In 1 Nephi 3:25, we see Laban’s lust for things of this world. He so desires the riches that Nephi and his brothers have that he would kill to obtain it. This greed is not something that besets only those with dispositions such as Laban. Every man, woman, and child is subject to feelings of greed. In the talk, “Greed, Selfishness, and Overindulgence”, given in the April 1999 General Conference, Elder Joe J Christensen said, “Our prosperity brings some real challenges because many are getting rich, more of us are waxing fat, and as a result of greed, selfishness, and overindulgence, we could lose the Spirit and literally kick ourselves out of the Church.” As seen in this quote, one of the results of greed and selfishness is a loss of the Spirit. It is not the money or material things themselves that causes this loss; it is the love of these things. Exodus 20:3 says, “Thou shalt have no other God’s before me.” We can’t let things of this world become a God or have a higher priority than Heavenly Father.
Elder Christensen goes on in the same talk to give four suggestions on dealing with materialism and avoiding greed. The first is to not confuse our wants and needs. So many times in a store you hear a child say, “But mom, I need it”. The child does not need the new action figure; they only want it. As adults we often do the same thing. We convince ourselves that we need a new pair of shoes, or we need the latest cell phone. The basic human needs are food, shelter, and clothing. We must learn to separate our wants from our needs.
The second suggestion given by Elder Christensen is to avoid spoiling our children. As parents, we have the opportunity to shape our children. Much of what we do and teach them at a young age will translate into behavior later in life. If we teach our children that they will have a lot of things, then they will most likely continue in their lives thinking that they should have those things. If we teach them young to give to others instead of always receiving, they will be better equipped to avoid the trap that greed is.
The third suggestion is to avoid debt. I have what has been called, an “all-or-nothing” personality. So, for me Avoiding debt is really important. I fear that if I got into debt, my mindset would shift to, “Oh well, I am already in debt so what would another (insert amount here) matter?” Not only can debt pile up quickly, but it can also take away some of our agency. When we are in debt, we are subject to the demands of the lender. This is not what Heavenly Father envisioned for His children.
The last suggestion Elder Christensen gave was to be generous. In the scriptures is given the example of a poor widow; “And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” She had little, but was willing to give all she had. The Lord does not expect us to sacrifice our needs, but where we can, we must be generous in our giving. These suggestions will help us to avoid greed and by so doing keep the Spirit with us.