Greed is just another word for fear

Greed is just another word for fear February 4, 2015

Here’s another post in an occasional series about blue-collar work and meaning that we’re running here on MISSION:WORK, this one from a former HVAC contractor. Read the first three posts here: “Does blue-collar work have any meaning?” , “Which is a higher calling: building churches or building fences?”, and “The craftsman and her environment.”


By Vince Otten

It’s really easy to cheat and get greedy in the HVAC service business—and get away with it.

You call me up in a panic. “My air conditioner’s down, and my spouse is home with our new baby in this heat! Can you come right over? We’ll pay you on the spot!”electrician-499799_640

So I drop everything and come over. It’s a quiet, albeit hot neighborhood you live in. When I take your A/C apart, I quickly see a loose wire. As soon as I reconnect it, everything starts cooling.

I quickly disconnect the wire again.

I glance around. Yes, it really is quiet. Nobody’s outside, nobody’s watching. I bang on the metal for a while, walk back-and-forth from my truck, look around…

About half-an-hour later I reconnect the wires again, close everything up, and walk to the front door.

“You guys did the right thing calling me,” I explain. “If you’d let this go for another 24 hours, the compressor would be gone. Then you’re talking $1,500—$2,000. I’m glad I caught it. Only the condenser fan motor, capacitor, and contactor. Not even a quarter of the cost: only $300, and everything’s running good again.”

You hand over the check with a smile and a thank-you for my quick service. Nobody’s wiser, everybody’s happy, right? As I walk to the van, I count off all the reasons why this is a victimless crime. I made things healthy and happy for a newborn. Loose wiring can wreck a compressor. You got what you wanted—a working air conditioner. I have a family to take care of.

Cheating is what deadbeats do to their wives. Greed is what politicians weave into their legislation. What I did was provide a service.

Thank God, before the first time I was tempted to test-run this scenario, these thoughts passed through my mind:
“Greed is just another word for fear. You’ve spent most of your life in fear. How much longer do you want that kind of slavery?”

I thought some more. Greed is fear: fear that I won’t make enough money tomorrow, so I’d better get as much as I can today. And I hate fear.

What to do instead? Trust God. He told me to do that. He told me, “Don’t be afraid for tomorrow. Don’t waste time asking, ‘What are we going to eat? What are we going to wear?’ He dresses simple flowers! Don’t you think He can clothe you?” (Matthew 6:31)

Does trusting God work better than cheating? I don’t know—yet. They say, “Cheaters never prosper,” but from what I see around me, they do often enough.

jesus-8283_640Does trusting God make me feel better? Sometimes. When I’ve given in to the temptation to cheat, I’ve felt worse. But I can’t say that the difference between the two sensations is strong enough to keep me choosing to trust rather than to cheat.

But there’s something about the God-who-can-be-trusted that draws me even more than the greed-that-is-really-just-fear repels me. When I get a glimpse of Jesus, who trusted His Father constantly at all costs, something flips inside me. I want to see more of Him, and I dread the possibility that fear could anesthetize my senses so that I see Him no more.

This isn’t the sum of what it means to me to be a “Christian businessman.” But maybe it’s a first step.

Vince Otten had his first personal run-in with Jesus Christ about 45 years ago. He’s enjoyed the company of other Christians in such diverse circles as Independent Charismatic, Baptist and Anglican churches since.  “Vince Otten Services Cooling & Heating” operated in Southwestern Ontario from 1997 to 2010.

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