I am thoroughly enjoying the book I recommended to readers in my last commentary, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay Richards. To me this is must reading for all lovers of freedom and every Christian concerned about our nation’s rapid move into the socialism that has and always will miserably fail.
I am concerned about effectively addressing all legitimate social ills, but the present socialist approach won’t work. Ronald Reagan is credited for saying,
“Socialism only works in heaven, where they don’t need it,
and in hell where they already have it.”
Our government is grabbing power in the guise of protecting the population from evil doers while becoming masters of evil in the practice of imposing the will of the state over its people. This is not freedom and does, in fact, smack of communism. Remember, the communists tried to draw heaven down to earth and brought up hell instead.1
We are facing a pivotal moment in history and the return to sanity must be led by true believers who stand boldly and compassionately against the rising tide. Many of freedom’s benefits are being represented as the problem. As an example, the free market and capitalism is taking a direct hit from misguided leaders and a misinformed populace. The system that enables us to be productive, successful and helpful is not the problem. Freedom is not the problem. The neglect and abuse of it and failure to live responsibly is the problem.
The abuse of the free market because of all-consuming self-interest and greed is the major contributing problem and only a commitment to God and truth can overcome the problem. Laws will never stop the damaging effect of greed. The necessary change comes only through God’s love and grace. Believers must pray, recognize and focus our concerns on the real problem and not the free market system that makes progress and prosperity possible.
Greed has an appetite that can never be satisfied and a thirst that can never be quenched. Its ambition can never be exhausted. It makes demands that can never be fulfilled and creates needs that can never be met. Greed always wants more: more money, more possessions, more power, more pleasure, more leisure, more prestige, more influence, more accomplishment, more food, more toys, more than the last guy, more than the next guy, more, more, more. Always more.
Greed is not only monetary; it desires everything. It is less about the things we have and more about the things that have us. I know men and women of great substance who are remarkably free of greed’s entanglements, and I’ve met countless poor people who were so ensnared by greed that they were no longer able to function in any area of their lives. They hated everyone who had anything. Greed is less about dollars and cents than about discernment and good sense in how we use the resources we have. It produces a mad, unending, vicious cycle of defeat.
Because greed is never satisfied, it is never gratified. Because it is never gratified, it is never thankful. Because it is never thankful, it is never at rest. And because it is never at rest, it never gains a sense of proportion, perspective, or purpose. Greed defeats every purpose, including its own. Contrary to what Michael Douglas’ character said in the 1987 blockbuster “Wall Street,” greed is not good, and we see the truth of this evidenced continually before our eyes.
Greed is not only dangerous to those like Midas and the Hollywood elite. Greed affects whole communities. The annals of history are strewn with the sad evidence that greed destroys. Greed has no thought of justice. It gives no thought to the problems of social stability, cultural enhancement, or national security. It has no interest in the future; its concern is only for the moment. It does not care for the needy, the poor, the despised, or the rejected. It is entirely unconcerned about the people, the principles, or the prospects it tramples. It cares only for itself.
Greed is inherent to the human condition. It must be resisted – not just in word, but also in deed. We must wisely order our fiscal affairs, our consumption patterns, our work relationships, and our investment strategies to mitigate greed. We must practice the healthy habits of gratitude, thanksgiving, charity, service, and giving. We must not allow nature to take its course.
Greed destroys. Greed is anything but good. But let’s also be clear about what greed is not. Greed is not the same thing as being motivated by profit and the desire for gain. Greed is not the same as trying to maximize our return on investment, unless that return comes at the expense of other people rather than for their benefit, or it is unbalanced, unethical, or unfair.
The desire for gain is as natural and right as the autumn harvest. Every farmer who plants seed in the spring hopes for a bountiful return in the fall. Out of the produce of the fields, the farmer keeps some for himself, pays the wages of his helpers, sells some at a profit (if the markets are good), and sets some aside to be planted for the next year’s crop. According to scripture, the compassionate farmer also allows part of the harvest to be gleaned by those in need.
It’s all about priorities and perspective. I believe God wants us to utilize our gifts and abilities fully to maximize our return on investment, and then He wants us to be as generous as we can be with the proceeds of our success so that no one has to suffer hunger or live in dire need. Jesus spoke continually about releasing our resources to meet the needs of others – that we are to be like rivers and not storerooms.
The antidote to greed is compassion. If you don’t care, start by reforming your attitude toward other people and let love transform your thinking. Part of what makes us human is our ability to look beyond ourselves and care for others. It is the ability to see another person in need and to make a sacrificial decision to help that person at our own expense. It is the ability to differentiate levels of goodness and to choose the greater good. Gain is good. Giving is greater. Best of all, our giving does not negate our gain – it only adds to it in ways that cannot be captured on a balance sheet, but which are far more valuable than fiscal profits. Let me tell you from firsthand experience that when you see the gratitude in the eyes of someone you’ve helped, you won’t sell that experience for a million dollars. It’s priceless.
I believe in the blessings freedom brings and the potential for prosperity it affords. While enjoying life, however, I cannot look past others. I can say with everything in my being that I will live the rest of my life seeking to help every person I can and, at the same time, trying to inspire others to help every suffering person on the face of this earth. I do not want there to be one child who is not fed or cared for. I can’t do it all, but I can do something.
I believe that our business leaders would be wise to go to the countries where they’re doing business to see firsthand how the people live and to begin the process of making a difference. If businesspeople will go with a heart of compassion to see how things really are “over there,” it can change their lives. No one will be able to go back to the office or the boardroom and not care about people in other places. They will want to make a difference.
One business can’t do everything, but every business and every person can do something. I’m not talking about just charity here; I’m talking about applying business savvy and experience in the following ways:
- Raising capital
- Training “teaching the other person how to fish”
- Putting systems and processes in place
- Putting long-term, sustainable enterprises to work in disadvantaged areas
Let me say this gently, but firmly. While seeking to be productive, forsake the all-consuming, self-serving interests and invest in something that matters. Focus on more than resource development; develop people and provide opportunities. Successful businesses provide jobs, produce profits, and, when focused, help solve problems – anywhere in the world.
When individuals and private organizations get involved in meeting needs in our communities, we have several advantages over the government:
- Hands-on distribution of resources
- Firsthand accountability for the deployment of resources
- Ability to deliver a message of love with no political strings attached
- Personal interaction and encouragement that reveal true compassion
In the United States, as private enterprise begins to make progress toward directly meeting the needs of our society, we can gradually replace some government programs with a more efficient and effective plan. As the government is released from the major role of provider – a role the founders never intended for it to play – and focuses on its legitimate responsibility to provide protection, we will be able to ask our representatives to give us our money back (reducing the trillions of dollars now being poured into many ineffective social welfare programs) in the form of lower taxes, which will pump even greater capital into the business sector and personal pocketbooks to be used for even greater good. Believe me, it’s a win-win situation. It won’t be easy, but it isn’t just pie-in-the-sky. When individuals and businesses experience the benefit of a society where every person truly has an opportunity to succeed, there will be no turning back to the government dole. If churches and private enterprise will become more involved in helping the needy, we can see to it that no one is left out.
I’m not talking about simple solutions to complex problems. I’m talking about having the determination and setting the course to get these societal problems solved. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do want to be a catalyst to inspire the discussion. I hope to get individuals, businesses, churches, and governments talking about how to make the interests of people our highest priority – not greed, not politics, not personal power and influence. Let’s channel our resources where they’re going to be most effective.
You may not have millions of dollars at your disposal, but do you have thousands? Hundreds? Even a few hundred dollars in the right place can do tremendous good. And you’ll be surprised – once you start giving, it gets easier, and you’ll start to see more opportunities than you have the resources to meet. Those who give will be blessed – Jesus guarantees it. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
You may not necessarily be blessed with greater income or profits – although sometimes that happens – but without a doubt you’ll be blessed with things money can’t buy, such as joy, satisfaction, significance, and purpose. The supporters of LIFE’s mission programs are among the happiest, most content people I’ve ever met. They thank us continually for the privilege of providing relief to those who suffer, and they rejoice in sharing life with those in need.
Some of the thoughts I’ve shared above are in the book I wrote eight years ago and it is more relevant today than when it was written. Please request The Absolutes: Freedom’s Only Hope and share it with others who will join us sharing truth and praying for God to heal our land.
1 Money, Greed & God by Jay Richards.