THIS THING CALLED “GREED”

There it goes again… another one bites the dust….

Reports on corruption by politicians or stories of unscrupulous capitalists no longer surprise us Filipinos. We do not need to hear from the media to know these actually happen in our midst, and in societies around the world. In fact, the whole world is witness to how people can easily be blinded by the glitters of gold and succumb to the allure of power. Albeit this, stories on “greed” are simply so amusing to ignore. Though people like me will probably never understand why there are those who think they still do not have enough – when they have more than enough for this lifetime and beyond- it would be worth the time to try to settle some curiosities on the matter. Then and now I believe the same word describes this insatiable appetite for wealth and control…. greed. Greed cuts across race, culture, color and gender. History has a long list of people who had lived lives driven by greed for money and power.

What is greed?

The English dictionary Collins defines this word as “excessive desire, as for wealth or power.” The word greed translated to Filipino is “imbot” which also refers to a strong desire for wealth (kayamanan) or power (kapangyarihan).

What is it with wealth and power that enslave many and keep people under their spell? If we refer to the Bible, the first greedy person seems to be Cain. He wanted more than what he should have, so he cheated in his offering. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells of a parable of a rich man who has had good harvests from his field, he kept building bigger barns where he could put his growing harvests not knowing that he will die that very night when he thought everything was going well for him. Jesus several times warned his disciples against all kinds of greed. He tells them it is foolishness to obsess on things that can rot, be destroyed or stolen. Jesus instead encourages them to “store up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroy, and where thieves do not break in or steal” adding that, “….for where [ones] treasure is, there [ones] heart will be also.”

Greed is a curse. It is a curse because it never leads to contentment, much less, to happiness. Stories of the rich and the famous show many of them are paranoid and insecure. A greedy person does not know when and how to stop accumulating. Many have traded their souls for wealth, power and fame. A number of famous artists have openly admitted to abandoning their belief in God to run after fame. Business people are drawn to the occult to make their enterprises grow. Similarly, politicians tread on dangerous compromises for influence in society unmindful of its cost.

Poverty, violence and injustices are just few of the obvious by-products of greed. When a person is consumed by the desire for wealth and power, his/her ability to discern between what is good and evil is blurred. The sense of morality is put aside, leading to a calloused conscience which makes it easier to ignore the nagging call for fairness and justice. Data on the distribution of wealth around the world show that the same people/ families have been occupying the upper echelon of the economic pyramid. If one would do the math, one would arrive at the conclusion that if the vast wealth of these people are to be distributed to the world’s populace, the issue of poverty and powerlessness will become moot and academic.

Greed has been around. It had caused the downfall of empires, of kings and intellectuals. Wealth and power may have brought many to great heights, but what is there at the top waiting? Surely it was never happiness, nor satisfaction. Let us turn to Solomon who was said to be the wealthiest, wisest and most powerful man to ever walk on earth but despite all these he uttered…

“He who loves money will never be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. ….. As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return naked as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand.”

The summation of one’s existence is not how much one has accumulated throughout one’s lifetime, but the attainment of meaning and purpose for which one was called to live. This line from the gospels, “…what profits a man if he gains the world, but loses his soul” is worth remembering whenever “greed” tries its trick on us. It will keep us from “biting the dust.”

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