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Avarice: Uncommon Word, Common Sin

By Steve Gerali | May 1 2006
Avarice is hardly a word we hear every day! It even sounds like it could be the name of a great yacht or a prize-winning race horse or a villa in the mountains of the Andes.

While some people may associate avarice with these things, the early church fathers recognized it as much more. They saw avarice as one of seven sins that had a destructive power on the human soul.

Avarice is more commonly known as "greed" or  "covetousness." It is an insatiable desire to acquire more material possessions. It evidences itself in a love for money that becomes a life passion.

As a kid growing up I was told that it’s not bad to desire, need, and acquire money but, rather, it was the love of money that constituted greed. After all, Paul warned Timothy that the “love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). We tend to put the emphasis on that phrase “love of money” when it really should be put on the phrase “root of all kinds of evil.” Paul recognized the domino and stealth effect of avarice. It is the mother of more sin. But we know this, too. After all, greed and covetousness are condemned in Scripture, beginning in the Law.

The psalmist recognized its pull on his heart when he entreated God, saying, “Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain” (Psalms 119:36). The Old Testament prophets, starting with Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Habakkuk, and Malachi, all spoke against this sin. Proverbs speaks about the consequences of greed at great length. In the New Testament, Jesus warned of the difficulty for rich men to enter into the Kingdom. Later, both Paul and James addressed this issue in letters to the church. So the Scriptures are not silent regarding avarice. While we know this, many youth workers and ministry leaders still succumb to this deadly sin.

Money from Ministry

At one time it was believed that ministry professions were not a lucrative means of support. Pastors were paid in chickens or eggs, and youth pastors … well, they just starved to death. Wealth and ministry never converged. Today that isn’t true.

While many still struggle, depending on the economic area where they minister, many ministry icons of the day are doing quite well. Some megachurch pastors have six-figure salaries, sailboats, BMWs, million-dollar homes, private planes owned by their ministries, and more. They rationalize their wealth with rhetoric about “living at the level of their constituency,” “effective stewardship,” or “prosperity theology.” While ministry needn’t always lead to poverty, it certainly isn’t God-honoring to mimic the ideologies of a constituency. That ideology may reflect a deep-rooted, deadly sin.

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