Greed and avarice are universal human weaknesses that are extensively explored in biblical teachings. The Bible provides many examples of greed and its consequences, serving as moral lessons. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Several prominent biblical figures like Judas Iscariot, King Ahab and Jezebel, Ananias and Sapphira, the rich fool, and the rich man and Lazarus showed greed in different ways.
In this approximately 3000 word article, we will do an in-depth analysis of various biblical characters who demonstrated greed in their words or actions. We will examine their stories, look at how their greed hurt themselves and others, and what we can learn from them today.
Judas Iscariot’s Betrayal of Jesus for Money
Judas’ Role as a Disciple and His Greed
As one of the 12 disciples, Judas Iscariot was responsible for the money bag and distributing funds to Jesus and his followers (John 12:6). However, Judas seemed to have a greed for money. When a woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, Judas objected and said it could have been sold and money given to the poor.
But the gospel writer noted, “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).
Judas’ Betrayal of Jesus
Just before the Passover feast, Judas went to the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16). This was the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32), showing how Judas valued Jesus very poorly.
Judas looked for an opportunity to hand Jesus over when no crowd was present (Luke 22:6). His betrayal fulfilled Scripture, but that did not remove his accountability.
Consequences of Judas’ Actions
Although Judas got his silver, his story ended tragically. Overcome with remorse, he tried to return the money and admitted, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). But the leaders were indifferent. Judas threw the silver into the temple and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5).
Meanwhile, Jesus was crucified and died as an innocent sacrifice for sins.
The other disciples saw Judas’ demise as the fulfillment of Scripture (Acts 1:16-20). His story is a sober reminder that the love of money can lead people down a harmful path (1 Timothy 6:10). Though Jesus gave His life to redeem sinners, people still have a choice to make.
King Ahab’s Seizure of Naboth’s Vineyard
Ahab’s Covetousness of Naboth’s Vineyard
King Ahab was the seventh king of Israel who ruled the northern kingdom during the time of the divided monarchy. Though he was an able administrator, Ahab was an evil king who led the people into idolatrous worship of Baal. One of his most greedy acts was his seizure of Naboth’s vineyard.
Naboth owned a vineyard in Jezreel next to King Ahab’s palace. This was considered prime real estate. Ahab approached Naboth and asked to buy the vineyard from him so he could turn it into a vegetable garden. But Naboth refused, as the land was his ancestral property according to Israelite law.
Ahab was so upset by Naboth’s refusal that he became depressed and sullen.
Ahab’s desire for Naboth’s vineyard was driven by greed and covetousness. As king, he had wealth and power but was not content. He wrongly wanted to take what rightfully belonged to Naboth. His attitude displeased God, who had commanded, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).
Jezebel’s Plot to Seize the Vineyard
When Ahab’s wife Jezebel saw that he was sullen over not getting the vineyard, she took matters into her own hands. She devised an evil plot to frame Naboth and have him killed. Jezebel falsely accused Naboth of cursing both God and the king.
Without a trial or witnesses, Naboth was hastily stoned to death.
After Naboth was killed, the conniving Jezebel told Ahab to take possession of the vineyard he had coveted. So Ahab claimed the land for himself. But the Lord was displeased that an innocent man was murdered for another man’s gain.
Through the prophets Elijah and Micaiah, the Lord pronounced severe judgment on both Ahab and Jezebel for this great wickedness.
Judgment on Ahab and Jezebel
Because Ahab had seized Naboth’s vineyard in an unlawful and unjust way, the Lord decreed disaster on his house. God said Ahab’s blood would be licked up by dogs in the same place where Naboth was killed (1 Kings 21:19).
Several years later, Ahab was struck by a random arrow while fighting against the Arameans. He bled to death in his chariot and dogs licked up the blood, fulfilling God’s word.
The Lord also pronounced judgment on the wicked Jezebel. She was eventually thrown down from a window, trampled by horses, and eaten by dogs – a gruesome death for the woman who had framed Naboth (2 Kings 9:30-37). The unlawful seizure of Naboth’s vineyard cost Ahab and Jezebel their lives.
The story provides a sobering lesson about the dangers of greed, covetousness, and abuse of power. Even kings and queens cannot escape the consequences of their evil actions. We must be content with what God has given us and not envy or take what rightfully belongs to others.
Ananias and Sapphira’s Deception
Vowing to Donate Proceeds from Land Sale
Ananias and his wife Sapphira were members of the early Christian church in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection. They owned a piece of property that they sold,
This vow of charitable donation was voluntary, but they were greedy and deceitful about how much they actually gave.
Lying About Amount Donated
Though they pledged to donate the full amount, Ananias and Sapphira secretly held back some of the money from the sale. But they lied and claimed they were giving the entire amount to make themselves look generous (Acts 5:1-2).
Their outward deception revealed an inner greed and desire for men’s praise.
When Ananias presented his donation to Peter, lying about the full amount, God judged him on the spot and he fell down dead (Acts 5:3-6). Several hours later, his wife Sapphira came in, unaware of what had happened. She also lied to Peter about the full amount they had pledged to give.
So God judged her as well and she immediately fell down dead.
Judgment for Greed and Deception
This severe judgment shocked the early church,
This story reminds us that God sees beyond outward actions into our hearts. Hypocrisy and deception for greed’s sake have no place among God’s people. The early church was characterized by sacrificial generosity, like Barnabas who sold land and gave the full proceeds to meet needs (Acts 4:36-37).
Ananias and Sapphira’s deception revealed their true greedy motives.
|Ananias and Sapphira
|Vowed to donate full amount, but lied and held back secretly due to greed
|Truly donated full amount, not compelled to but generously
|Judged by God immediately with death
|Commended by apostles for sincere generosity
This sobering story calls us to examine our own motives in giving and serving. Are we greedy for men’s praise? Do we hypocritically pretend generosity while holding back? May God impart true generosity to us. As Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
The Rich Fool’s Selfishness
The Farmer’s Prosperity and Self-Indulgence
Jesus tells the parable of a rich man whose fields produced abundantly (Luke 12:16-21). Overwhelmed with his prosperity, the man determined to tear down his barns and build larger ones to store all his grain and goods. Then he planned to eat, drink and be merry.
This displays the man’s selfishness and self-indulgence. He thought only of benefitting himself, storing up possessions for his own pleasure and comfort without a thought for helping others or thanking God.
God’s Rebuke of His Selfishness
God calls the rich man a “fool” and declares that his life will be demanded of him that very night. All the man’s possessions will do him no good when he dies. This reveals the folly of living only for oneself without considering one’s eternal future.
Amassing wealth and possessions should not be the supreme goal in life. The most important things are our relationship with God and our spiritual well-being (Matthew 6:19-21).
Lessons on Materialism vs. Richness Toward God
This parable warns against materialism, greed and living only for the moment. Instead of selfish gain, Jesus taught that we should be “rich toward God” by generously sharing possessions, wisely investing in the eternal kingdom and trusting God rather than riches (Luke 12:22-34; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).
Wise planning is good, but we must realize life is fleeting and seek first God’s kingdom (James 4:13-15). As Dallas Willard said, “The things we own end up owning us.” Rather than possessing us, our possessions should be generously utilized for God’s glory.
The Rich Man and Lazarus
Contrast Between Rich Man and Poor Beggar
In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells a story contrasting the lives and afterlives of a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. The rich man lived in luxury, dressing in fine purple linen and feasting extravagantly every day.
Meanwhile, Lazarus was destitute and covered in sores, longing to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. This story paints a stark picture of economic and social inequality.
While the rich man had everything he could want in life, Lazarus suffered in abject poverty, unable even to care for his medical needs. The rich man was self-absorbed in his wealth and pleasures, ignoring the beggar languishing right outside his gate.
He felt no compassion or responsibility to help Lazarus, despite having ample means to do so. This indifference speaks to a spiritual poverty and lack of love, despite material riches.
Afterlife Reversal of Fortunes
After death, there is a dramatic reversal of fortunes. Lazarus is carried by angels to a place of comfort with Abraham, while the heartless rich man ends up in Hades, eternally tormented in fire. Though he had enjoyed a life of ease, he is now in anguish, pleading for mercy which is denied him.
Meanwhile, Lazarus’ faithful endurance through suffering is rewarded with eternal peace.
Jesus teaches that wealth does not determine heaven or hell – it is how one uses their resources that matters. Those who hoard riches for themselves while ignoring others’ needs face divine judgment. But the poor in spirit who trust God are exalted.
This upending of earthly circumstances shows God’s justice and care for the downtrodden.
Warning Against Love of Money
This parable issues a strong warning against loving money above all else. The rich man’s greed and self-indulgence blinded him to the needs around him and cut him off from caring relationships. His obsession with wealth kept him from laying up eternal treasures by generously serving others.
Lazarus’ quiet faith and humility, despite his desperate poverty, placed him in good standing with God. Jesus calls his followers to reject greed, avoid worshipping wealth, and freely share with those in need. While earthly riches are temporary, how we treat others has eternal significance.
By warning against covetousness, this parable calls us to live with open hearts and hands.
Greed is a dangerous temptation that can lead people to sin greatly, as evidenced by several biblical characters. By examining their stories closely, we can understand how greed takes root and corrupts people’s values.
The Bible warns us not to chase after money and possessions, but to pursue righteousness, godliness, and generosity instead. As Christ taught, one’s life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. May we heed these biblical lessons and avoid greed in our lives today.