Understanding Greed

Think of greed as something more than your needs and wants, when the boundaries between the three become unclear. You fail to recognize when your needs end and your wants begin and where the wants end and greed begins.

1 Timothy 6:10
For the (love of money)/Avarice/Greed/Service to Mammon is a root of all kinds of evil.

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In the process Mammon created the behemoth of evil we now know as Greed, all the way up there with the vilest of deceptions.

Wikipedia tells us that Greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs. It is typically used to label those who seek excessive material wealth, possessions and/or power, although it may apply to the need to feel more excessively moral, social, or otherwise better than someone else.

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Think of greed as something more than your needs and wants, when the boundaries between the three become unclear. You fail to recognize when your needs end and your wants begin and where the wants end and Greed begins.
Most of us have heard of the story where a man on arriving at a tribal chief’s land was well received by the tribe. He was told that he may take all the land he could walk around in a day to himself. This man walks without food or water all through the day exhausting himself in the process and by the time he reaches back to the starting point, after covering a large mass of land, falls to the ground in exhaustion and dies.

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The following things about Greed may thus be inferred.

  • Greed exhausts you.
  • Greed consumes you.
  • Greed is a bottomless pit you can never fill, try as you may.
  • Greed is a characteristic unique to humans.

One may ask, isn’t Greed an extension of an animal’s instinct for survival. Like animals, people are concerned about having enough resources to survive times when those resources are scarce.

Ants (Proverbs 6:6) and squirrels hoard food for the winter and similarly humans hoard wealth as a guard against an uncertain future.

This is not true.

This popular theory was even debunked conclusively by psychologists using a series of experiments called the coin experiments. Besides, animals cooperate.

Greed is characterized by non-cooperation for the common good. Humans understand and possess empathy to realize when their behavior hurts another but still end up ignoring it.

We know that it causes wars, corruption, starvation, deprivation and genocide. It still remains the single largest contributor to deaths. On a personal level, it corrodes your soul but yet we choose to remain indifferent to it. Greed is like the aunt who bad mouths everybody at weddings but we choose to ignore the fact because she is family (a necessary evil?).

 

WHAT CAUSES GREED IN PEOPLE?

Strangely and rather conclusively the cause for an individual’s greed is death or to be more precise, the fear of death!

Psychologists and behavioral scientists around the world widely accept something known as the Terror management theory (TMT). Allow me to explain.

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Knowing the fact that a person would die and is mortal causes a person to create a Self Esteem or the Anxiety buffer. Ugh’s anxiety buffer for the door (death) are his weapons. For people, when they see the door of death, it is the degree to which we conform to our worldview or things that increase our self-esteem.
The prevalent worldview attributes immense amount of importance to Money, Power and materialism. Being Greedy increases these factors among others thereby increasing the person’s self-esteem. Self-esteem softens this fear of mortality as it makes the person feel that he is part of something larger than himself, that he matters and that he would leave a lasting impact.

So it is only natural that a person reminded of his mortality would try to increase his anxiety buffer.
Hey, that doesn’t sound right …So it would seem that Greed is natural!! An obvious reaction to something that is not in my control. Then it should be justifiable and just as you don’t call a short person mean names, you shouldn’t frown upon a greedy person either. It’s not something he can help, or is it?

“Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself. Greed, in all of its forms has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

This speech inspired the 1987 film Wall Street.

Politicians, Capitalists and other people with vested interests love this line of thinking pushing Greed to a whole new institutionalized level.

So, TMT suggests that people tend to need anxiety buffers (Be Greedy) to cope with the terror that is death and its finality. And this is where I reveal the “twist” ending.
People who have had Near death experiences (NDE) and people who suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) tend not to need the anxiety buffers due to different reasons thus eliminating greed altogether. Puzzling?? Let’s go back to Ugh to understand this.

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People with NDE’s lose their fear of death very similar to how Ugh loses his fear of the door when somebody opens it for him. Research shows that people who have had NDE’s were characterized by unselfishness, cooperation towards the common good and were markedly non-material.

The people with PTSD’s lose their entire belief in the social order itself. They stop believing that humans are better than animals hence losing the need to conform to the social order.
Such people however tend to lean towards drugs, suicides and other measures as a means of ending their pain.

 

HOW THE WORD OF GOD IS A SOLUTION TO THIS PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDRUM?

NDE’s help people to lose their fear of death.

  • The Bible talks about death losing its sting.

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:55-57).

In Max Lucado’s words, Death is a tunnel with the other side not known to us. But then came our elder brother Jesus who entered the tunnel first and crossed over. He then waved from the other side letting us know that the tunnel can be crossed and that everything’s going to be alright.

For we know that our old self was crucified (dead) with Christ so the body ruled by sin (Read – Greed/Avarice) is done away with. (Romans 6:6)

  • It deals with the right view to conform with and equips the Ugh with the right tools and things that he would need once he crosses our door.

“Do not store for yourself treasures in heaven where moths and rust destroy, but store for yourself treasures in heaven” (Mathew 6:19)

  • God mocks the one who hoards and says” Fool! This night your soul would be required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? (Luke 12 : 16-21)

And yet we have amongst us false teachers who teach the gospel of greed (Read – Prosperity). Many of whom look to expand their ministries to infinity and beyond while swimming in the bounty they make.

How can it be that the very thing that our carnal flesh desires is what is on offer at God’s altar. (Ref : John Piper) For sure God would have better eternal things on his mind when he calls us.

Vishal Mangalwadi, during one of his sessions mentioned how Jesus is the solution to all the problems in the Middle East. I failed to understand then but I know now. Our God is not just personal, he is also a god of the masses. He is a God of the 99 and the God of the 1. Christians need to stop viewing him as a personal device which only exists to gratify their need for Provisions, Peace, Security and Love. His plan is for the world and you as a person are only a part of that design.

The Christian population of the world is now in excess of 2.18 Billion people. Now, imagine if every one of us didn’t confine to the world view but to the biblical view on greed and possessions. We would have been well past the critical mass required to overhaul the present system of non-cooperation and service to the 1% crowd.

If only the Christian men and women in this world understood the deceptions placed by Mammon all around starting from the supermarkets to their job places, the technology, the classrooms in schools and colleges to the recreational places available to us and countless other places where we least expect his influence. If they could all just look for answers to their fears and anxiousness in the Word of God. “His will be done on earth as in heaven” would already be a reality.

I guess, In the end the question to be asked is “Why do you do, what you do? “

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