An Octopus on Our Hearts
The tentacles that entangle every area of our lives that we don't want to talk about
My wife and I have three categories of text message exchanges.
The first is errand or schedule-related. She’ll send things like, “Can you pick up a 55 gallon drum of hair conditioner at Costco?” Or I’ll text her, “Is there any way we can get out of that social commitment?”
The second category is dog-related. Pictures of our dogs sleeping on her lap while she’s writing. Pictures of dogs I found that need adopting (we already have four, what’s one more?)
For instance, this is Xandy. She’s a six to ten month old shepherd/heeler mix. Her foster says she learns quick and wants nothing more than to please her human. Personally, I’m a sucker for ears with personality. You can find out more about Xandy here!
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The third category is quotes from books or sermons, especially convicting or thought-provoking ones. And here’s the one in our text exchange recently that made me title this post, “The Octopus on Our Hearts”:
“Greed has three facets: love of things, love of fame, and love of pleasure; and these can be attacked directly with frugality, anonymity and moderation.” - Paul Martin
Too often, we associate greed solely with the love of money. But this analysis of greed shows how its tentacles attach and smother our hearts in enveloping ways.
The love of things.
A theological simplification I use often is that, in the universe, there are only two things: God and stuff. When we love things, inherently we want more things and potentially devote ourselves to their worship and protection. When the Bible talks about not having idols, in our modern culture, this is what it’s talking about. And a lot of the time, the love of things is a diagnostic that either God isn’t enough or that we don’t trust Him to provide enough for our wants and needs. Frugality, living at or under our means, and making do with less covers our hearts with a balm that gives greed’s suction cups a difficult time attaching. Which brings us to the second tentacle that fastens to our hearts…
The love of fame.
Yes, we can see this in every aspect of the phenomenon that our younger generation’s number one career aspiration is to be an “influencer.” But we see this in our everyday work-a-day world as well. Picture this: you come up with a good idea at work, suggest implementing it to your boss, he takes it to the board of directors, and they publicly praise him for the idea. How do you feel in this situation? Now, you don’t know if your boss gave you credit to the board or not; that’s not the point. What is it in us that want to be known and elevated for who we are and what we do? Anonymity is the tranquilizer shot into the muscle of the tentacle of fame. The disciples weren’t looking for their own fame or followers, they were pointing people to follow Jesus. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NET),
27 But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, 29 so that no one can boast in his presence.
When you realize that God doesn’t need your fame but greed does, it rewires your heart with a spiritual charge that zaps your ego that constantly needs affirmation to be recognized. Finally, there is…
The love of pleasure.
Most vices fit into this category, for sure. But the sneakiest tentacle of all are “good” pleasures; not sinful in moderation but idolatrous in excess. What are the things that bring you the most pleasure that are “good?” Working out? Absolutely you can take that to a place of excess. What about music? I knew someone that so loved a certain band that they traveled to every tour date in the U.S. to see them perform because they couldn’t match the pleasure they could experience at their concerts. Can you have too many pets? Uh, let’s move on! Moderation not only keeps us from hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure at all costs,) it also keeps our heart muscles strong from the less pleasurable but necessary aspects of life like work, service, and self-sacrifice.
What keeps our hearts continually protected from being smothered by these tentacles of greed? If we first recognize that the love of things, fame, and pleasure choke out God’s good plan for our lives, it drives our desire to pray this request of God in Psalm 51:10 (ESV),
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
When we truly desire this, we will earnestly seek to live more frugally, more anonymously, and more moderately while our hearts are aflame with the Spirit of God. It’s this fire that I greedily covet so I can share it with my neighbors who are suffocating under the weight of a likewise greedy heart; one just like mine that constantly needs renewing by the power of God’s grace.
Now about that dog…