Remember that famous line from Gordon Gekko in that old and amazing movie Wall Street (sequel coming soon)?

Greed is good!

So let’s talk about greed for a moment. Politicians and news pundits tell us the economy has tanked and the world is in financial crisis because of greed–and we would all agree. And as a follower of Jesus, I have been taught many times about the perils of greed–and I would agree. Greed is one of those subjects that gets approving golfing claps from us all when mentioned because…

We all know greed is actually bad and we’re certainly not greedy.

There’s just one problem: What is greed?

You see, the Bible actually talks very little about greed. Now I’m not saying that makes it okay or a good thing. I’m just saying that it is difficult to quantify.

Why? Because it is different for everyone.

We would probably define greed as wanting more than you should have, but how do you quantify what the level of should is? Isn’t should different for everyone? Your should is different than my should and my should is different than your should. Right?

Sure, we could probably name someone that is greedy. That part is easy. But we’re not greedy. No way. We don’t have a different car for every day of the week or a villa in Italy. How could we possibly be greedy?

Want to hear something really uncomfortable right now?

Did you know you can be dirt broke (even homeless) and be greedier than the richest richy you can think of right now? Yup. Read that again, because it is spot on. It’s something I realized one day and it sent a chill down my spine.

Mostly we’d give an explanation of greed that takes the target off of us. But greed is individual. For example, was Abraham in the Bible greedy? We are not given ANY indication that he was, but he was filthy rich (and even had 1,000 or so servants). But it is very easy for me to think he was, since I do not have all those things. But we can even be poor and be greedy.

Now am I greedy? Yes, but one persons greed is not necessarily someone else’s greed. Again, this is highly subjective. So in actuality, since greed is impossible to quantify, it is not really possible to offer substantive commentary on it.

Greed is just a buzz word for pseudo-intellectual conversations. It means nothing. And it diverts attention away from us and our own shortcoming and personal responsibility.

The better thing to talk about and focus on is envy. That’s the real problem and that is quantifiable. It focuses on us. The Bible talks a lot about envy. That is really the destructive force behind greed, If you ask me, every sin has envy at its core.

So what is envy?

I would define envy has wanting something you can’t or shouldn’t (at least at this moment) have.

Think about the 10 commandments. Every single one has the problem of envy at it’s core. Think about something Jesus taught that you hold high. It has the problem of envy at its core.

Forget about greed…do you have a problem with envy? I do. That’s where the trouble starts.

Now we’re getting somewhere…but more on envy another time.