Brian Rosner spends the first half of the first chapter of Beyond Greed showing how greed, the insatiable desire for more, is as much part of our modern society as flax is of linen. I think he is exactly right. He says:
On Friday last week I landed once again at Sydneys airport. Before we leave the airport, before we have collected our luggage, before we have even had our passports checked, we must pass through a small but luxurious shopping mall. It is difficult not to have to walk through the check-outs.
On Saturday, I browse the Sydney Morning Herald. There has been an inter-net bust. Hundreds of sites have been deregistered for fraud. The detective explains, 'Fraudsters target the victim’s desire to buy designer goods … the risk begins when your desire to purchase blinds your judgment' …
There is a full-page advertisement for holidays in Malaysia; not for rest or recuperation, not to visit family or experience culture, but to shop. ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’ it commands.
”Greed may even be said to be a public good, the engine which drives economic progress.”It is upon this basis that our society now functions.
The trouble is, that even if it is true, and even if it does work, it is sin. In the second half of the chapter, Rosner shows how the Old Testament, the New Testament and Christian leaders throughout history speak with one voice on this matter.
”Over the ages, greed has been recognized for what it is - destructive, deceitful and contrary to God. It truly is a deadly sin.”Living in Vanuatu has been an enormous challenge for me especially in relation to our abundance of possessions. I had never really considered myself wealthy before, let alone greedy; but in the face of such simplicity of life, I find I am both! Why else am I so obsessed with my son’s matchbox cars that I count them each night to make sure none are missing? Why am I so reluctant to lend a student money for transport to town? Why do we have enough food in our cupboard to feed us for a month?
There are many ways I could justify each of these things but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that greed is a significant motivator in each case.
Many of Rosner’s examples of greed are extreme and involved with how society and corporations function. It would be easy to dismiss them as being far removed from your daily life. But, I want you this week to unmask greed in your own life. How are you caught up in this insatiable desire for more?