Key Scriptures: 2 Kings 6:24 – 7:20, 1 Timothy 6:6-10, Proverbs 28:25, Luke 12:15, Hebrews 13:5, Proverbs 15:27, Matthew 6:24, Ecclesiastes 5:10, 1 John 2:15-17, Colossians 3:5, Mark 8:36, Proverbs 21:26, Proverbs 11:28, Psalm 119:36, Titus 1:7, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Exodus 20:17, Proverbs 28:20, Matthew 19:21, Philippians 4:11-13, Matthew 13:22, Jeremiah 5:26-29, Galatians 5:19-21, James 3:16
Guiding Question: How does God view greed and envy?
Optional Introductory Activity: Ask students if you gave them $10, how they would spend it. Then ask them if they thought they would be able to spend $100 if you gave it to them. Select a few students to share how they would spend that money. Keep increasing the amount by tenfold each time until you reach a million dollars. Once they have “spent” that imaginary money, pause for a moment as if you are thinking, then start the lesson.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Tell or read students the story found in 2 Kings 6:24-7:20. King Ben-Hadad of Adam wanted to expand his kingdom. Adam was a kingdom that included modern day Syria. Like many rulers though, King Ben-Hadad was not satisfied with the size of his kingdom. He wanted more land and the resources and people it could provide. You could say he, like many kings, became greedy for even more power and money.
Ben-Hadad decided he wanted Samaria, the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He laid siege to it. Siege was a tactic of war used to cut off an enemy from food, water and other essential supplies. This weakened the enemy – even within walled cities – and they often surrendered without fighting to avoid starvation. This particular siege had lasted long enough where people paid five pieces of silver for a pint of dove’s dung and were even eating their own children.
When God intervened and frightened the Arameans away, some lepers happened upon the deserted camp with its food and other supplies. What did they do at first? What did they quickly remember? What did they do next and why? What was the reaction of the people when they heard the news? What happened to the man who had doubted God? What role did greed play in the various parts of the story?
Before we get too far into a discussion of greed and envy, we probably should define the terms. How would you define greed? How would you define envy? Can you give some examples of each? The dictionary defines greed as the intense and selfish desire for something. Envy, on the other hand, is a feeling of discontent or resentful longing aroused by someone else possessing something one desires. Not surprisingly, the Bible has a lot to say about greed and envy. How can greed and envy be problematic for Christians? The world in general?
(For the next part of the lesson record what students learn from the scriptures where they can see it. Then have them work together to find connections and organize the information in some way. Make copies of the resulting chart for them to keep.)
Read the following scriptures. What does each teach us about greed or envy?
- 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Love of money is root of all evil, brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out, be content if you have food and clothes
- Proverbs 28:25. Greedy man stirs up strife (How?)
- Luke 12:15. Fe doesn’t consist of abundance of possessions
- Hebrews 13:5. Be content with what you have
- Proverbs 15:27. Those greedy for unjust gain trouble their household
- Matthew 6:24. Can’t serve both God and money
- Ecclesiastes 5:10. He who likes money is never satisfied
- 1 John 2:15-17. Don’t love the world or anything of the world, if you love the world the love of the Father is not in you
- Colossians 3:5. Covetousness is idolatry
- Mark 8:36. What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul
- Proverbs 21:26. All day long he craves, but righteous gives and doesn’t hold back
- Proverbs 11:28. Whoever trusts in his riches will fail
- Psalm 119:36. Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain
- Titus 1:7. Elders should not be greedy
- 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Hopes not on their riches, do good, be rich in good works, generous, ready to share
- Exodus 20:17. Shall not covet
- Proverbs 28:20. Whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished
- Matthew 19:21. Rich young ruler…sell everything and give to the poor
- Philippians 4:11-13. Content in abundance and need
- Matthew 13:22. Sown in thorns where deceitfulness of riches choke the word
- Jeremiah 5:26-29. Ties deceit to wealth, also condemns not using money to help orphans and the needy
- Galatians 5:19-21. Work of the flesh – envy
- James 3:16. Where envy and selfish ambition exist there will be disorder and every vile practice
Skills Activity: The activities you choose will depend upon your students and how much they are struggling with this topic in their lives. The following activities are some good options to review the main points of the lesson and give students some practical tools to help them rid their lives of greed and envy.
- Have students create a greed/envy toolbox. They can use any creative method they like to record the items in their toolbox, so they can remember to use them as needed. Some ideas they might want to include: list blessings you do have, pray a prayer of thanksgiving that the other person has that blessing and ask for help being content, stay away from triggers of envy and greed like stores, websites, Instagram accounts focused on selling clothes and other items (have students list their triggers), avoid comparing your life to the lives of others, etc.
- Have students create a gratitude journal and start each page with a scripture that reminds them to be grateful for what they have. Encourage them to,list three things at the end of every day.
- Have students plan and execute a service project fro someone less fortunate. Then have them create and execute a second service project with those people that serves someone else less fortunate than both groups participating. (See our website for tips for serving others with empathy rather than sympathy and avoiding causing shame to those being served.)
- Challenge students to use only what they have in a category, without buying anything new for a month. Food and clothing are usually eye opening (can’t repeat outfits may be necessary for clothing). Discuss as time progresses how much of their desire for more is based on boredom or envy rather than true need.
- if students are really struggling, it may be necessary to play a needs versus wants game. Throw out various items and have students identify true needs versus wants. Survival versus excess.
Application Challenge: Review some of the scriptures from the lesson. What is one in area in which you could easily be tempted to become greedy or envious? What are some steps you can take to prevent your enjoyment of things in that area from becoming a toxic desire that is greed or envy?