Greed is a (the?) great Australian religion, though most people would not admit it. This is a great book to challenge us to think hard about whether we are worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ or whether greed is our true god. This is the second best book I have read on this topic.
The premise of the book is that “greed is idolatry” – Colossians 3:5. We deny it, avoid thinking about it, convince ourselves it is not true, but many of us in the past or present worshipped the god of greed. Rosner comprehensively opens up a whole world of how Australians are worshipping and living for the religion of greed. Greed is not just a sin to be shunned, it is a whole religion that competes with the Lord Jesus Christ for our love, trust and obedience.
Not only is it wrong to turn our backs on God and worship greed, it also fails to satisfy. Rosner has this twin emphasis down very well. He puts together a convincing case that rings true from our experience – the greedier we get the less we are satisfied. Greed oppresses people, breaks down families, and much worse. It never satisfies yet we keep serving it and putting our hope in it. The great English Puritan Richard Baxter said it well when he said that greed is worse than an impulsive sin like murder, because it involves a “malignant turning away of the heart habitually from God” (A Christian Directory, p215).
This is book is full of great illustrations and stories that will help grip us, and help us to be able to challenge others. Greed is a hard thing to fight because people deny worshipping money and possessions (especially Australian Christians) and yet this is where many of us are at. The idolatry of greed is internal, and needs careful work to expose. More and more in my church ministry in Cranbourne I’m realising I need to be wiser at exposing greed and materialism in all its forms. There is a spiritual war going on in Australian households, the greed of idolatry is an “attack on God’s exclusive rights to our trust and confidence” (p68). This is a subtle war, because Christians believe in the goodness of creation and material things, but it is a terrible offence and affront to the Lord Jesus to commit you life to your own wealth rather than to Him. This book helped me think harder about this kind of issue.
The book could have worked harder to challenge Western Christians to be mindful of the majority world. There are really only two or so references to world living standards and the international debt problems (p98, p141-142). I think this year God has been growing my own convictions on this issue. It is not enough for us to give spare or even sacrificial amounts to poorer countries. We need to realise our whole living standards in Australia are tied into Western oppression of poorer countries via excessive debt interest exploitation and control of physical resources. We need massive changes in lifestyle, and Christians should be leading the way in this. Why are our houses and energy consumption levels so massive? Why are we wasting money amusing ourselves to death when we could be helping a starving world be fed and come to hope of belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ and his people? What this book does make clear is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is our key weapon in addressing world poverty – because the issue of first world greed is an issue of idolatry, only by serving the worlds true Lord, Jesus Christ, can people be freed from the idolatry of greed.
Giving money should be a joy that Christians can be involved in. Not a tax, but an opportunity to become like Christ (p132). There are some good extra articles on practically living this out. The sermon by John Dickson on “Faith and Works; Rich and Poor (James 2:14-26)” is very good, and the briefing article by Sandra King called “Not Keeping Up With The Joneses: The Christian Practice of Becoming Poorer” is excellent.
Rosner rightly makes the point several times that it is not enough to just shun riches and greed. We were created with a strong hunger to be richly satisfied. This can only be truly met in God our maker and in Jesus Christ his son. The call to not worship material things is a call to be truly satisfied in God, a life lived his way, trusting in him, hoping in him, and obeying him. We must get off the endless work-envy-borrow-buy hamster wheel and live a God centred life, enjoying his creation, and hoping for the return of the Lord Jesus.
The best book I have read on this topic is the advice of Richard Baxter, “A Christian Directory”, Chapter IV, Part VI. I haven’t read much of this work, but this section on wealth is excellent. Truly challenging. (If anyone has seen a full text of this work on the web, please let me know!)