What My Toothbrush Taught Me About the Subtlety of Greed

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I bought a new toothbrush. (Actually, it was a Father’s Day gift.)  I know that’s not exactly breaking news, but my new toothbrush taught me an important lesson.

The toothbrush isn’t any ordinary or old fashioned brush.  This is one of those V-6 horse power turbo toothbrushes.

A Sonicare.

To be honest, this was the first time I ever had to read the instructions before using a toothbrush.  But, in the instructions I was informed that over the first 12 uses the brush would slowly become more and more powerful.


When people buy the brush, if they used it on full power at first, it was too much vibration for them. 

Therefore, Sonicare decided to slowly increase the power so that I’d be unaware of the subtle changes.

The lesson?

We tend to be oblivious to subtle changes.

The only way we’ll catch subtle changes is by being on guard.

Jesus found it important that we be on guard.  He are some of the things he wanted us to guard against:

    “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6 NIV)

    “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. (Mark 13:9 NIV)

    Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. (Mark 13:33 NIV)

    Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NIV)

We ought, therefore, to be on guard.

We are to be attentive.  To be aware in the presence of certain things, including leaders who teach false doctrine,  the Second Coming of Jesus, and greed.

Which of these areas do you think we’ll focus on today?


Here’s a really good definition of greed:

Greed is the desire to have more, to get one’s hands on whatever one can, to acquire without reference to one’s own specific needs or the situation of others.

Quoted from: Nolland, J. (2002). Vol. 35B: Word Biblical Commentary : Luke 9:21-18:34. Word Biblical Commentary (685). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

That’s what the man did in the parable Jesus told after this warning in Luke 12:15.  He kept collecting.  Kept consuming.  Kept building. Without any reference to the needs of others or even his own needs.

So what are we guarding ourselves against?

It seems to me that the temptation is that one might slowly come to believe that the sum of their life (their net worth) might consist of the total number of possessions they own.  As a result, one may keep buying and buying and buying without any end in site.

What a waste of what we’ve been entrusted with!

What does it mean to be on guard?

To take a defensive position.  To direct your resources to being attentive to any subtle dangers.  To be aware of your surroundings.

To make a distinct effort to keep oneself from doing something.

Quoted from: Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996, c1989). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (1:164). New York: United Bible societies.

Ohh. I like- “to make a distinct effort.”

So let me ask you. What distinct or intentional things are you doing to make sure that you’re not falling pray to the false teaching that your life consists of the abundance of your possessions?

5 Quick Tips for Guarding Oneself Against the Lure of Greed

  1. Remind yourself every day that the cultural understanding and definition of wealth is vastly different than the biblical one.
  2. Instead of filling yourself with the wisdom of man, take time daily to listen to the Wisdom of God.  The church should be a place where we hear the Wisdom of God.  The Bible is the Word of God.
  3. Be attentive to motivations.  When you buy something, question your motives to be sure they are not purely based on human greed.
  4. Go to a developing nation.  Sometimes a little shock to your sensibilities can help you get on the right track.
  5. Find a mentor or like-minded Christian and hold each other accountable.  Help each other spot those subtle changes.

What do you do to guard yourself against equating self worth with net worth?  How do you avoid the lure of wealth?


  1. says

    I really like your 5 tips for guarding against greed, Craig. To answer your questions at the end, I’d say I have to really struggle to remind myself that my self worth is not related to my net worth or income. The way I do it is to remember that my value comes from who I am in Christ – a child of God bought at a very high price. Nothing about my situation can change or control that.

    I also use #3 a lot – I try to question my motives often to make sure I’m not slipping into the cultural norm with how I look at money. And visiting Haiti last year really opened my eyes a lot, too.

    Thanks for the post. Like I said before, I’m really looking forward to this new direction! :)

    • says

      In this culture there is so much pressure to identify your worth with what you own, make, and can buy. Finding our identity in Christ is truly liberating. Thanks for helping us recognize that.
      My wife and I often help hold each other accountable and analyze (over analyze?) our purchases. It helps us avoid useless junk spending.

  2. says

    The tips are wonderful and are even more helpful when applied together as a collective way of life.

    Regarding motives, we have to be really careful in self-reflection. I don’t know how many times I’ve said and heard, “I want to apply good financial principles so I can give more.”
    The heart is deceitfully wicked! I can rationalize and dress up so many things.

    Do I think God needs my money? Does it really take money to accomplish his purposes in my life? Why do I like the things I like? Why do I make the decisions I make? Who can free us from the Western materialistic, consumeristic mindset that has made it down into our DNA?

    Craig, you have been blessed to have spent so much time in the environment you are in. So many of us need significant unwiring / rewiring in Jesus just to start to think clearly about these issues. Lord, help me to follow you through the eye of the needle.

    • says

      We do truly need ‘unwiring/rewiring in Jesus’. Our need is not to find new teachings, but to look at the old teachings with fresh eyes and a pure perspective.

      You questions really help move us towards analyzing our true motives. Thanks for the comment.

  3. says

    One tiny correction: our net worth usually isn’t calculated by how many things we own, but by how much money we have in assets. Sure, things like paintings and houses add to our net worth. But a giant HDTV usually detracts from that bottom line instead of adding to it.

    • says

      You net worth is simply assets – liabilities. That would include all assets (houses, cars, paintings.) Technically it could include things like TVs, clothes, etc., but usually only also. But most people don’t include those on their balance sheet, unless there is an associated liability?

  4. GayleRn says

    Maybe I am dense or maybe it is , I suspect, a much larger topic than you wanted to tackle today, but what is the Biblical definition of wealth? And is its polar opposite poverty?

    • says

      Yes, so many topics and so little time. I usually chose to write about topics I find pressing in my life and pray that they are applicable to others beyond myself. In the process we will need to explore the biblical definition of wealth. Thanks.

  5. says

    Great tips. It is easy for greed to seep in subtlety. We definitely have to keep asking God to convict us in our financial decisions. We don’t want to become slaves to our money nor have it become out idol!

    • says

      I agree when you say we need to ‘keep asking God’. Sometimes we get to a point where we think we know what God is going to say that we forget to ask. If we don’t ask our hearts will slowly become hard and we’ll lose our spiritual hearing.

  6. says

    Great points Craig. Isn’t that similar to boiling a frog? Put the frog in boiling water and he’ll jump right out. Put him in cold water and gradually heat to boiling, and he won’t notice until it’s too late. It’s easy to get desensitized to your surroundings.

    • says

      I thought about using the frog illustration, but honestly I couldn’t remember if it was a frog or a crab so I skipped it and made up my own parallel illustration. :).

          • XJ says

            The myth is that a frog will sit in water that slowly gets hot until it boils, and it won’t notice, and stay there til it boils to death. That’s just an old wives tale, and is not true in any way. The frog WILL notice, and jump out when the water gets uncomfortably hot. The Lord did give His animals brains, which people often tend to forget. :)

          • says

            All I can say is that I’m glad I used the toothbrush illustration because obviously if I talked about the frog or crab or whatever then people may have been distracted by the illustration.
            Thanks for the clarification. To be honest I’ve never tried to boil a frog and I don’t plan to.

  7. says

    You offer some really great advice for standing guard against greed. Unfortunately, we live in a culture of consumerism and temptations are everywhere. It can be easy to fall into the trap of buying material items to showcase our “wealth.” By staying vigilant, we can avoid falling into that trap. It’s important to stay aware of what is truly important. If I can spend less on frivolous items and instead focus my energies on contributing to the community and saving so that I can retire early and spend more time with my family, then that sounds like a better idea. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. says


    It’s so good that you can learn something from the tiny thing in our daily life.And,yes,we need to learn control our own greed and let us live more happily and simply,right?

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