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?
Lance- In a nutshell I agree, one part that is not developed in you post, fully is the spiritual nature(s) (good and bad) of the greed issue. Greed is part of ego, absence of humility and acceptance of self and others. I purpose that in treating the social ill of greed, that the greedy one suffers from a self-centered part of ego that has been fractured by loss or whim. Tolerance, understanding, compassion, and acceptance is out the window at this point and self will shall run riot. Self will is the anti-virtue. Acceptance and humility are the spiritual tools used to file down greed to attain understanding that as a race/culture/society all have resources that must be met. This is not to say that greed is always a negative. Even the make-up of the human body requires some forms of greed. In nature, do not squirrels hoard nuts for the winter? Greed is part of self preservation. It is when it is perverted that is becomes negative. I don’t think it’s wrong to want more humility, patience, understanding, tolerance, wisdom, faith, hope, generosity. Perhaps a rejoinder post to this might be the spiritual difference(s) between healthy greed (spiritually) vs. unhealthy (material obsession) greed. God and The Devil share from the same toolbox of human emotions. Often God will place situations, emotions, and people in our lives to show us a message. people who act greedy are just trying to fill up a void or shortcoming in their life they don’t want to own. It is their lack of understanding of themselves and others that gives them the compulsion to greed-i-fy. Conversely, the Devil will sharpen the appetite of greed through self indulgence and lust. Lastly, please visit my site http://www.tricksterunion.com- it’s a work in progress. Thanks for the platform, I have much admiration for you.
Thanks for the thoughtful response, Jim. You know, greed and selfishness are very interesting things to explore in regard to meaning. Historically, greed is always a type of manifestation of selfishness. Selfish is a condition of the heart and greed is a manifestation of the condition in reality. It moves from the heart to the head to a behavior.
What is interesting is the history of the definition and usage of the word greed and it’s big brother, selfishness. They have always carried negative connotations. It has only been in the last 50 years that both have ‘greed’ and ‘selfishness’ have been redefined or broadened to include a kind of ‘positive’ form. Historically, greed nor selfishness have ever been positive attributes of the human character.
Self-preservation and self-discipline are not positive forms of selfishness. Selfish carries a destructive component. Now, a squirrel hoards nuts because he is an animal and lacks a conscious to inform him that he is being greedy.
The Devil finds himself either blinded by his own deception or pride to the point of thinking himself equal to his creator. Satan is a creature not a creator. It is his selfishness that manifests itself in pride that caused him to be cast out of heaven and utter the words “You will not surely die… For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,”
Satan appealed to pride and selfishness… we experience that today. Thanks man!
As stated in the quoted biblical references, benevolence is a quality that does not seek nor need recognition. Unfortunately that quality is unrecognizable in todays nonprofit gatherers of funds and redistribution by governments.
you said it all, my greed is for the most part all gone.The only greed I feed on and trying to fight is the desire to see the greedy people get whats coming to them