The Consequences of Greed

1. It can steal your life away. When I first saw Solomon’s warning in Proverbs 1:19, that greed could take away the life of the person who possesses it, I thought it was talking about life only figuratively. After all, I have known countless men and women whose lives were best characterized by greed, and in nearly every case, their lives were also characterized by things like emptiness, lack of purpose, unhappiness, turmoil, and conflict. I now realize that greed can take one’s life literally as well. One of my former partners left our company and made millions of dollars in a number of business pursuits. He had a beautiful wife and wonderful children, but his greed robbed him of all his joy and fulfillment. When his business collapsed and bankruptcy threatened, he went into his garage and took his life.

2. It can destroy your financial security. In Proverbs 28:22, Solomon tells us that the person who tries to hurriedly get rich will instead end up in poverty. “He that hastens to be rich has an evil eye, and considers not that poverty shall come upon him.” For those focused on getting rich, Solomon says, riches will “sprout wings and fly off like an eagle.”

3. It can affect your loved ones. If you’re like me, I’m sure there are plenty of times when you have thought to yourself, “What I’m doing is my business. It has nothing to do with my parents, my wife, or my kids.” But in Proverbs 15:27, Solomon warns, “”He that is greedy of gain brings trouble into his own house.” There is no such thing as your “own” business. What you do affects everyone you care about. And it doesn’t matter if that greed for gain is financial, material, or for an appetite or an addiction. In business, we may start out with good intentions. We simply want to make more money so we can provide a better life for our families. But, as the seeds of greed take root, we begin to pursue our careers with  such intensity that we neglect the very family we wanted to provide with that better life.

4. It can bankrupt you spiritually. In Proverbs 13:7, Solomon writes, “There is he that makes himself rich, yet has nothing.” Anyone who has read Howard Hughes’s biography has a clear picture of this truth. He was driven by his greed for wealth, power, fame, and love. He was proclaimed the richest man in the world, yet he had nothing: no lasting happiness, no fulfillment, not even security. You, too, may acquire whatever you are greedy for; but Solomon promises that even when you acquire it, you will have nothing of value.

5. It can steal your happiness and reasons for living. At first, you just want a little bit more. Then you want a little bit more. At first you’re thinking about it once in a while. Then you’re thinking about it every day, but just a little bit each day. Soon it dominates your focus all day long. You can’t be happy or fulfilled because your focus is on what you don’t have. You lose what used to be your purpose for living because your life is now centered on chasing what you still lack. That’s the nature of greed.

6. It can steal your integrity. In Proverbs 28:20, Solomon states, “But he that makes haste to be rich shall not be innocent.” Greed is never patient. It’s always in a hurry to get that which it covets. It creates the attitude “I want as much as I can get and I want it now!” It fuels your natural drive for instant gratification. In their quest to accelerate their wealth, people become willing to do that which is unethical, immoral, or illegal to acquire more. There’s nothing inherently wrong in desiring more. But when that desire becomes our focus, or causes us to set aside our priorities, values, or ethics, it has become greed.

7. It creates a false sense of security. In Proverbs 11:28, Solomon writes, “He that trusts in his riches shall fall.” Unfortunately, the more money one makes, the more likely he is to become arrogant. He begins to think he can get away with more and more. He takes more risks. And when he falls, he falls hard.

Next week: How Greed Gains a Foothold in Our Hearts

Reprinted from The Richest Man Who Ever Lived. Copyright © 2006 by Steven K. Scott. Used by permission of Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved.

Steven K. Scott co-founded The American Telecast Corporation based in Philadelphia and its group of consumer goods companies. He is the best-selling author of Mentored by a Millionaire, A Millionaire's Notebook, and Simple Steps to Impossible Dreams.