I was wondering if you could please instruct me in the biblical/Greek definition of greed, specifically as it appears in 1 Corinthians 5:10-11 and Ephesians 5:3 and 5:5. How would you be able to identify when a disciple was being greedy? -- Sandra

About greed, the normal word is pleonexia, which literally means "grabbing for more." How this is defined will be relative to the culture. We ought to beware of false comparisons. E.g., a Canadian might always appear greedy next to a Bangladeshi. Again, there is no perfect definition of materialism to fit all sizes, or all nations.

Having said this, that doesn't mean relativizing the sin into meaninglessness. ("No one is greedy; it's all relative.") Greed is a reality, and will be judged by God, so we had better come to our own convictions from the Bible about what it is. Churches preach too little about pleonexia, probably because we are affected by the dominant culture, but that doesn't mean it isn't on God's list of major sins. As 1 Corinthians 5:11 says, "But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat."

With this in mind, one book I would like to recommend to you is R. J. Sider's Rich Christians Living in an Age of Hunger. Another, more serious study on the matter of wealth and possessions is Craig Blomberg's Neither Poverty Nor Riches.

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