Do you agree? Is it true? Is greed good?
Spoiler alert! Things don’t turn out great for Mr. Gekko. I doubt Michael Douglas’s character would be a good role model.
In fact, another wealthy man, richer even than Gekko, offers a different philosophy:
One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. Proverbs 11:24
But, King Solomon’s words probably won’t make it to Hollywood. Oscar winners won’t likely be quoting it on YouTube. So, which do we believe?
Tangled up with pride, with a bit of gluttony mixed in, this deadly sin is a fistful of temptation. Its methods of pulling us in can be fairly sneaky. When we get sucked into Greed is Good thinking, rejecting the wisdom of Proverbs, its deadliness appears in three modes:
- My Praise
- My Pennies
- My Price
We want more than our fifteen minutes of fame. We want every literate person alive to read our works. “Let everyone see my name in print and be amazed at my talent!” our hearts cry. Our esteem soars when we receive compliments on our writing. We can’t wait to get that positive feedback on our latest piece. Of course, joy in a job well done is not all bad. Excitement over success is not either. It’s when the scales tip, and our personal praise is lifted higher than God’s, that things have gotten deadly. (Or maybe that’s just my heart, and I’m projecting. Don’t leave me alone out here. Am I the only one whose heart struggles with this? The only one who enjoys the personal praise?)
The other part of my heart, that which yields to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, knows it’s not all about me. Like everything else, our writing should be about God’s glory, not ours.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
Not only could we be famous, we could be rich. Write that bestseller and watch the royalty checks roll in. What a life. Think of the house, the boat, the car, the clothes, and the mound of Little Debbie Snack Cakes we could buy with our author earnings. So much could be ours.
Honestly, the material possessions have never been too much of a temptation for me (other than the snack cakes.) But, a life of leisure – that’s a different story. I dream of having enough money that I can do whatever I want with my time. No more commuting, no more mortgage. I can spend my days at play, enjoying nice weather, writing whenever and whatever I want, sleeping when I’m tired. It’s not gimme, gimme, gimme stuff. It’s gimme, gimme, gimme time and freedom.
Let me do whatever I want, for my own pleasure. I doubt this is any less selfish. It’s still a less-than-biblical motive for money.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3
I have been praying for God’s guidance and assistance as I pursue writing goals. I have to frequently do a heart check. What is motivating me to write? Do I only want it to satisfy my own passions? Am I writing for God’s glory, or mine? Ouch. That one hits home. I do pray for Godly motives. Searching my heart, I see the desire to share the Lord with others and glorify Him through writing. But, is this always the case? My score is less than 100% on that test.
The danger here is two-directional. We can either think we are too valuable for certain work, or we can believe our value is based on our work and what it earns us.
The first direction is paved with pride. “I’m worth more than what that job pays.” “I deserve better than this.” “I shouldn’t have to work my way up.” Thoughts like these keep us from opportunities to learn and grow and from opportunities to serve others. Falsely thinking we cannot afford to do anything “below” us, we hold out for the big breaks, even though these may never come if we don’t ride the smaller waves first. We don’t offer services for free to help someone because our time is too valuable. No pay, no way. In either situation, we are afraid we won’t be paid what we are worth.
I realize there are circumstances that call for discernment, and times when we do need to say no. It’s not unreasonable to desire fair pay, and everything we write does not have to be volunteer work in order to try to serve others.
The problem occurs when we base our personal value on the monetary value of our writing. If I don’t earn much, I’m not worth much. We mistakenly think our value goes up with our net worth.
In truth, our value with God is constant, and based on nothing we have done or can do:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10
When we base our value in anything other than the Lord, we are believing the lies we are either telling ourselves or believing from the world.
We must steer our hearts a different way. 2 Peter 2:14 states “They have hearts trained in greed.” What does this training get us? Immediately following this statement, Peter describes them as accursed children.
What can our hearts seek instead of Praise, Pennies, and Price?
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
I hope and pray I do this. I don’t want to seek my own glory. I want to base my worth in the Lord. I want to be humble, and generous, and a good writer, and successful in my pursuits – all at the same time, all while accepting God’s will for my life. To accomplish this, I must be ok with never publishing a book if it never happens, accept the value I have in God’s love, and reflect Him to others rather than spotlighting my own glory.
I hope I can sing Francesca Battistelli’s words in a spirit of worship and truth, and honestly say:
I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name
He Knows My Name, Francesca Battiestelli, If We’re Honest, 2014
None of this is possible with greed guiding my way.