What is Greed?
Why do people misunderstand greed?
What feeds greed?
How can we stop feeding greed?
Many fall into the trap of quantifying greed. John Doe has a million dollars, therefore he is greedy. This is problematic and a complete misapplication of the definition of what it means to be ‘greedy’. Turn it around. Jane Doe is on welfare, therefore she is not greedy. This is called a false premise. Some make the mistake of taking it further by asserting that because some millionaires are greedy ‘all millionaires must be greedy’. It’s like saying, “You drive a red car, red must be your favorite color!”
Webster’s defines ‘Greed’ as a selfish (excessive) desire to have more of something.
Greed is a ‘why’ not ‘what’.
Look at the definition of greed and lets render the phrase ‘selfish desire‘.
A desire is a deep hunger, wanting or motivation. Some desires are beneficial and others are destructive. At the core of a desire is a motivation that emanates from what we believe about ourselves in relationship to the world around us. Desire usually manifests itself in a type of behavior or perhaps a philosophy of living.
A Selfish person does not consider others and engages in self-serving and self-seeking behavior. In fact, by definition selfish excludes everyone but one’s self and ones own interests. In addition, ‘selfish’ is a description of a person, action or motive that lacks consideration of others. It always conveys negative connotation.
‘Those people’ are greedy!
I hear arguments based on false premises every day. Corporations are greedy. The government is greedy. Rich people are greedy. Folks on welfare are greedy.
The Bottom Line: People are greedy!
Not all people are greedy all the time. But, we have a bent toward selfishness and greed. When you apply ‘greed’ to a non-human entity or quantify ‘greed’ with a numeric value, you may find yourself in a trap. You have smuggled in a false premise. Some activities attract greedy people. However, just because someone is involved in an activity or has a certain thing, does not mean they are greedy.
So what feeds greed?
Greed does. Selfish desires are a cycle that lead to an unfulfilled life. Greed is based in a ‘self-serving’ desire that essentially seeks to serve itself. Greed feeds more greed and discontent.
At it’s core, greed is a heart and thus, a spiritual issue. This explains why I believe greed is based in ‘why’ not ‘what’. The motivations and desires of the heart manifest in behavior. When we truly understand greed, we turn from pointing at others to find we are actually pointing to ourselves.
How do I fight my own greed?
- I must recognize my own selfishness.
- I find ways to live with open hands. You don’t have to be rich to be generous.
- I list things for which I am thankful. I don’t have to possess a bunch of stuff to be thankful.
- I stop feeding greed.
When I find greed or selfishness creeping into my life, I rinse and repeat the steps above.
It’s not wrong to want good for yourself (resources, health, etc). However, it is ‘why’ we want certain things that reveal the motives of our hearts.
We can change our ‘selfish’ motives by replacing them with selfless or sacrificial motives.
Here are some verses from the Bible that even a non-Christian can appreciate:
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” – Romans 15:1-2
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” -Philippians 2:4
“Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.” – Psalm 119:36
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” -Prov 11:24
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” -Lk 12:15
Good and Honor come to those who are generous:
“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted up in honor.” – Psalm 112:9
What about you?