10 Key Bible Verses on Greed

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

1. 1 Timothy 6:6–10

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. Read More

An eternal perspective (v. 7) helps believers to avoid the allure of greed, with the result that they are content with what God has given them, even if it consists of only food and clothing.

What is condemned here is the desire to be rich, not material things per se when rightly used for the glory of God. The desire to be rich leads one to fall into temptation. This in turn results in the love of money, which Paul identifies as a root of all kinds of evils (v. 10). The connection between false teaching and the desire to be rich has been a problem from the church’s very beginning. wandered away from the faith. The warning is not simply that “love of money” is harmful but that this has led some to deny the faith, showing themselves to be unbelievers (cf. 1:19).

2. Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Read More

The antidote to love of money is contentment, which comes from trusting in God’s promised provision (see Deut. 31:6, 8; also Josh. 1:5). The citation from Ps. 118:6 applies the idea of trusting in God for more than just financial needs (esp. in light of persecution, Heb. 13:3).

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3. Luke 12:13–21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Read More

tell my brother to divide. Because of Jesus’ teaching on covetousness, which immediately follows this request, this man is probably speaking from personal greed. who made me a judge … ? Though Jesus was Lord of the entire universe, he was careful not to become involved in matters that did not directly pertain to his earthly work and ministry, and he expected people to work out such things on their own. life does not consist in … abundance. Cf. 9:24–25; 12:22–34.

Fool! Ironically, the man who took such great care to prepare for his own (earthly) needs turns out to be a fool. Instead of fulfilling his moral responsibility to care for the needs of others, he is rebuked for laying up treasure for himself and for not being rich toward God. Though this verse does not prohibit wealth, Jesus clearly warns his hearers concerning the dangerous eternal implications of wealth, with its seductive tendency toward complacency, self-sufficiency, and covetousness. Though the rich fool anticipates years of ease—a time to eat, drink, be merry—instead an eternal destiny apart from God awaits him. As Jesus’ condemning words confirm, “This night your soul is required of you.”

4. Proverbs 11:24

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Read More

The particular actions in focus are the way a person relates to provisions and people (vv. 24–26, 28). The benefit of the generous life of the righteous for themselves and for others is represented throughout the section in several agricultural images: waters/watered (v. 25), flourish like a green leaf (v. 28), fruit (v. 30), and tree of life (v. 30). These images represent a fuller illustration of the statement in v. 18b: “one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.” Because there is a God who blesses generosity and withholds blessing from the greedy, this paradoxical proverb makes perfect sense.

5. Ecclesiastes 5:10–13

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt. Read More

Greed vs. Contentment. The Preacher observes the destructive nature of greed and concludes that contentment is a key characteristic of the godly life in this world (cf. Phil. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:6, 8; Heb. 13:5).

Riches were kept … to his hurt, i.e., the owner endured hardship and sacrifice in order to acquire his wealth but was never able to enjoy it, as it was lost in a bad venture, so that he neither enjoyed his riches nor did anything worthwhile with them. To make matters worse, he had a family to provide for.

6. James 5:1–3

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Read More

weep and howl. Prophetic language for those under indictment by God when the day of the Lord arrives (e.g., Isa. 13:6; 15:3; Hos. 7:14; Amos 8:3). miseries that are coming. Referring to final judgment, rather than the miseries of this life.

Riches, garments, and gold sum up the sumptuous, materialistic lifestyle of these landowners. These things will not only be lost forever but will be evidence at their final trial before God and will feed the very flames of the lake of fire, where they will spend eternity (Rev. 20:11–15).

7. 1 Corinthians 5:11

​​But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. Read More

not to associate. See 2 Thess. 3:6, 14. One purpose here, as in 2 Thessalonians, is redemptive with respect to the person committing the sin (1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Thess. 3:14–15). But another purpose is to avoid giving the appearance of approving sinful conduct, lest reproach be brought on the church and the gospel.

8. 1 Timothy 6:17–19

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. Read More

Charge to the Rich. The charge directly to rich believers may seem unexpected in this place. However, it provides a corrective to the wrong view of wealth seen in the false teachers (see notes on vv. 2b–10). Furthermore, the downplaying of riches by stressing that they are merely for “this present age” appropriately follows the moving description of appearing before God on the final day (vv. 15–16). The call for the wealthy to use their wealth to prepare for the future either means that how they use their wealth demonstrates whether they are saved, or that they should seek for greater reward in heaven, or both.

rich in good works. The rich, who may not need to work any longer to earn a living, have many opportunities to spend their workdays doing “good works” for others and building up the church.

9. Proverbs 1:17–19

For in vain is a net spread
in the sight of any bird,
but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
they set an ambush for their own lives.
Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors. Read More

These verses conclude the first appeal by contrasting the sensible actions of a bird with the foolish actions of those who seek unjust gain. A bird that sees a fowler spreading a net will flee the danger to its life rather than take the bait. However, those who seek to trap the innocent do not recognize that though they may gain the desired prize (goods and plunder, v. 13) they foolishly overlook the full consequences of their actions: in setting the trap, they ultimately set an ambush for their own lives (v. 18). Unlike the sensible flying away of the bird, they take plunder, further forming their character on their way to ultimate peril. Their own words highlight their blindness. In v. 12 the sinners refer to capturing the innocent in ambush by saying, “like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit,” comparing their actions to the physical effects of death. However, when v. 19 speaks of the result of the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain (see note on v. 13)—that it takes away the life of its possessors—it is not saying simply that their actions will bring about their own death (though they may). Rather it says that such actions lead to the ultimate end of the way of the wicked, an even more profound loss of “life,” with all that that involves (see also 22:22–23).

10. 1 Corinthians 6:9–11

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Read More

Paul’s use of the word unrighteous (Gk. adikos again; see note on vv. 7–8) implies that those whose behavior is indistinguishable from the unbelieving world may not be among the “saints” (v. 1) at all. See also 2 Cor. 13:5.

washed. This refers to the spiritual cleansing from the guilt and dominating power of sin that occurs at regeneration (see Titus 3:5) and that is symbolized in the “washing” of baptism (Acts 22:16). sanctified. This is a similar concept, in this instance meaning that an initial break with the love of sin, and with the power and practice of sin, occurs at regeneration (see Acts 20:32; Rom. 6:11; 2 Cor. 5:17). However, in another sense “sanctification” is also an ongoing process in the Christian life (Rom. 6:19; Phil. 3:13–14; Heb. 12:1, 14; see also note on 1 Cor. 1:2). justified. The Greek term is dikaioō and is the positive counterpart to the terms “unrighteous,” “suffer wrong,” and “wrong” in 6:1, 7–8, and 9 (see notes on those verses). Here Paul uses dikaioō not in its ethical sense (“be seen to be righteous”) but in its judicial sense (“declare righteous”). God has already declared the Corinthian Christians to be “righteous” (see Rom. 5:1; 8:1, 33). God was able to do this because the “righteousness” that belongs to Christ, due to his perfect life, has become “our … righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30; see also 2 Cor. 5:21). Paul’s point in 1 Cor. 6:1–11 is that the Corinthians need to live in a way that is consistent with this verdict and status.

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