Let’s talk GREED.
I am convinced that greed is the greatest sin in the United States of America.
After watching a special report by Bill Moyers on the “non-profit” American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), it seemed to me that money is the driving force behind every bill crafted by ALEC that legislators then bring back to Washington or their states to have passed into law.
Members of ALEC write laws that either help generate money (like the creation of a bill that encouraged home schooling—and ultimately the purchase of the products made by the ALEC affiliated companies) or save money (like bills that prevent consumers from suing the very companies that helped draft the law in the first place.)
Now, I’m probably not being entirely fair.
After all, corporations have the right to not just survive, but to thrive (They are “people” after all—or so I’ve been told). They have to generate a profit to pay workers, expand production or services, and reward leaders—handsomely.
But I doubt decisions are made on a spiritual level where board members deeply reflect on how their corporate decisions will impact the environment, the livelihood of employees or the economy or even how future generations may be affected. From the outside looking in, the bottom line appears to be money.
But let’s be honest.
Greed doesn’t just exist in corporate America.
At General Synod this summer, the bi-annual gathering of representatives from the thousands of churches in the United Church of Christ, we were blessed to have Bernice Johnson Reagon and her daughter, Toshi Reagon perform.
Having been working on this post for months, I was especially engaged when they began singing Bernice’s song “Greed.” She opens the song with these words:
“I been thinking about how to talk about greed
I been thinking about how to talk about greed
I been wondering if I could sing about greed
Trying to find a way to talk about greed”
Her lyrics throughout speak to how pervasive greed is in our country. No. It is not just a phenomenon on Wall Street. We can all fall prey to it.
“Greed is a strain in the American Dream
Having more than you need is the essential theme.
Everybody wanting more than they need to survive
Is a perfect indication, greed has settled inside.”
I started this post by judging corporations and finish with a personal confession. (The Spirit is sneaky like that!)
I too am a victim—no, a participant—in greed. While already owning one home, I went and bought another 2 years later. An “investment” I considered it. But as reality and hard luck would have it, I have since lost one and have been on the verge of losing the other.
In 1 Timothy 6:6-10 we read:
Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
One could argue that my desire for an investment property was simply smart. It’s not like I knew that the housing market would crash and burn, right?
But I remember the urgency in purchasing the second home. The market seemed as low as it could get. Wanting in on the real estate game, I was experiencing that “eagerness to be rich” the scripture warns against. It couldn’t wait. I had to buy a house then and there.
Temptation had lured me in. I fell for the assurances the man gave me that he could “make the numbers work” in my loan application. You’ve only worked less than a month in your new job? No problem. You already own a home but might have to carry two mortgages if renters can’t be kept in your first home? No problem!
In the end, it was one problem after another. I haven’t plunged “into ruin and destruction” because of my eagerness to be rich, but I have had to painfully face my own distorted American understanding of having enough.
In this past month, as I agonized over the real possibility of losing yet another home, I have had to reflect.
Maybe this life and faith stuff isn’t about having more or being rich—rather it’s about learning to 1) be content and thankful for what I have, 2) live within my means, and 3) trust that my needs will be met.
Today I give thanks to God. I have been humbled and gratitude has once again taken up residency in my heart leaving a little less room for greed.
May the corporate and individual greed of this nation
evolve into a much deeper kind of longing,
one in which contentment is not sought through the eagerness to be rich,
but is found instead in the gratitude of sufficiency–a much better kind of richness.