Gagging on Fork Casserole
he New England Journal of Medicine published an article about a strange medical case reported by French doctors in 2002. Seems a 62-year-old man entered Cholet General Hospital complaining of severe stomach pain. When doctors operated, they discovered 12 pounds of coins, needles, and necklaces.
Turns out the man had swallowed 350 coins over the course of a decade. Dr. Bruno Francois, one of the attending physicians explained, ?When he was invited to some homes, he liked to steal coins and eat them.? The condition is known as ?pica,? a compulsion to swallow inedible items. A person suffering from pica will swallow just about anything. Sadly, for the patient with the coin fixation, it proved fatal. Twelve days after doctors removed $650 from his belly, he died.1 Dr. Francois went on to tell of how he once treated someone who ate forks.
Can you imagine? Why would anyone be so foolish as to consume coins or feast on forks? And yet how many people today are dying from essentially the same disease? I?m not talking about ?pica? but rather the ailment of greed.
Psychologist Patricia Dalton claims this disease was once confined to the holidays but has become a year-round epidemic. She regularly counsels unhappy people trying to fill the emptiness of their lives by irresponsible spending. Consider her comments: ?Those of us who lived through the '60s seem to have forgotten the warning that everything you buy owns you. To pay for all their junk, people now work so hard that they're ruining their marriages, their families, and their health. No wonder many of us feel ?spiritually empty? as the year winds down.?2
Ahhh, yes; tis the season to be greedy. And this germ knows no boundaries. Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist at Princeton University, in his book, God and Mammon in America, claims there is little difference in the financial behavior of those who are inside the church, as opposed to those who are outside the church. He says that according to surveys, 86 percent of people in America agreed that greed is sin. Interestingly enough, only 16 percent of those inside the church believe that wanting a lot more money is wrong. Furthermore, four-fifths of all people who responded said that they wished that they had a lot more money, which leaves us in a quandary that the vast majority of Christians agree that greed is wrong, and they say, ?I am not greedy; I just want a lot more money.?3
You may remember the cartoon portraying the Christian singer ?ministering? at a piano. The capture reads: ?I?d like to share a song with you that the Lord gave me a year ago?and even though he did give it to me, any reproduction of this song in any form without my written consent will constitute infringement of copyright laws, which grants me the right to sue your pants off. Praise God?.?
Greed can infect us all?especially at this time of year. After all, some of the brightest minds in the world work around the clock trying to convince you of two things: 1. You are not content. 2. Contentment is just one purchase away. Now before you?re bankrupted by the millions of ads (?Try me.? ?Buy me.? ?Use me.? ?Taste me.? ?Drive me.? ?Put me in your hair??) that pollute our world, consider God?s antidote for greed. Marinate your mind on this prescription:
You don?t need six kagillion gigabytes in your Ipod. Be happy with what you got. The apostle Paul reminds us, ?Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty? (Philippians 4:11, 12, The Message).
Relax in the Presence of God
?Sure,? Jesus once said, ?the heathens run around in a tizzy trying to secure more stuff, but why would Christians be frantic?? (see Matthew 6:25-34). Chill! God will take care of you. Hebrews 13:5 says, ?Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ?I will never fail you. I will never forsake you?? (New Living Translation).
Practice Saying, ?You win!?
If you?re ever to squelch greed, you?ve got to become an expert at saying two words: ?You win.? Say it when you check out your sister?s new Porsche. Say it when you admire your neighbors Christmas lights that dwarf your display. Say it when your friends leave on a cruise around the world.
Don?t get sucked into the absurd notion that ?I?d be happy if?.? Nope. Wave the surrender flag and choose not to compete. Proverbs 23:1-3 offers this advice: ?When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive? (New International Version).
You can expand this prescription on your own. Scripture offers several other suggestions on how to squash your appetite for more. I?d share those with you, but my wife is calling me to dinner. So I must go eat ? with my fork. But now I know not to eat my fork.
1. Chicago Sun-Times, 2-19-04, adapted from http://preachingtoday.com/illustrations/article_print.html?id=25647.
2. ?Christmas: The Growing Backlash Against Greed,? The Week, 12-10-04.
3. As quoted by John Ortberg, ?What Jesus Really Taught About Greed? (South Barrington, Illinois: Seeds Tape Ministry, a ministry of Willow Creek Community Church, 1995). R. Wuthnow, God and Mammon in America (New York: The Free Press, 1995).
Karl Haffner is pastor of the Walla Walla College Church of Seventh-day Adventists in College Place, Washington.