Jesus Detects Greed and Self-Indulgence in Leaders

Jesus Detects Greed and Self-Indulgence in Leaders

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (Matthew 23:25). 

The magnified sins of leaders 

Jesus told the Pharisees to clean up their act. He said, “Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matthew 23: 26). 

This is a harsh but true message from Jesus to leaders. Jesus told the Pharisees they cannot hide their greed and self-indulgence with their polished exterior. Instead, they needed victory over both these sins. 

While Jesus and others can see a leader’s greed and self-indulgence, the danger is, it may not be obvious to the leader himself or herself. 

Greed and self-indulgence are garden-variety sins of all sinners; we need divine help to see greed and self-indulgence in our thoughts and actions. Further, we need divine help to have victory over them both, every day. 

Leaders and people in authority have added temptations and opportunities to magnify their greed and self-indulgence because of their position; they have a greater need for divine help. 

Greed in action 

Jesus was not the first to note greed among leaders in the Bible. Jeremiah warns that greed is a pervasive problem that afflicted even prophets and priests.  

From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.” (Jeremiah 6:13).  

Remember, prophets and priests were leaders in their days. Ezekiel also saw the hypocrisy that Jesus admonishes.  

My people come to you [Lord], as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain” (Ezekiel 33: 30-31).  

Ezekiel saw greed hiding behind hypocritical words. Note, Ezekiel’s “unjust gain” is a good definition for the object of greed. 

No individual acknowledges his/her own greed because of the bad reputation it has. Therefore, greed tends to hide behind a hypocritical exterior just as Jesus warned. 

The fuel for Self-indulgence 

Greed is not an end in itself. It serves as the fuel for luxury and self-indulgence. Speaking of rich oppressors admonished in the Epistle of James, the author says: “You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” (James 5:5). Self-indulgence is the gratification of excessive unrestrained desires.  

Self-indulgence expresses itself in many ways. Jesus noted one aspect of the self-indulgent conduct of Pharisees, when He said,  

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.” (Matthew 23: 5-7). 

We cannot absolve ourselves of these very same self-indulgent tendencies. We need constant divine help to overcome similar tendencies. Remember, leaders have a magnified temptation and opportunity to be self-indulgent than the average believer. 

The good news is, Jesus, who saw greed and self-indulgence hiding behind the polished exteriors of Pharisees, offers us victory over both. 

Since you are a leader, what would Jesus say about your personal victory over greed and self-indulgence?

Since you are a leader, what would Jesus say about your personal victory over greed and self-indulgence? Where do you need His help?

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Paul Swamidass

Paul Swamidass, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. INTEREST: Leadership training for leaders of Christian organizations. He has published some articles on Christian leadership and contributed to some Christian-leadership training in India in partnership with The Kerusso Institute for Global Leaders

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