Greed is a very powerful force.  It causes some to do incredibly evil things…robbery, kidnapping, even murder.  But we rarely think of greed as the pervasive force that masquerades itself as free enterprise or progress. 

I would hardly be considered by anyone who knows me as a socialist.  I have a profound belief in self-reliance and personal responsibility.  However, I believe the greed motivator of our modern economic system is one of the most egregious forms of evil.  “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”  This was the signature line of Michael Douglas’ character Gordon Gekko as he was shamelessly corrupting his young apprentice played by Charlie Sheen in the 1987 block buster Wall Street. 

Many of us naively believe that people like Gekko don’t really exist and are purely fictional.  In the last few years we have discovered that they are all too real and their unfettered greed has brought the entire world to its economic knees.  I am not even talking about the blatantly criminal acts of the likes of Bernie Madoff who bilked his equally greedy friends out of $50 billion.  No, I am talking about the ones that don’t break any laws and often are the very people who make them.  Try this on for size. 

In 2008 Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sach’s former CEO Henry Paulson was appointed as US Treasury Secretary.  (The 4th GS CEO appointed to a senior government position.)  When the $700 billion bailout package was announced it was his job to decide who to give it to.  Understand this is like hiring the fox to guard the henhouse.  He denied the request of the rival bank Lehman Brothers leading to the largest bankruptcy in human history.  ($600 billion)  The very next day he gave insurance giant AIG $85 billion of which immediately $13 billion went to pay back a loan to none other than… Goldman Sachs!  The AIG execs then headed off to a California resort to celebrate where they ran up a tab of of nearly $500,000, all at the taxpayers expense.  God Bless America!

Goldman Sachs then received another $10 billion directly as well as a loan of $28 billion.  The firm then announced a profit of $3.5 billion and paid out $18 billion in salaries and bonuses, an average of $622,000 per employee. A Goldman spokesman explained it though, “We work very hard here.”

Over the last couple of years we have watched as the North American economy went into free fall.  Most of us don’t have a clue why. Let me help you connect the dots.  360,000 Americans lost their home to foreclosure last month.  That’s the 17th month in a row of over a quarter million families losing their homes.  The sub-prime mortgage fiasco was…(deep breath) a completely man-made scenario of giving ridiculously high mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them to buy over-priced homes and then selling the mortgages to investment firms as high quality financial instruments that made perfect investments for hapless investors trying to make a killing in the world of high finance…only to discover the homeowners could not sustain the payments, the homes could not retain their value, the investment firms went bankrupt and you just lost your retirement fund.  Now tell me, can you see any signs of greed anywhere in that narrative?

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”  Mahatma Gandhi

The sub-prime disaster was merely the tipping point.  There were literally hundreds of other factors equally as diabolical at work.  Nevertheless, the entire world, from North America to Europe to Asia went into an economic melt down.  The citizens of Canada and US demanded that government fix it.  Yeah, that’s always a good idea.  Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe threatened to form the unholy alliance and bring down Steven Harper if he didn’t dig deep into YOUR pocket and solve the problem.  I guess the government decided that being a right wing party was highly overrated anyway.  The purse strings suddenly came flying off and they began spending (and borrowing) money like drunken sailors.  $9.1 billion alone went to the bankrupt General Motors.  Barrack Obama coughed up $50 billion and now the Canadian and the US governments own GM (11.7% and 60.8% respectively)   Oh, I can’t wait for the new models, the Buick Barrack and the Harper Hybrid.

Before we cry “shame, shame”, we need to ask ourselves if we, the great unwashed, are complicit at all in this.  When was the last time you drove by the full parking lot of your government run casino?  We have given them permission to fund the coffers by our own greed .  And, I have always been intrigued by the power of the lottery.  I sometimes stop in the mall and just watch the long lines of people just waiting to throw their money away on a 649 or Super-7 lotto ticket.  Your chances of hitting the jackpot are 1 in 14 million.  Just to put that into perspective, there are now 8 Canadians out of 34 million who have flown into outer space.  So you have a roughly a 1 in 4 million chance of getting picked for the space program.  Excellent odds… considering we don’t even own a space ship!  I often jokingly tell people they have a better chance of going to the moon in their life time than winning the lottery.   Apparently, it is not a joke.  In my typical subtle way I like to refer to the lottery as Canada’s tax on the stupid.  In reality it is a tax on the greedy.

A faithful man will abound with blessings, But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. (Prov.28:20)

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  1. Stuart says:

    Extremely well put, Pastor Mark! One of the more prominent “Gordon Gekkos” of our day just went to jail for 150 years. His name is Bernie Madoff who will soon be joined by Canada’s very own, Earl Jones a Montreal financial adviser who only bilked his clients of $50 million. There’s not much difference between Hank Paulson and Bernie Madoff in my view but, hey, he had the backing of the U.S. President.

    I wonder if anyone has thought about how much resources it takes to investigate, charge, convict, sentence and incarcerate just one person whose greed is deemed a criminal offence. Now multiply that by the rapidly growing number of “greedy” people committing white collar crimes. It’s no wonder that those who “trust” in those who are “greedy” wind up losing their savings. Canada has its share of Lehman Bros and Goldman Sachs, also. Can anyone remember the “Crocus Fund”.

  2. Gord says:

    I learned about this some time ago from a guy named Jim Rohn. I think he defined it very well. It’s important that we make distinctions about whether or not it’s ok to be successful. Here’s what he said.

    “Greed is at the expense of others, ambition is at the service of others.”

  3. todd says:

    That’s an excellent compilation Mark. What’s even more disturbing is that we now have the greedy-set dictating social-order. I think what’s even more maddening – is that they actually believe in their position. Like the uber-rich rock and movies stars flying to the impoverished countries and speaking against poverty and what “we” should be doing in terms of financial support, or otherwise. I think the only “celebrity” who is/was worthy of adoration was Paul Newman. He knew the fallacy that stardom was and spent his life truly giving and making a difference. The rest deserve to hide behind their sunglasses – which they do.

  4. Karen says:

    This blog supplied a lot of information that I really didn’t understand or didn’t know how to connect the dots before. Thanks.
    Maybe if all of the CEO’s had to live like us regular Canadians (and by that I mean not on million dollar salaries) maybe they would be able to manage their businesses better. No body bails me out when my wants exceeds my needs or when my expense account isn’t looked after by someone else! If you talk to any employee at GM, they’ll tell you that they didn’t think that the bailout was even practical! I would love to see Barrack and Steven go to work for a month on the ground floors of factories, Department Store backroom storage areas, or any other place where people actually have to do physical labor, and then maybe their perspective on how they should spend our money might be a little more reasonable.

  5. todd says:

    Obama has never had a regular job in his entire life-time. That’s a fact. He doesn’t know of what he speaks. Speaking of greed – I’d have know problem with earnings over $500,000/yr being taxed at 80%. That would provide those people a better perspective on world-reality and keep them off the stage telling us how to shape policy.

  6. Jim Cotton says:

    Todd, Barack Obama puts in twice as many hours a week in as most people have. You can’t be President of the United States without working very hard. And you have no problem with people working hard and earning lots of money having most of it taken away ? I think the harder you work , the less tax you should pay. We should have a tax on laziness.

  7. todd says:

    Jim, it’s not a question of hours. It’s about real-life-experience and he has none. Trust me – I’m not a fan of taxation however I see no recourse, at this late stage of societal decline, on the uber-rich and disillusioned, other than penalty.

  8. pat says:

    No fancy words for me, I’m not one to explain myself well but once I read about the new Buick Barrack and Harper Hybrid possibly coming out as new show models (I know that isn’t for real..), I thought it so funny I had to forward this blog site to some American friends. I’m going to think differently for a little bit when I see car commercials. That was a good one.
    Thank you Pastor Mark!

  9. Jim says:

    Hey Pastor Mark…You really should take some credible Bible studies regarding the seventh day Sabbath..if was brought in by God at Creation, Genesis 2, which was to be for all His creation. He then cast it in stone in Exodus 20 as the fourth Commandment of the Ten Commandments. Now you say Paul spoke some writings about “let no man judge you about days” or “one man esteems on day over another” and the an encouragement to gentile converts who were pagans followers and were ridiculed by their previous associates so he is encouraging them.. Also the gentiles were under pressure from the Jewish converts who had trouble leaving the 632 laws of Moses he is also encouraging them about this..the big Ten are cast in stone, and nowhere in the Bible is the fourht commandment ever deleted..why would it is the one commandment that says “Remember” and is a day to fellowship with the Creator, and like minded people..Jesus said “if you love me keep my Commandments” and to enter into life keep the Commandmets, and goes on to identify the ten commandments. You seem to have fun jesting about how to keep the Sabbath Holy..the Pharisees had place ridgid man made unrealistic demands on this day.. Jesus set the record straight by saying the Sabbath is made for man, and that He is lord of the Sabbath so, He could say how it will be kept. It is to be kept in prayer, reading God’s word, rejoicing about Creation, and is to be a joyous day, not a burdensome day as the Pharisees indicated. As Apostle John said “the Commandments are not grievous” and “those who say they know Him and keep not his Commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him” And yes Mark there are Ten Commandments..

    PS did you ever consider being a stand up comedian? You got talent.

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