, or dissatisfaction and frustration.