Greed is Good?

Scripture: Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:15

In the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” actor Michael Douglas, known as Gordon Gecko in his movie role, made the following impassioned plea for change before the mythical Teldar Paper Company.  Gecko stated the following:

‘The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed—for lack of a better word—is good.  Greed is right.  Greed works.  Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.  Greed, in all of its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind.  And greed—you mark my words—will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.’

As an economist, I believe very strongly in contributing to society through our labor and have always been intrigued by Gecko’s statement.  In fact, I often use a short video of his statement from the movie to raise the question of how God intended us to use our skills and talents that he so richly bestowed upon us.  In one sense, Gecko’s statement does not seem completely antithetical to “The Parable of the Talents,” found in Matthew 25:14-30.  However, upon further discernment and many discussions with fellow Christians, I have concluded that Gecko’s notion of “greed being good” goes far beyond the Biblical intent of developing our God-given skills and talents to achieve true success in our lives (Pressman & Stone, 1987).

In Gecko’s case before Teldar Paper, he makes it very clear to the discerning Christian thinker that his motivation is driven entirely by greed, i.e., financial gain, and not by developing his God-given talents for the service to God and others.  Gecko’s motivation is conceived solely in financial gain, not in the notion that we achieve true success by fulfilling our call to servanthood.  Our call to servanthood is not measured by our financial success, but by our success in converting our vocational calling in life to the service of God and others.

I have always been uplifted by people of all walks of life who view their roles as servants, no matter what their calling or their compensation.  While living and working in Indiana for a major corporation in the past, I was blessed to get to know a rather aged man who performed janitorial duties at the facility.  In many respects, he was the complete opposite of the highly educated, professional staff with whom I worked.  Yet, his fervor for keeping the facility clean and his commitment to his vocation was always uplifting to me.  I am in constant admiration of people like him who treat their role as a servant, no matter how he or she fits into the hierarchy of the organization.  Referring again to “The Parable of the Talents,” it is not necessarily the number of talents with which we have been blessed; it is how we use these talents to serve God and others.  Hence, we should always be driven by service and not by greed.  Greed in itself is evil and inhibits us from achieving our true goal—serving God and others.

Then [Jesus] 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 New International Version).

Pressman, E. R. (Producer), & Stone, O. (Director). (1987, December 11). Wall street [Motion picture]. USA: 20th Century Fox.

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