by Seth Ampadu- Superintendent Minister – Methodist Church
We can minimize crime in our communities by avoiding greed and selfishness. As we all know, the causes of crime are very complex. So many reasons have been assigned for committing crime including anger, revenge, greed, jealously, selfishness, or pride. In our society today, it seems to me that greed and selfishness, hatred and intolerance are the leading causes of this crime and violence. We live in a culture today where our mental picture values the rich as more successful than the poor. We normally see wealthy people as more important than the poor and the vulnerable in our communities. Could this not trigger greed, hatred and selfishness?
Today if truth be told, well-to-do people are more sought after to serve in high positions in our culture. Those we see as having money, living a good life are considered to have wisdom. It is very sad that the rich people seem to be more believable in the law courts than the poor. Success in our culture today seems to be defined in terms of quality, quantity of degrees, the prestigious secondary school or tertiary education you attended, wealth, and possessions. For me, because of this mental attitude, many people try hard to amass wealth so that they would also be recognized in the society. In view of this, some people don’t care, even if it takes them to steal from government coffers to make themselves rich, or to rob others or to kill others to acquire wealth, they would simply do so.
In my candid opinion, greed and selfishness in our communities have become threats to all. Today’s greed is destroying our culture. It is a problem that needs to be fought out with our “last blood”. Other than that it will destroy all of us. Greed is not a nice thing or a noble thing that we must “celebrate” in our culture at all. It is a selfish desire for more than one needs or deserves. This started with Satan the devil way back in the Garden of Eden, where he desired God’s rightful authority to rule over his creation which was humankind.
Psychologists are saying that greed stems from a basic fear of life. It is driven by a fundamental sense of deprivation, a need for something that is lacking or unavailable. When this feeling of lack is particularly strong, a person can become utterly fixated on seeking what they “need”, always trying to get hold of the one thing that will finally eliminate the deep-rooted feeling of not having enough. That one thing could be money, power, sex, food, attention, knowledge etc.
Greed sometimes has to do with wanting lots of material wealth or money. It does not always only relate to money. For example, any time someone wants more than their fair share or has a strong desire to amass something, especially at the expense of others or if there is only so much to go around, this can be considered as greed, for example those at work who take credit for the hard work of others and who take a larger share of the bonus money or prize for sales, even if they didn’t actually do anything to earn it. An employee who takes lavish vacations at the expense of his employer by claiming that the vacations are business trips, even when they really aren’t. A person who signs up for government benefits like food that he or she doesn’t deserve and didn’t earn and who then sells the food to get cash. A person who refuses to pay his or her taxes that are required by law because he or she wants to keep more of the money earned for himself or herself, despite the cost to society as a whole. These are all examples of greedy and selfish behavior.
Today, it appears there are so many people in our communities who continue to demonstrate this selfish spirit of desiring something that does not belong to them but they selfishly and greedily take it anyway. I believe that greed has a major part to play as far as crime is concerned in our society today. Those “fellows” who commit robbery, they actually commit it for their own selfish gain. Those who kill others or rob or cause harm to others, such people don’t think about the negative effect they bring to the person’s family, spouse, or feelings. Murderers just think about what they want, and that is for me selfish and greed. After individuals have worked so hard in their life time and acquire their wealth, someone then who has not toiled at all comes along and steals it because of greed and selfishness.
The Methodist Church as part of our social outreach to the poor and the needy in our community, we opened a thrift shop with the intention of creating jobs for some of our unemployed members and also to help the needy and the poor in our community. It is unfortunate, that some greedy and selfish ‘fellows” broke into the shop twice to take away with our belongings. I am saying this to stress the point that those perpetrators did it out of selfishness and greed to make others suffer.
The book of Jeremiah 6:13 reads, “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely”. This text is very important to examine alongside with our attitude towards our communities today. In this text, it is clear that God was rebuking the Israelites for their moral and spiritual degradation. The text paints a picture of Israel’s problem of greed which was very widespread, affecting everyone, from the least to the greatest. Even the prophets and priests, who were supposedly men of integrity, were dealing falsely because of greed and selfishness for material gain. Israel had rejected the word of the Lord. As a result, the people did not have true wisdom. Their lives were filled with ungodly pursuits, and everyone was greedy for gain and dealing deceitfully with one another. Because of their moral corruption and rejection of God, it was inevitable that God’s judgement came upon them. Likewise, when we are not right with God and long for things not in God’s will for us, we are inviting His judgement upon ourselves.
The seriousness of this problem of greed and covetousness is reflected in God’s specific prohibition of it in one of the Ten Commandments, as recorded in Exodus 20:17 which read. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” This text clearly debars us from coveting anything that belongs to another person, whether it is his house, wife, servants, donkey or ox. These things do not rightly belong to us and we should therefore not long for them. If we long to have what is not appropriate for us in the eyes of the Lord, we are covetous. If we look further, we will see that greed and covetousness are the major reason why people violate most of the Ten Commandments, for example, “You shall not murder” (v. 13). Very often, people commit murder because of greed and covetousness. This, in fact, is mentioned in verse 17: “You shall not covet…your neighbor’s wife”. In the eyes of the Lord, it is wrong for us to seek to have as our own that which belongs to another.
I am of the view, that longing to become rich quickly or to have more money and material possessions is a primary reason for many acts of crime being committed daily in our communities. The issue of money is also the cause of many conflicts and quarrels. Friends, relatives and even family members become enemies because of it. Many people worry about money or the perceived lack of it. They think that material wealth is the key to happiness and consider it a measurement of success in life. Not being contented with what they have, they lose sleep over how to acquire more. In the midst of their pursuit, instead of feeling a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment, many are often miserable and frustrated. Money may be important but we are all aware that there are some things it can’t buy. For examples there is a saying that: money can buy medicine, but not health. Money can buy a house, but not a home. Money can buy companionship, but not friends. Money can buy entertainment, but not happiness. Money can buy food, but not an appetite. Money can buy a bed, but not sleep. Money can buy a crucifix, but not a Saviour. Money can buy the good life, but not eternal life.
This confirms the African proverb, precisely Ghanaian, which says “money is not the medicine against death”. I find this proverb quiet interesting. Many people in our society today desire to become rich overnight and are preoccupied with making money and acquiring material wealth. For many, this seems to be the most important issue in life. They believe that when they make more money that is their license to do anything and go anywhere. Remember, you may acquire all the monies in this country in a dubious way but one day you will live it behind and you will face God for judgement.
So you see, the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). The love of money is the basic reason why so many people in our communities are addicted to gambling. It is not uncommon for those who lose huge sums of money through gambling to end up losing everything. Such failures not only harm our life and walk with God but they can also destroy precious relationships among family members and friends and those of spouses. Our loved ones may also end up destitute through greediness.
Let us remember that greed can make honest men and women murderers. The good book warns us in 1Timothy 6:6-8 “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.”
The book of James 4:1-2 raises a question “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it because there is a whole army of evil desires within you? You want what you don’t have, so you kill to get it. You long for what others have, and can’t afford it, so you start a fight to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it.” I find this text very instructive. Greed is self-destructive. Sometimes, those who rob, and steal from others, they might think nobody will see them. It is true sometimes the police may not see, nobody will see you, even CCTV cameras will not pick you up. But remember, there are “big eyes” somewhere that see it all. Proverbs 1:18-19, reads, “But they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners.” Hebrew 9:27 also says “it is appointed unto humankind to die once, after that there is judgement…”
As young people in our country, we salute you for your hard work to develop our country, I encourage you never to try to invest in the world that is temporary rather invest in something with eternal dividends. 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” Don’t lose your salvation for something as worthless as money. You can’t take your wealth with you. It’s in the Bible, 1 Timothy 6:7, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”
Paul says, in Philippians 2:3-7: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Young people, focus on Christ. Surrender your lives before Him. Stop comparing yourself to others. Give thanks for what you do have. Share what you have to help others. When that is done, you become content in life and greed and selfishness will not entice you. God bless our Nation.