Does everything belong to me?
What makes that which is mine mine and that which is yours yours?
Does not everything belong to our Maker?
What right do I have to cause harm to another for my personal gain?
What right do I have to keep that which is beyond my needs while my fellow man is in need of my help?
What is Greed?
Greed is the intense selfish desire for something. People can be greedy for anything- Life, Health, Wealth, Power, Fame/Honour/Glory, Food, Children..
Why is Greed Important?
Greed can serve a positive purpose in some contexts. Greed can enable us to become more motivated and driven in our ways of success in whichever direction we choose to go, whether it be to cause harm or to do good. For example if someone has an intense desire to serve, please and praise/glorify his or her Creator to the best of their potential, and to serve humanity- then their greed or 'intense desire' for success in this area can in fact help them rise above the greed for material riches/possessions and actually motivate them to more easily 'give' beyond their physical needs to others who need their help. The greed which once helped them amas their worldly riches (due to their previous understanding of success) can now be transformed into serving a Higher Purpose by simply changing their understanding of what 'success' means to that person. The question is- what is the 'intention' behind our greed? Is it a purely selfish desire or it is a selfless one? Is it to serve ourselves or to serve a a Higher Purpose that helps humanity? Sometimes - it can feel like our desires within us are in battle with each other. A part of us which is greedy for material possessions/health/glory/fame/power etc in order to lead a more comfortable life chasing the temporary pleasures of the material existence, versus the part of us that only wants to achieve these things in order to be able to use them to better serve our Creator and others. If used in the correct and balanced way these two opposites can in fact help us to transform the potential within our greed that causes harm, into a potential that enables us and others to become more righteous while allowing us ourselves to lead comfortable enough lives to better serve our Creator.
There are some areas in life which we may not continue to develop personally in if we were 'satisfied' with our lot. Without our own personal development in these areas, how would we then be able to offer more help to our communities to the best of our potential? So greed for 'knowledge' 'wisdom' 'understanding' and 'love' and 'righteousness' for example, is a necessary tool to help enable us to seek Truth and follow the ways of Peace so that we can become more 'Just.' The question is- what do we 'choose' to be greedy for and why? What does 'success' mean to us? What do we choose our purpose of life to be and why? Can I ever achieve success without being 'greedy' for success? Perhaps the only success that is possible without selfish greed is the success of helping others towards 'success' through self-sacrifice?
How does Greed help me and others?
How many of us find true lasting inner peace when we have more than we need? How many of us are depressed and anxious and even suicidal, despite our riches, fame, physical health and glory? Many of us follow the temptation of greed driven by our selfish self like thirsty camels looking for water in a desert, only to find that when we get to our destination it was only a mirage and delusion and does not in fact quench our real thirst. But once we have embarked on this journey into our darkness, perhaps the wisdom that we gain from this experience can in fact help us to get out of our imprisonment to greed, and rise and shine even more brightly than we could ever have done so before?
When we can come to find a healthy and Higher Purpose for our greed ( by either transforming it into a greed for unconditional love and in having a more meaningful relationship with our Creator and others-or by gaining wisdom from the negative experiences of the darkness that resulted from the selfish greed-and using it to rise above the enslavement to ego for example), then we can use it to help us get even closer to our Source of Life, our Creator. This way even our greed can help us to become even more grateful than we could have without it and to better 'know' our True essence.
If one allows himself or herself to be driven by his or her 'greed' in order to gain more material wealth without transgressing the Boundaries of the Law of the Land and Scripture ( Higher Law eg regarding charity/tax/fraud/dealing with interest) then his or her greed and 'wealth' that results from the effort put into working to obtain that wealth can in fact help more people in society as long as he or she distributes a portion of their wealth (the minimum by Law) for charitable causes and does not obtain that wealth by fraudulent means that cause harm to others eg by stealing or fraud or dealing with interest.
How does Greed affect our sense of well-being?
Greed for physical riches, fame, power, and food that is driven by an intention to 'enjoy' the pleasures of this worldly life can give a false sense of satisfaction that is always temporary but addictive. Without gratitude- one can fall into the trap of relying on this brief sense of 'false joy' from worldly success as a driver which leads to further greed and addiction. When the line is crossed and the person becomes more 'greedy' than 'grateful' this can lead to destruction, depression, anxiety and a spiritual decension in that individual. The depression and anxiety comes from the yearning of the true nature of that individual to break free from his or her selfish desires and gain mastery over him/herself in ways of righteousness- but often there becomes a hardening of the heart, and the senses are clouded by doubt and fear which can then cause further emotional despair from within- to the point that even that individual is not aware of its Source.
On the other hand, greed for physical and spiritual blessings that is driven by an intention to 'serve a Higher Purpose' can have a very positive impact on our sense of physical spiritual mental and emotional wellbeing. Often this type of selfless greed is accompanied with Gratitude which involves the sharing of our physical and spiritual blessings in order to serve humanity, without expectation of return. The anxiety and depressive symptoms which we can sometimes get along this path often result from either an element of selfishness in our expectations from others in return for our helping hand, or our doubts and fears that we are not 'good enough' or 'giving' enough of that which have to others, or not reaching our fullest potential in pleasing our Creator, further motivating us and feeding us with strength to persevere in our mission.
Selfish greed is what feeds our evil inclination. Ego is what drives the selfish greed. So the more selfish we are , the more greedy we become in pursuit of temporary worldly pleasures, and the more likely we become to be imprisoned by the addictive temporary false joy that the pleasures of worldly gain provide us, and therefore follow ways of corruption, oppression and injustice in pursuit of our selfish addiction to the joy our greed feeds us with. The addictive nature of our greed sucks us into a delusion of false Reality and distracts us from remembering or hearing the call of our true 'essence' which calls us from within -the side that seeks Justice, Peace, Truth; seeking to have a meaningful relationship with our Creator and Source of Existence. The more greedy we become, the harder our hearts become, and the more desensitised we are to the call that invites us to Return to our Creator and Source of Life. The shell that envelopes our hearts often requires a major catastrophic event to break it, and to set us free from our addiction and enslavement.
How does greed hurt me?
The greedy person is more likely to break the Law in order to gain more for himself or herself- ie accept bribes, steal, commit fraud, deal with interest etc- and the act of breaking the Law according to Abrahamic Scripture is sin and Injustice. The disobedience to Law is self destructive and 'arrogant' in the Eyes of our Creator and hence has a huge impact on our spiritual well being by clouding our senses to the point that we feel 'disconnected' to our Creator and unable to have a meaningful direct relationship with Him. This spiritual descension can then have a detrimental impact on our mental and emotional and physical wellbeing and cause us to become depressed, anxious and unable to find inner Peace. Our persistence in outward disobedience through use of inappropriate and unjust thought/speech/behaviour that is driven by our greed, causes us to feel enslaved in and imprisoned within the shell of our clouded vision, to the point that even we ourselves do not 'see' that our actions are wrong and displeasing to our Creator and we are deviated from our inner Truth/Essence. The inner Truth which tells us that our actions are 'wrong' gets quieter and quieter the more we continue to ignore it and worship our greed. We get to a point that we are unable to find our own inner light to help us out of our darkness, and depend on others to 'guide' us out- putting intermediaries between us and our True Self. We lose hope and we despair and feel lost and abandoned. The division that is caused within us causes us great pain and suffering on a soul level and can become manifest as mental emotional and physical symptoms. So greed can cause an identity crisis within a human being and results in a perception of pain and suffering as the greedy person is never satisfied or grateful.
The more greedy we are, the less grateful we become. One may begin their journey into allowing their greed to 'feed' them and nourish them, but then as this becomes the source of provision, they easily get trapped in 'depending' on greed for sustenance and 'worshipping' or setting up their greed as a false god besides their True Source of Life and Provision-their Creator. As we become more greedy and therefore less grateful, we become more likely to suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety and emotional turmoil- and more likely to see our glass as 'half empty' rather than 'half full.' This change in our perception from half full to half empty can lead to us 'playing the victim' in our lives and in face of challenging situations rather than taking responsibility for our behaviour- which feeds our sense of 'self' and 'ego' even more. Its a downward spiral that feels very difficult to break free from. When we see ourselves as 'victims' in life- we are less likely to be able to learn from negative situations and from every experience and interaction we have. So often the greedy one becomes more controlling outwardly and less likely to control their evil inclination including lust, envy, anger etc.
How can Greed hurt others?
The greedy person is more likely to cause physical and emotional and mental harm to others by ways of taking bribes/robbery/fraud/dealing with interest/inability to control anger/vengeance/controlling behaviour/selfishness. All of these things lead to doing injustice to another person, whether it be within our personal/ family or societal relationships. In court for example, a Judge taking a bribe due to one's greed can lead one to stray from the path of Truth and Justice.
How many wars and crimes are committed due to greed for more land/possessions/power/fame and glory? How many families and relationships are broken apart due to selfish greed that fuels lust and anger and disharmony that leads to adultery and divorce?
How can I become less greedy in ways that cause harm to others?
Here are some tips that one may find helps to overcome their selfish greed:
Self-Discipline in regular prayer/meditation and self-reflection on the Higher values and virtues of Righteousness
Working on our 'ego, greed, lust, envy, sloth, anger, vengeance, fears and sorrows' through self analysis logic and reason.
Seeking Truth and expressing Truth in speech and behaviour whenever possible, even if it goes against our 'self.'
Seeking 'Knowledge, wisdom, understanding and love' in every interaction we have and every breath we takes much as possible
Seeking to 'Serve' our Creator and His Creation rather than 'be served' -by seeking and 'surrendering' to a Will that is Higher than ourselves and through Willing obedience to the Commandments of our One Creator and Inner Truth/Guidance.
Gratitude- showing gratitude to our Creator and others through speech and acts of loving kindness- sharing our blessings gifts and talents with others as much as possible to help them. Trying to see our glass as half full rather than half empty as much as possible- comparing ourselves to those who have less than us, rather than those who have more- and showing gratitude for this by sharing what we have with those who have less.
Social Justice- obedience to Scripture Law regarding justice, and the Law of the Land as long as it is not contradictory to it.
Earning a Living in a way that does not cause harm to others- eg do not steal/commit fraud/take bribes/loan with interest
Spending- a portion of wealth that is earned in a legal way ( beyond their personal needs according to Scripture and Law of the Land) - in charitable causes eg to feed orphans and widows and the needy
Can Greed and gratitude co-exist? Is there not a portion of greed and a portion of gratitude that are compatible in nature? Perhaps the portion of our soul that is 'grateful' for 'greed', or 'greedy' for 'gratitude' is the portion that can unite to help us find our inner Peace despite the fact that an element of greed is ingrained in our physical human nature?
Here are some self reflection questions that may help us:
Scripture Quotes on Greed
They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, they seek their own gain. Isaiah 56:11
Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. Proverbs 11:28
Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. Proverbs 13:11
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Proverbs 14:31
The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live. Proverbs 15:27
An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end. Proverbs 20:21
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1
The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. Proverbs 22:9
The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them. Proverbs 28:22
The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the LORD will prosper. Proverbs 28:25
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:2-3
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. James 5:1-6
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Mathew 6:24
Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 5:10
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15
I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. Isaiah 57:17
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Proverbs 23:4-5
From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. Jeremiah 6:13
Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it. Proverbs 1:19
Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent. Exodus 23:8
Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay are those who gain riches by unjust means. When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them, and in the end they will prove to be fools. Jeremiah 17:11
Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil. They are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them. Isaiah 33:15-16
A tyrannical ruler practices extortion, but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign. Proverbs 28:16
The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them. Proverbs 28:22
Do not eat the food of a begrudging host, do not crave his delicacies. Proverbs 23.6
A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished. Proverbs 28:20
Though he heaps up silver like dust and clothes like piles of clay, what he lays up the righteous will wear, and the innocent will divide his silver. Job 27:16-17
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36
Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! Habakkuk 2:9
for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. Psalm 49:17
And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.””But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ Luke 12:19-20
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Psalm 119:36-37
How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! Proverbs 16:16
Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. Proverbs 15:16
Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them. Proverbs 62:10
And do not consume one another’s wealth by unjust means, nor offer it as bribes to the officials in order to consume part of other people’s wealth illicitly, while you know. Quran 2:188
O you who believe, do not nullify your charities by inflicting reproach and insult, like one who spends his money to show off, while disbelieving in GOD and the Last Day. His example is like a rock covered with a thin layer of soil; as soon as heavy rain falls, it washes off the soil, leaving it a useless rock. They gain nothing from their efforts. GOD does not guide disbelieving people. The example of those who give their money seeking GOD's pleasure, out of sincere conviction, is that of a garden on high fertile soil; when heavy rain falls, it gives twice as much crop. If heavy rain is not available, a drizzle will suffice. GOD is Seer of everything you do. Quran 2:264-265
And for practicing usury, which was forbidden, and for consuming the people's money illicitly. We have prepared for the disbelievers among them painful retribution. Quran 4:161
They give money to charity only to show off, while disbelieving in GOD and the Last Day. If one's companion is the devil, that is the worst companion. Quran 4:38
Proclaim: "If your parents, your children, your siblings, your spouses, your family, the money you have earned, a business you worry about, and the homes you cherish are more beloved to you than GOD and His messenger,** and the striving in His cause, then just wait until GOD brings His judgment." GOD does not guide the wicked people. Quran 9:24
O you who believe, many religious leaders and preachers take the people's money illicitly, and repel from the path of GOD. Those who hoard the gold and silver, and do not spend them in the cause of GOD, promise them a painful retribution. Quran 9:34
Some of those before you were stronger than you, and possessed more money and children. They became preoccupied with their material possessions. Similarly, you have become preoccupied with your material possessions, just like those before you have become preoccupied. You have become totally heedless, just as they were heedless. Such are the people who nullify their works, both in this world and in the Hereafter; they are the losers. Quran 9:69
Do not be impressed by their money or their children; GOD causes these to be sources of misery for them in this world, and their souls depart as disbelievers. Quran 9:85
The usury that is practiced to increase some people's wealth, does not gain anything at GOD. But if you give to charity, seeking GOD's pleasure, these are the ones who receive their reward manifold. Quran 30:39
A portion of their money was set aside for the beggar and the needy. Quran 51:19
Know that this worldly life is no more than play and games, and boasting among you, and hoarding of money and children. It is like abundant rain that produces plants and pleases the disbelievers. But then the plants turn into useless hay, and are blown away by the wind. In the Hereafter there is either severe retribution, or forgiveness from GOD and approval. This worldly life is no more than a temporary illusion. Quran 57:20
Neither their money, nor their children will help them against GOD. They have incurred the hellfire, wherein they abide forever. Quran 58:17
"My money cannot help me." Quran 69:28
O you hidden secret.* Come out and warn. Extol your Lord. Purify your garment.*Forsake what is wrong. Be content with your lot. Steadfastly commemorate your Lord. Then, when the horn is blown. That will be a difficult day. For the disbelievers, not easy. Let Me deal with one I created as an individual.I provided him with lots of money. And children to behold. I made everything easy for him. Yet, he is greedy for more. He stubbornly refused to accept these proofs. I will increasingly punish him. For he reflected, then decided. Miserable is what he decided. Miserable indeed is what he decided. He looked. He frowned and whined. Then he turned away arrogantly. He said, "This is but clever magic! “This is human made." I will commit him to retribution. What retribution! Thorough and comprehensive. Obvious to all the people. Quran chapter 74
I solemnly swear by this town. The town where you live. The begetting and the begotten. We created the human being to work hard (to redeem himself). Does he think that no one will ever call him to account? He boasts, "I spent so much money!" Does he think that no one sees him?Did we not give him two eyes? A tongue and two lips? Did we not show him the two paths?He should choose the difficult path. Which one is the difficult path? The freeing of slaves. Feeding, during the time of hardship. Orphans who are related. Or the poor who is in need. And being one of those who believe, and exhorting one another to be steadfast, and exhorting one another to be kind. These have deserved happiness. As for those who disbelieved in our revelations, they have incurred misery. They will be confined in the Hellfire. Quran chapter 90
Quaroon belonged to the clan of Moses, but he oppressed them. We had given him treasures, the keys of which would weigh down a group of strong men. His people said to him, “Do not exult; God does not love the exultant. But seek, with what God has given you, the Home of the Hereafter, and do not neglect your share of this world. And be charitable, as God has been charitable to you. And do not seek corruption in the land. God does not like the seekers of corruption.” He said, “I was given all this on account of knowledge I possess.” Did he not know that God destroyed many generations before him, who were stronger than he, and possessed greater riches? But the guilty will not be asked about their sins. And he went out before his people in his splendor. Those who desired the worldly life said, “If only we possessed the likes of what Quaroon was given. He is indeed very fortunate.” But those who were given knowledge said, “Woe to you! The reward of God is better for those who believe and do righteous deeds.” Yet none attains it except the steadfast. So We caused the earth to cave in on him and his mansion. He had no company to save him from God, and he could not defend himself. Those who had wished they were in his position the day before were saying, “Indeed, it is God who spreads the bounty to whomever He wills of His servants, and restricts it. Had God not been gracious to us, He would have caved in on us. No wonder the ungrateful never prosper.” That Home of the Hereafter—We assign it for those who seek no superiority on earth, nor corruption. And the outcome is for the cautious. Quran 28:76-83