God has gifted us and called us to live a wild life unchained by fear and greed, but how do we escape, if we’ve been caught by those tempting illusions of security?
“Build an eight-foot-long wooden fence in the forest,” wrote Seth Godin in his book The Icarus Deception.
“Lay out some bait and then go away for a week. The fox is too crafty to be caught in a simple trap, and he will smell you and avoid the fence for days. But eventually, he’ll come and eat the bait.
“At the end of the week, build a second length of fence at a right angle to the first. Leave more bait. The fox will avoid the fence again for a few days, then take the bait.
“At the end of the second week, build a third wall and a gate. Leave more bait. When you come back at the end of a month, the fox will be happily prancing in his safe enclosure, and all you will have to do is close the gate. The fox will be trapped.
“This, of course, is what happened to us. The industrial age built the trap we’re mired in, but it didn’t build the trap all at once; that took centuries to perfect. And we were seduced. Seduced by the bait of decent pay and plenty of prizes. Seduced by the apparent security of the enclosure. And once the gate was shut, we were kept in by the threat of shame, the amplification of risk, and society’s reliance on more and shiner prizes.
“For us, though, the situation is even more poignant than it is for the fox. As the industrial age has faded away and been replaced by the connection economy — the wide-open reality of our new economic revolution — the fence has been dismantled. It’s gone.
“But most of us have no idea that we’re no longer fenced in. We’ve been so thoroughly brainwashed and intimidated and socialized that we stay huddled together, waiting for instructions, when we have the first, best, and once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something extraordinary instead.”
The Bait Is a Greedy Dream
Like the fox, we are easily lured into seemingly innocent situations by the promises of easy gain or future security. Only once we have dedicated ourselves to this situation, become comfortable, do we discover that we’ve been caught. We can’t leave easily now, and escaping will almost certainly require cleverness and cost us. Maybe we’re not even sure we want to leave anymore because this cage gratifies a degree of entitlement in us or soothes some restless worry of ours.
How does our endless self-concern, self-protection, projections and plans mesh with the apostle John’s orders to the early church, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God continues to live forever” (1 John 2:15-17, NASB).
So much of our society and culture rants ceaselessly, “Make more money! Buy more things! Upgrade what you already have, and always demand the best. Be an ambitious, go-getter, and always watching out for number one.”
When people are comparing career advancements or their new car or how well their stock investments are holding up, it’s hard not to either become quietly anxious or secretly smirk. Around almost every corner are invitations to think about how we can get a leg up over others or explore some new corner in the ‘American dream’ of endless prosperity. Scriptural commands like “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he [God] has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV) get drowned out in the marketing clamor. As we pursue this goal, though, we’re only hurting ourselves in the end.
In his sermon “You Really Do Reap What You Sow”, David Wilkerson said, “Now folks, we're about to reap another kind of harvest, and that's an economic crash because we have become a greedy nation. Wall Street right here is the hotbed of all of this greed. Everybody is trying to get their hands on one big, last killing.
“Let me quote you something I just read in a newspaper by the Federal Reserve Officer. He said, ‘Don't worry about multibillion takeovers now with their 10 to one debt load. ‘ He said, ‘There's too many other unknown forces out there.’ Now folks ‘out there’ has become a term every politician understands. Every economist understand ‘out there’ is a whole unknown thing about our economy. Nobody even knows where it’s going.”
David concluded, “We have been sowing greed, and we're going to reap a harvest. God has warned us, and he's given us many, many opportunities to repent, but there's been no repenting.”
While frugality and planning for the future are both excellent skills and virtues in some cases, they can often mask a voracious desire for more and more, a secret fear that we must provide for ourselves, a wandering eye where everyone else’s fields look greener.
Making a More Generous World
Near the end of The Hobbit, a fabulously wealthy dwarven king lies dying on the battlefield and comments to the main character, the titular hobbit, “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
If greed is such a prevalent force in our society — pushing on us at work, within our social circles, at home, online in articles and social media — how do we counteract it? How do we value the things that have much more lasting value?
David Wilkerson gave an allusion to a famous parable Jesus told and his interpretation of how it helps us in this avaricious age. “Our Lord is the one who the Bible says is traveling to a far country, and after a long time, he's going to return. The ‘talent’ here represents the measure of grace and revelation of Jesus Christ, so one man was given a great revelation of Jesus. He was given 5 talents; another was given 2 talents — not as much revelation, but it was the true revelation of the grace of God — and the other was given a single measure of the grace and revelation of Jesus. He buries his, but what happens?
“God…is trying to tell us that in the last days he's going to have the people who trust him, he's going to have a people who are joyful in him. They know that he's not a hard taskmaster….
“The Lord wants you to come to church with hope. He wants you to have hope about the salvation of your family. He wants you, when you walk the streets, to know that angels walk with you. He wants you to know that he wants you to be absolutely fearless. He wants you to boldly tell everybody you can about Jesus and believe that God is going to give you a harvest though many may reject it. But folks are going to find more and more people are open. People are hungry.”
In a world of glittering, false storefronts, people are longing for something genuine and life-changing. People are searching for security, knowing in their hollow hearts that they were made to have perfect confidence in…something, but they’ve been told that it will be a good salary, career achievements, marriage and children, good friends. The list stretches on impossibly.
People recognize courage and wisdom, which God gives in abundance. They long for a merrier, more generous world. They long for God, though they may not know it. Many of them may even call themselves Christians, but they don’t know this peace.
Maybe ‘they’ are you and me. Maybe we’re haunted by the cage we’ve been caught in, the lies that are proving so hollow, the greed that never finds relief.
What if we opened our hands and trusted our God with exactly where he’s placed us? What if we asked for forgiveness for the greedy grasping that we’ve done that’s harmed others and robbed both them and us of a truer form of Christianity?
What if, when God opens the gate to our cage of greed, we run out into the wild, unsafe and lovely woods where he has gifted us to live and live abundantly, not by our own power but by his provision? What then, dear fellow fox?