Greed is Good?

When I was sixteen I saw a movie that had a profound impact on my life: Oliver Stone's Wall Street.  Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gecko, a billionaire Wall Street tycoon whose life had everything.  When I left the cinema, I wanted to be Gordon Gecko.  It was only later, after watching the film again from a more worldly perspective did I understand the movie's point.  Despite what Gordon Gecko famously said, greed is not good.  Greed makes people into small, shallow individuals who do not understand how money can be used to bless others.  Tomorrow night I'll see the Wall Street sequel, again starring Michael Douglas as Gecko.  I wonder how it will impact me at age 39?

My life turned out to be so radically different that I imagined it would be after seeing Wall Street.  I did not earn an MBA, did not become a millionaire by age 22.  I became a youth director, a teacher, and a pastor-- not exactly careers with huge earning potential!  Yet my life has more depth and meaning than I could have thought of in high school.  The things I dreamed of turned out to be an illusion; the things I never dreamed about (family, faith, a growing relationship with God) continue to shape me in profound ways.  Such is the process of growth-- we learn what is ultimately important and what is not.

The subtitle of the Wall Street sequel is Money Never Sleeps.  I hear that and I immediately think of the Psalms: "He who keeps Israel will neither sleep nor slumber" (Psalm 121:4).  Money never sleeps.  God never sleeps.  Money is God.  Uh-oh.  Well for many people, it's true.  I wish we could only confine such thoughts to the movies, but we know better.  Others believe if we have enough faith God will reward us by making us rich.  Another way of saying "Greed is good."

A popular Sunday school lesson for children is the story of Zacchaeus in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 19).  Kids like it because he was short and had to climb a tree to see Jesus.  Look at the story closer and we see that Zacchaeus was rich but was searching for something more-- and when he heard Jesus was close he even climbed the tree to get a look.  Jesus stopped and said, "Zacchaeus, I must come to your home for dinner tonight."  Why?  Why must Jesus go to his house-- this man who routinely lied, cheated, and collaborated with the Roman occupiers?  We don't know their conversation, but we can guess what was said by Zacchaeus' next words: "I will give half of my money to the poor, and whatever I have stolen I will repay times four."  Jesus replied, "Today salvation has come to this house!"  Jesus went to dinner that night with Zacchaeus-- remember: "I must come..." Why?  Because this was a man who agreed with Gecko: "Greed is good"-- until he learned the truth and found salvation.

How we deal with money says much about our relationship with God.  If we are generous with money, then it shows that we believe in a God of abundance.  If we are selfish with it, then we believe in a God of scarcity.  How are you using your blessings to bless others?  How do you respond to the grace you have received?  Jesus wants our hearts and our lives.  Sometimes money/greed gets in the way, with disastrous results.  Let's use what we have to change a life for Jesus Christ!

Ultimately God had better and different plans for my life, trading in my Wall Street suits for a clergy robe.  The sixteen year old tycoon-to-be never materialized.  And I am thankful!  I mean, who needs a fleet of Ferraris, anyway, right?  Right??  Gecko was wrong: greed is not good.  God is good!  All the time!