To ensure human survival and coexistence with nature and the ecosystem, God created humankind to be responsible and embrace hard work. God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15). So, even before the fall, “God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:29). The need for humankind to imbibe a positive attitude towards work became even critical after the fall. As a punishment to man, God said, “…Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil, you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground…” (Genesis 3:17-19).
It is, therefore, not surprising to witness the suffering and toil humankind, not necessarily men, go through in search of having and living a relatively comfortable lifestyle. Thank God for the caveat in the ruling that established a relationship between the sweat of humankind and its resultant produce of food or profitability. Apostle Paul in In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 only re-echoed that when he said, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” On this occasion of Men celebrating their national week in The Church of Pentecost, I salute the National Leadership of PEMEM and all Men in the church for the diverse roles as family heads, husbands and largely the breadwinners in our societal setting.
I would also pay a glowing tribute to all Galant Business moguls and entrepreneurs whose dent of hard work has contributed to the employment of thousands, if not millions of people in the Christian fraternity. Indeed, you are why many households are making earns meet and still having and keeping a stable relationship with their maker. Life would have been unimaginable without some of you and the sacrifices and sleepless nights in standing up to the task of your hard work and entrepreneurship callings. It can only be divine, so God bless and continue to crown your every effort with success. The past three to four decades have indeed witnessed a surge in motivational speakers and celebrated entrepreneurs driving home the topic of imbibing hard work through talk shows, in the academia, business workshops, para-church conferences and even on our pulpits. It is, therefore, not unusual to bump into young men and women poised to start one business venture or the other, no matter how small. Unfortunately, some have consciously or unconsciously crossed certain red lines to what Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 2:15 refers to as “loving the wages of wickedness.” They are, thus, motivated by something that rather appears like greed and not necessarily imbibing the rudiments of hard work. This article aims to outline some posturing, attitudes and business practices motivated by greed but which have nothing to do with hard work. I would also attempt to distinguish between obeying the clarion call of God to hard work and exhibiting the symptoms of greed under the guise of working hard.
Greed is having or showing an intense and selfish desire for wealth or power. Its synonyms are avarice, materialism and money-grabbing. It can also be defined as a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed.
Greed comes from the Old English graedig, or ‘voracious,’ which means ‘always hungry for more,’. The Greek word pleonexia is the word that is most commonly translated as greed or covetousness in the New Testament. Indeed it is greed that gives rise to covetousness. It is always self-centered and never satisfied. I won’t for any moment pretend to be a repository of all knowledge and understanding regarding what constitutes hard work, but I think I have a fair insight of what hard work is not. The source of greed is the Adamic fall or the seed of sin. All humans or living organisms who have been subjected to the consequences of the fall possess traits of greed. However, certain environmental factors make it more visible in some than others.
One can, therefore, be conceived, delivered, and bred within the confines of a chapel by the Priest but still manifest a high concentration of greed in their interactions. Gehazi was always with Elisha, the double portion Prophet of God, yet greed didn’t spare him. Apostle Judas wasn’t limited either, even though he was one of Jesus’ carefully selected 12. Besides the seed of sin, which houses greed, other factors that easily breed and nurture it are but are not limited to;
- One’s upbringing and value system.
- Friends and associations.
- Silent competition of material possessions amongst peers.
- Ill-advised comparison of achievements.
- Misconceptions about what constitutes true wealth and riches in this life.
- Admiration, recognition and special acknowledgement of the wealthy in our society irrespective of the mode of acquiring those resources.
- The lack of law enforcement or punitive measures and sanctioning of those found to be guilty of ill-gotten riches out of greed.
Merriam-Webster defines Hardworking, on the other hand, as constantly, regularly, or habitually engaged in earnest and energetic work. Hardworking people are usually termed industrious and diligent. One, therefore, wonders why such a godly activity would have to bear the brunt of the greedy in our society, thereby mixing or confusing the meaning between them. Proverbs 22:28 reads, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.” Greedy people, in their quest to get more, usually temper things that do not belong to them to annex them. The love of money, gifts, material possessions, bribery and corruption, which has become a stronghold in our society today, can all be traced back to greed.
In 1 Kings 21, a story is told of a whole King in Israel named Ahab who once wished to acquire a parcel of land from one of his subjects to use as a vegetable garden. Although he usually would have jurisdiction over all the lands within his dominion, it was not out of place to desire another person’s property if acquired through legitimate means. From the narration, the King was attracted to that particular parcel of land belonging to Naboth by its proximity to his palace. Property acquisition is not greediness, but the innate desire to acquire and add to what one already possesses at whatever cost and no matter the means, smacks of something more than just being hardworking. King Ahab told Naboth, “I will pay you whatever it is worth.” (1 Kings 21:2b). Naboth refused to sell the property, so the King went straight to his bedroom, disturbed and refused to eat. Having a vegetable garden, starting one business or the other or helping our men to venture into lucrative businesses is one great vision of the Pentecost Men’s Ministry (PEMEM). The response to the first slogan of PEMEM is, however, “The image and glory of God” and not “To acquire and grab by fair or foul means”, failure to which hell must break loose. Lying at one corner on his bed, sullen, angry, sulking and refusing to eat and cooperate with his wife, Jezebel reminded him he was the King and could, therefore, have whatever pleases him in case he had forgotten. (1 Kings 21:7). She schemed with some scoundrels and had Naboth assassinated and afterwards handed over Naboth’s parcel of land to her husband Ahab for his vegetable garden venture. This is what greed is all about. It uses every power and influence available to get whatever one craves irrespective of the cost to self or others.
“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. Say to him. This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property? Then say to him, This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!” It is quite instructive to learn that although King Ahab had started putting to good use the seized Land of Naboth, God did not acknowledge his “hard work” in that vegetable farm but called him a murderer who had seized someone’s property. Ahab could have avoided God’s judgment on his entire household should he had played the game of “hard work” within the boundaries of its ethical standards. After Naboth was murdered, King Ahab and his sweetheart Jezebel died with dogs licking their blood as decreed by God. Greed is, therefore, one of the few two-edged swords with the propensity to kill its victims and their culprits.
And to the entire household of King Ahab, God said, “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who dies in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.” (1 Kings 21:24)). In their quest to acquire and grab more by multiplying their possessions under the guise of hard work, many family heads have accrued needless suffering and pain on their households and generations after them. In 2 Kings 10:8-11, seventy sons of Ahab were slaughtered. Jehu also killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his close acquaintances and his priests, until he left him none remaining as spoken by Elijah, the servant of God. Meanwhile, none of his children was in the picture when Jezebel was masterminding the assassination of Naboth.
Of course, there is a relationship between hardworking and increased profitability or wealth. 1 Timothy 6:6-10, however, cautioned all who have a strong affinity for wealth and riches. It reads, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Some view the above scripture as a demotivator of the principles of hard work. They forget that it was the same Apostle Paul who espoused that the one unwilling to work should not eat. Hardworking has nothing to do with piercing oneself with all sorts of grief just because of greed.
The greedy may appear hardworking, but not all hardworking people are greedy. Why not? We all get motivated and inspired by calls and the captivating presentations on modern trends in establishing businesses and imbibing the rudiments of hardworking, but wait a minute! If you are falsifying documents and lying through that new enterprise you intend to set up; it is not hardworking. It is dishonesty. When greed is allowed to take over the heart and mind, one behaves like a hypnotised person, unresponsive to logic and reasoning. If not so, Judas wouldn’t have also asked Jesus at the last supper the betrayer He was talking about when he had already pocketed the 30 shekels of silver to betray Him (Matthew 26:24-25). Greed is, therefore, the underlying health condition of some pathological liars and the cause of some high-profile murder cases which haven’t been resolved for decades. It is greediness If you have to slander and mudsling others to get your business enterprise booming. It can’t be entrepreneurship, so stop throwing dust into our eyes. If your businesses are thriving and being sustained by cheating, taking advantage of others and the weak and vulnerable institutions, then I am afraid it cannot be hardworking. If you are evading the various tax regimes but busily setting up new enterprises to evade more and rake in more, it is called dishonesty and greediness and not hardworking. If you have to eliminate others by rough tactics for your business(s) to thrive, you have become a murderer and not the hard worker you want the world to celebrate. Let us not demonise the word “hardworking” by our actions and evil desires. The spirit of hardworking is what is needed in our time, and being blessed to become one doesn’t make one allergic to honesty and truthfulness.
Then come those who argue vociferously that enough wealth must be left for the children, so they don’t suffer but live comfortably. They, thus, use the family and children they will be living behind as the primary reason for their cravings but not necessarily being motivated by greed. It is, however, worth noting that Father Abraham, with all his great material possessions, could not insulate his covenant child Isaac from the realities and hazards of life’s challenges. Genesis 13:2, “Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and silver and gold.” When Abraham died, God also blessed Isaac in addition to whatever his Dad had bequeathed to him (Genesis 25:11). Amazingly, this wealth was, after all, not enough to bail Isaac from a severe famine that hit the Land of Cannan in those days. So in Genesis 26:2, Isaac contemplated moving to Egypt in search of greener pastures. God intercepted Isaac’s move and promised him to stay and wait for His blessings. Isaac, who had been trained and taught by Abraham to listen and obey God’s voice, obliged and stayed in Gerar (Genesis 26:6). “Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him.” (Genesis 26:12). The Lesson to all fathers is the need to spend quality time investing in the spiritual life of the members of our households so they can hear and obey God’s voice anytime He speaks. Men must lead the family to imbibe Kingdom values and its righteousness. Even though the riches handed over from Abraham dwindled drastically over a period, no one could take the legacy of his relationship with his maker from him. There can, therefore, never be any sustainable thing, such as working hard to acquire enough properties for all the generations that follow after you. With all the blessings Isaac also handed over to his sons Jacob and Esau, they equally faced severe hunger and drought at one time or the other in their lifetime. Joseph, who became the shining star amongst Jacob’s children and hosted his father and brothers, was also loaded with great blessings from God. Although they settled in Gershon or the best part of the Land of Egypt, the sons of Jacob and their generation would have left Egypt empty-handed after staying and working hard there for 430 years, but for God’s intervention during the night of their departure.
Besides the above Biblical accounts, the incredible impact of Covid-19 and the Ukraine-Russia conflicts have proved that no amount of investments made out of one’s dent of hard work can provide enough buffer from the hazards and uncertainties of this life. Like Job, one can wake up one morning and, within a spate of seconds, lose everything that has been inherited together with one’s acquired possessions. The parable of the prodigal son also teaches that a child who chooses to pick up wild living can squander everything bequeathed within a short period whiles the Parents are still alive. Men must, therefore, take up the arduous task of raising godly children in the home. It is the reign of Christ in the hearts of the children that becomes the anchor when the storms of life begin to hit hard at their boats. Even when we are dead and gone as Fathers, we can rest assured that they will sail through the storms. If the search for wealth and riches constantly prevents you from spending quality time with God, family and children, then the indication is symptomatic of something much more severe than just being a hardworking Parent. After all, Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 5:10, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This, too, is meaningless.”
Meanwhile, the very children, because we are running helter-skelter in ensuring they live comfortably, haven’t also vowed to be good-for-nothing when they grow. If anything, our hearts must rather be at peace with the scripture, “I was young, and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.” (Psalm 37:25). Using the children as the sole excuse for the wanton amassing of wealth under the guise of hardworking is, therefore, not tenable.
Today, you can hardly correlate the income levels of some per their professions, appointment letters and remuneration with their acquired assets. It becomes even more problematic when there seems to be no proper compliance and enforcement of the declaration of assets and liabilities before people’s engagement. Many have, thus, been touted as hardworking by society but amassed wealth through bribery and corruption as well as what can be best described as “induced gifts” out of greed. Offering gifts out of a genuine and generous heart is an everyday gesture that even attracts God’s blessings. So, Naaman’s offer of gifts to Prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 5:15 after his miraculous healing was not out of place. Greedy people are fast and appear intelligent and sharp at times because Gehazi hurried after Naaman and, within split seconds, fabricated stories and lies using Elisha’s name to add to his possessions.
Gehazi, the servant of the Prophet, thinking he was smart, pursued Naaman saying, “My Master was too easy on Naaman by not accepting from him what he brought. He continued, “As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him” (2 Kings 5:20). The tagging of God’s name to our ill-gotten treasures and businesses at times through testimonies is not a new development. It is pure greed under the cloak of religiosity. One sure mark of the greedy is their excessive desire for more. Although Gehazi asked Naaman for a talent of silver when he got to him, when he was offered two, he collected them. (I Kings 5:23). Be hardworking, Sir, but your unrestrained appetite for riches and wealth can only be motivated by greed or covetousness. What greedy people refuse to appreciate is what Elisha told Gehazi in 2 Kings 5:26b, which is, “There’s time to take money or accept gifts”, or it is not every money or gift you must so passionately desire for. The tragic end of Gehazi is enough lessons for all who are working hard but occasionally allowing greed to take the better part of their sense of judgment. Naaman’s leprosy clinched Gehazi and his household forever. Greed is indeed a sword that wounds and kills. So, in Proverbs 15:27, “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.”
Ironically and contrary to logical reasoning, greed is not synonymous with the needy in our society. The rich and wealthy are even more predisposed to that condition than the poor (2 Samuel 12:2-4). In this era in our Christian community, where so much is being propagated about entrepreneurship, investments, and savings, care must be taken to ensure that in our quest to be hardworking, we don’t wear ourselves out. In Luke 12:15b, Jesus confirms that “Man’s life doesn’t depend on the abundance of the things he possesses”. Indeed, He continues to signal that those who lay up treasure for themselves may not even live to enjoy them (verse 21). Greediness and covetousness have never paid its victims any good thing except disappointment, misery, untold hardships and ultimately, death. In (Josh 7:19-26), Achan met his untimely death and never enjoyed what he coveted (i.e. silver, gold etc.,). It is also instructive to learn that Colossians 3:5 equates greediness to idolatry, and in 1 Corinthians 6:10, the greedy will never inherit the Kingdom of God.
As the bride of Christ waiting for our bridegroom, let us imbibe every rudiment of hardworking but be on guard and eschew all forms of greed and covetousness as and when they become the subtle driving force. “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves to sensuality to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth in Jesus.” (Ephesians 4:19-21). Be hardworking, but greed is alien to the Christian calling and teachings. Stay blessed.
Written by Pastor James Orhin Agyin