Timothy Keller said in an interview “One of the biggest sins of today’s Christians is greed, and the problem with greed is that most of us don’t realize that we have a problem with it.” (paraphrase) In thinking about this, one should see the reality of this statement permeating ones life. For me, it took form of my being overweight. I thought about how when I choose to eat more than my portion I have become greedy. The physical result of my greed gives a great illustration of my spiritual condition. My greed in this area has caused me to be unhealthily overweight, taking my looks to an unattractive level and my health to a damaging decline. Spiritually I have become numb to the needs of others and a slave to the flesh once more.
Our natural desire to gratify self has a way of slipping into our motivation for the Mission of God. If we are not careful we find ourselves at the center of what we call the Mission of God and our kingdom is what we seek, not His. We ask God to “bless us so that we can bless others”, or “provide for me so that I can provide for them.” Looking at our prayer life will reveal who is really in the center of our lives and who’s kingdom is most important to us.
Take for example the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6; the firs sentence shows what our focus should be for that in which we pray:
“Our Father, who is in heaven, hollowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Only after the will of the Father and a desire to see His kingdom reign “on earth as it is in heaven” does one ask for their “daily bread”. Jesus explains this in the verses that follow:
“ So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. (Italics added)Matthew 6:31-34
The connection is simple, between the Lord’s Prayer and the above verses are Jesus’ teaching on fasting and wealth. Both of which are showing examples of greed within the teaching. In the teaching about fasting in verses 16-18 he is talking about people who want to be noticed for their religious superiority. Verse 19-24 Jesus talks about storing up material things and not focusing on the kingdom of God. Whether it is the desire to be noticed, or the effort to fulfill ones covetous desires, greed is at the center and in both cases the motivation for action.
Greed is a powerful motivator that masks itself with the disguise of good intention. Richard Foster explains this quite well in his book “Celebration of Discipline” in the section discussing the discipline of Simplicity. “The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of his kingdom first and then everything necessary will come in its proper order. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Jesus’ insight at this point. Everything hinges upon maintaining the “first” thing as first. Nothing must come before the kingdom of God including the desire for a simple lifestyle.”
We must conclude that all that is done on mission must be a result of first seeking the kingdom of God. As Richard Foster wrote “The person who does not seek the kingdom first does not seek it at all.” If we are not seeking God’s kingdom, then whose are we seeking? Our prayer life must be focused on His will and seeking His kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” Anything else is just greedy.