The news stories on the Black Friday have been breaking my heart. A local news story reported two women fighting over a Barbie in Walmart. In another Walmart, there was a fight over a TV. Even Gawker ran a story about the best Black Friday fights of 2014.
What is in the heart of people that makes them go from saying grace and giving gratitude over Thanksgiving dinner to grabbing merchandise off of store shelves? It's greed. And left to our own devices, greed will grow like a wild weed in our lives.
For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:21-2 (NIV)
Ahab, a king of Israel, is a perfect example of greed run amuck. Ahab had just about everything character. And he had wife who was even worse than he was. He was very rich. He had one entire palace inlaid with ivory. And he had another palace in Jezreel. One day as he looked out the window of his Jezreel palace he saw a vineyard that he thought would make a nice vegetable garden for himself. The only problem was it belonged to someone else, a man named Naboth.
"Ahab said to Naboth, 'Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth" (1 Kings 21:2-3).
Naboth refused to sell because he was obedient to what God told him to do with the land. When Israel first took possession of the land, every family received their plot of ground. The land could never be permanently sold and was to remain in that family's possession forever. But instead of respecting Naboth's reasons for not selling, Ahad threw a fit.
"Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, 'I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers' He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat" (1 Kings 21:4).
Instead of focusing on everything he had, he wanted the one thing he didn't have. So his wife set out to make sure her husband's wants were satisfied. Jezebel came up with a plot to have Naboth murdered. And because she was queen, the plan went off without a hitch.
"When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth's vineyard" (1 Kings 21:16).
Rampant greed led to the murder of an innocent man and the confiscation of his property. But God saw it. Elijah the prophet met Ahab when he went to take possession of Naboth's vineyard, and he pronounced God's punishment upon Ahab for what he and Jezebel had done. His grim prophecy predicted that dogs would lick up the couple's blood and that God would wipe out their descendants from the face of the earth—the worst imaginable curse for an Israelite. God already had a great deal against Ahab and Jezebel, but their greed-inspired brutality against Naboth was the last straw.
Left unchecked, greed will drive us to do crazy and even wicked things. I'm sure those people who went out shopping didn't expect to be fighting over TV and Barbies for heaven's sake. Contentment helps to keep our hearts in check.
Every day, we have to keep our desires gated up lest we fall victim to greed. It's a continual challenge to change greed to gratitude.