Lent 5 – March 18, 2018

“Pride and Greed” – Mark 10:35-45


Lent 5 – March 18, 2018


Introduction: 7 deadly sins (Pride and Greed)

Seven deadly sins – grouping and classification of vices within Christian teachings (back to 4th century A.D.) Two of them showed up on SSSH: pride (What is pride? Why does it hurt us?) & greed (actually Prosperity Gospel preachers, with question: Does God want us to be rich?) – (ASK other 5??)  lustenvygluttonywrath and sloth.


Connects with Gospel reading… desire of James and John to be right beside Jesus (in heaven) – pride, best two seats in the house! (Not only time disciples argued about greatness!) Jesus also interacted with some wealthy / greedy people, and had some things to say about that.


Let’s start by defining those two terms:

Pride is considered, on almost every list, the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins: it refers to the perversion of the faculties that make humans more like God in terms of dignity and holiness. It is identified as dangerously corrupt selfishness, the putting of one’s own desires, urges, wants, and whims before the welfare of other people. It is irrationally believing that one is essentially and necessarily better, superior, or more important than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and excessive admiration of the personal image or self (especially refusing to acknowledge one’s own limits, faults, or wrongs as a human being).

As pride has been labelled the father of all sins, it has been deemed the devil’s most prominent trait. C.S. Lewis writes, in Mere Christianity, that pride is the “anti-God” state, the position in which the ego and the self are directly opposed to God. “Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison. It was through Pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice. It is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

The proverb “pride goes before the fall” is thought to sum up the modern use of pride.

Greed, also known as avarice or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of desire. However, greed is applied to an insatiable desire and pursuit of material possessions. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Greed is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.” Hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by means of violencetrickery, or manipulation of authority are all actions that may be inspired by greed.

In the words of Henry Edward, avarice “plunges a man deep into the mire of this world, so that he makes it to be his god.”

Even outside Christian writings, greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs, especially with respect to material wealth.


  1. The Prosperity Gospel

Let’s deal a little more with greed and the question of the Prosperity Gospel, and we’ll come back to pride to wrap things up. I can’t / won’t comment on any particular prosperity gospel preacher – both because I don’t have occasion to listen / watch them, and because it could be interpreted as slander. But I did find out that some of those prosperity gospel preachers have net assets in the tens of millions of dollars. WOW! Let’s identify… What is the Prosperity Gospel?

The Prosperity Gospel is an umbrella term for the teaching that God wants people to be prosperous, especially financially. It equates Christian faith with material success. It has a long history in American culture featuring glamorous, flashily-dressed, camera-ready, polished-scripted televangelists who draw hoards of money out of viewers with their guilt-laden pleas. Adherents to the Prosperity Gospel believe that health and wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and is compensation for prayer and for giving beyond the minimum tithe to one’s church, televangelists, or other religious causes. The logical extension of the Prosperity Gospel – sometimes explicit, sometimes not – is that the poor are poor (and the sick are sick) because of a lack of faith. Poverty, far from being a blessing, is a sign of God’s disfavor.


In the prosperity gospel theology, also known as the “Word of Faith,” or even “name it and claim it,” the believer is told to use God, seeing the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the believer wills. A favorite term in the Word of Faith movement is “positive confession.” This refers to the teaching that words themselves have creative power. What you say and truly believe, apparently, determines everything that happens to you. Your confessions, especially the favors you demand of God, must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then, God is obliged to answer according to what you ask (as though a man could demand anything of God!). Thus, God’s ability to bless us supposedly hangs on our faith.


A 2006 Times poll found that 17 percent of American Christians identify explicitly with the Prosperity Gospel movement, while 31 percent espouse the idea that “if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money.” A full 61 percent agree with the more general idea that “God wants people to be prosperous.”


  1. Theology of Glory / Theology of the Cross

This is not unlike Luther’s distinguishing between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross. A couple of small groups have just heard about that in the study of Gene Veith’s book God at Work. Veith explains that “we naturally yearn for glory, for success, for victory, and living happily ever after. We thus prefer religions of glory, ones that promise us a successful life, that answer to our full rational satisfaction all of our questions, that grow and thrive, becoming ever more popular and powerful.” That’s the theology of glory, and it finds an outlet in the prosperity gospel.

In contrast, the theology of the cross acknowledges that “our spiritual life does not consist solely of victories, miracles, and success stories.” Rather, a Christian’s life includes persecutions, rejections, physical suffering and eventual death. Veith says, “God sometimes refreshes us with victories, and glories of every kind await us in the everlasting life that He has prepared for His people… but in the meantime we must bear our crosses.”


Paul Althaus, in his book The Theology of Martin Luther, further explains the distinction: “The theology of the cross works with a standard exactly contrary to that of the theology of glory… The theology of glory seeks to know God directly in his obviously divine power, wisdom, and glory; whereas the theology of the cross paradoxically recognizes him precisely where he has hidden himself, in his sufferings and in all that which the theology of glory considers to be weakness and foolishness.”


  1. What does the Bible say?

So, what does the Bible say about the prosperity gospel? Probably nothing specific to that term, but the Bible says a lot about riches and rich people.

One interesting episode takes place in Acts 8, where a man named Simon observed people receiving the Holy Spirit when Peter and John laid hands on them. With wicked intent, Simon wanted to buy that power and ability to control the Holy Spirit.

The prosperity gospel movement closely resembles some of the destructive greed sects that infiltrated the early church. Paul and the other apostles were not accommodating to or conciliatory with the false teachers who propagated such heresy. They identified them as dangerous false teachers and urged Christians to avoid them.

Paul warned Timothy about such men in 1 Timothy 6. For these men of “corrupt mind” supposed godliness was a means of gain and their desire for riches was a trap that brought them “into ruin and destruction.” The pursuit of wealth has been and still is a dangerous path for Christians and one which God warns about: “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.” If riches were a reasonable goal for the godly, Jesus would have pursued it. But He did not, preferring instead to have no place to lay His head and teaching His disciples to do the same. In fact, the only disciple concerned with wealth was Judas – the one who not only was in charge of the disciples’ moneybag, but who also criticized Mary of Bethany for anointing Jesus’ feet with costly ointment instead of selling it and giving it to the poor.

Paul wrote that covetousness is idolatry and instructed the Ephesians to avoid anyone who brought a message of immorality or covetousness. Prosperity teaching puts the onus on a person and prohibits God from working on His own, meaning that God is not Lord of all because He cannot work until we release Him to do so. Faith, then, is not submissive trust in God; faith becomes a formula by which we manipulate the spiritual laws that prosperity teachers believe govern the universe. This movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts. Far from speaking things into existence in the future by our words or our prayers or our faith, James 4 teaches us that we do not even know what tomorrow will bring or even whether we will be alive.

Instead of stressing the importance of wealth, the Bible warns against pursuing it. Believers, especially leaders in the church, are to be free from the love of money, for as we have already heard: “The love of money leads to all kinds of evil.” 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.” In sharp contrast to the prosperity gospel’s emphasis on gaining money and possessions in this life, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” The irreconcilable contradiction between prosperity teaching and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is best summed up in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.”


  1. Riches and Righteousness

Now, none of this is saying that wealth or money is evil in and of itself. It’s not money that is the root of all evil, it’s the LOVE of money. Money, after all, is just a metal or pieces of paper with the power to trade. Possessions are things made of wood or metal or fabric.

There were some rich (and unrighteous) people in the Bible – moral judgements against them.

Luke 12 – Jesus’ story of a rich farmer who built bigger barns, so that he could eat drink and be merry, but whom God called a fool because he was not rich toward God.

Luke 16 – Jesus’ story of a rich man, dressed in purple and fine linen, lived in luxury, but who didn’t care for his neighbour in need, and who ended up in torment in hell.

Luke 19 – story of Zacchaeus, rich and hated tax collector who came to trust in Jesus, thus turning his unrighteousness into righteousness.


There were also some rich (and righteous) people in the Bible:

Abraham (Genesis 13:2 – had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.)

Solomon (1 Kings 10:23 – greater in riches than all the other kings of the earth.)

Job  (Job 1 – owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys, many servants)

Their righteousness was based on their relationship with God, not dependant on riches.



That is to say, it’s not how much money you have, but how you view it, attitudes – do you serve it? does it serve you? Do you love it? Do you count it? Desire it? Think about it all the time? Or is it just a means to an end of providing for you, your family, others, and God’s kingdom?


The theology of the cross tells us that there will be times of suffering and grief and even poverty, but in those times, God does not and will not desert us. In fact, according to Luther, we see Him there more clearly than in times of victory and glory.


  1. Pride vs. Jesus’ Servanthood / Ransom

Let’s get back to pride for a moment to wrap up. In Mark 10, Jesus responded to the pride of James and John with encouragement to have an attitude of servanthood. “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” The opposite trait of pride is humility, a willingness to get down and dirty, serving others out of love for God and out of love for those people. Jesus modeled that the night before He died when He took a towel and basin and washed His disciples’ feet when no one else took the initiative to do it. Paul wrote about that in Philippians 2: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” We’ll pick up this theme a little more next Sunday as we explore the very next verses in Philippians 2.


Back in the response to the pride of James and John, Jesus concluded by pointing to His own servanthood – the fact that He was about to give His very life as a ransom… for many, for all! That’s the theology of the cross (not glory). There was no bragging about how great He was and that He was God’s Son and that He was going to heaven, victoriously. Rather, He humbly called Himself the Son of Man, and told His disciples He was willing to suffer – to die! – to pay the ransom price for all sins, even our sins of pride and greed! That is why He came… to be our servant, to be our ransom, to be our Saviour.


That’s a Gospel message I can support – thankfully, whole-heartedly, generously – not with the desire and prayer for God to bless me financially, and to shelter my entire life with health, but even in the midst of the crosses of this life, just to express my gratitude for His grace and salvation, just to ensure that others hear and respond to that true Gospel, and so that no matter what seats are available, we are all with Jesus in HIS heavenly glory, eternally. Amen.

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