Tuesday, November 18, 2008
This is Henry, adopted by our family this summer from a local shelter (and boy did it upset the pink princess). I wish I could explain why we have two dogs now instead of just one, as I was fine with our being a one dog household. Alas, knowing I was outvoted and that Henry, found abandoned in a local parking lot, needed a good home, I relented. My advice--never let your family go to an animal shelter just to 'look'. You will end up with a pet (or 2).
Monday, November 17, 2008
In the 1987 movie Wall Street, the character Gordon Gekko says, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” It is clear after reading the verse above that Jesus does not agree with Gekko’s assessment of greed. As the fallout from the financial crisis continues, it seems that one cause of the problem was people who, like this movie character, believed that greed is good. Unmitigated greed is the only explanation that makes sense when we try to understand how corporate executives made millions of dollars while at the same time their companies were going bankrupt. While I’m not sure that I understand derivatives and other financial instruments that seem to have caused the current crisis, I do understand our human tendency to sin. As much as we might like to throw stones at CEO’s and others for their greediness, perhaps these times call us all to examine our own tendencies toward greed.
The official dictionary definition of greed is: 1.excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves 2.reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth. Perhaps what I understand the most about greed is the term ‘reprehensible acquisitiveness’. One way to illustrate: even though I have a perfectly good iPod, I have the ‘excessive desire to acquire or possess’ a new and improved iPod touch (of course, you can feel free to substitute something you really want in place of iPods—this example works with lots of different items). Too many times we mistakenly identify what are most certainly wants as desperate needs, when our true needs are few but our wants can be unlimited. This should be called greed.
In 1974 an economist studying the relationship between wealth and happiness discovered what is now known as the Easterlin paradox, which states that once people have their basic needs met, they don’t become happier as they become richer. Jesus said this, though in a different form—“a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (Luke 15:21, NLT). The most effective way for us to defeat our own tendencies to be greedy is to give. When we give to others, whether in time, money, or goods, we defeat greed and remind ourselves of the truth of Jesus’ assertion that “life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke 12:21 NLT).
Many have lost material wealth in this financial crisis. Retirement and investments are worth less, homes values are less, sales and profits are down, and things are bound to get tight financially. In the midst of the tumult, perhaps we will learn that greed is not good but giving is. May we be thankful for the intangibles God has given us that can’t be measured by Wall Street—our health, our families, our church, and most of all lets be thankful for our God, the greatest giver of all.