Christian Financial Advice and Biblical Stewardship

Detecting the Early Symptoms of Greed

  • 2006 24 Mar
Detecting the Early Symptoms of Greed

Remember, greed isn’t defined by what you want but rather by the lengths you will go to get it. Nor is greed just the desire for money or material things. Greed can take control of any desire in our lives: achievement, love, sex, alcohol, wealth, or material possessions. Greed transforms our natural desires into a consuming drive for more, regardless of our best interests or the best interests of others. To keep it from gaining a controlling foothold in our lives, we need to look for the symptoms that will alert us to its presence.

Early Warning Symptoms of Greed

Coveting. All of us see things that others have and feel a momentary desire to have them, too. That’s perfectly natural. Coveting, on the other hand, is a strong and persistent desire or craving for something that you don’t have. It becomes a focus of your thoughts and desires. Acquiring it ultimately becomes a priority in your life, deferring or replacing more important priorities.

More, more, more. As you achieve your goals and acquire the things you want, instead of being grateful for what you have, your focus keeps shifting to what you don’t have. You find that you have lots of desires but little lasting contentment or joy.

Hurry, hurry. Whatever you’re chasing after, you can’t get it fast enough. Rather than patiently pursuing what you want and working to earn it, you find yourself looking for shortcuts to obtain it faster. Today, people take on extraordinary credit-card debt because they want so much before they can legitimately afford it.

Closing your eyes to compromise. When you find yourself contemplating compromising your values or integrity to achieve what you want more quickly than would otherwise be likely, you know that greed is overtaking you. By the time you are actually compromising your values, it is too late. The good news is that once you’re aware of your tendency toward greed, you can hit the brakes and reverse course.

More turbulence. If you find yourself experiencing more conflict, more adversity, and more problems in general in your life, think about your focus. When our focus continually shifts to what we don’t have, we create turbulence in our lives and the lives of those around us. That turbulence can be a signal that greed is overtaking our lives.

How Greed Gains a Foothold in Our Hearts

When I graduated from college, I had no financial goals and almost no drive for material things. I simply wanted to succeed in my career and be able to provide the modest material needs of my family. By the time my second child was born, I was deep in debt and barely making enough money to pay our bills. After many failures, I started a new business with my partners. It was an exciting time. Before I knew it, my focus had shifted from my family life to making our business successful. I was traveling 160 days a year, working on project after project. Then 160 days turned into 230 days. By our tenth year in business, I was spending nearly 300 days a year on the road. I wasn’t working so hard for the money or for material possessions. My greed was for creating more and more successful projects. I loved my work. But in the process, I sacrificed my family. I could have sworn I wasn’t greedy, because money wasn’t my focus. But the truth is, I was greedy—for achievement and the praise and appreciation of my partners.

Greed can infect any goal. It can even distort your relationships with your spouse or your children—through possessiveness (wanting more time and attention than another person is able to give you).

Next Week: Can I Achieve Success Without Being Greedy?

 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.