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Jack London wrote a wonderful story illustrating one cause of greed.  It's called "Love of Life," and it's about a man who comes extremely close to death by starvation.  When he's rescued by the crew of a ship, people start to notice that the hardtack is missing.  When they search his quarters, they find that the man has hidden hardtack everywhere possible--he's hoarded the stuff, for he's afraid that he'll go without food again and that he may starve.  He's become incredibly greedy because of a fear that has become a very real part of him.

Isn't that what makes most people greedy?  Fear?  For some people, their greed is a result of something that's happened in childhood, something they were deprived of, something they didn't get.  Because of this lack in their lives, they feel that they have to hold on to everything they possibly can.  Some people won't donate money because they're afraid their own financial resources will be drained. Some won't give love because they're afraid a person will take it and leave, leaving them with less love.  Some won't give food because they're afraid they'll run out of food themselves.

No matter what the cause, though, greed is deservedly one of the seven deadly sins.  My dictionary defines "avarice" as "greed for money and abnormal hatred of parting with it," but it's impossible for me to see greed as being limited to money.  Greed pulls us away from other people, makes people want to avoid us, makes people feel bitter and angry towards us.  

Yes, there are those people who will feel compassionate, who will know that the greed's controlling us, and not the other way around, but those people are relatively few.  And just because they feel compassion for us doesn't mean they want to be around us, for they know that there's always a chance that our greed will end up hurting them, too.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a beautiful example of a greedy man.  Much of the beauty of the character lies in Dickens' explanation of the cause of Scrooge's greed--no matter how much we despise the man, we have to sympathize with him to a certain extent.  Money has become a symbol of safety to him, and to let it go means to lose his security.  At a young age, he even gives up his fiancée because of his need for the security that he thinks money will provide.  He finds out, though, that his focus on money has turned him into a solitary, isolated creature, without a friend on the planet.  Dickens ends the story wonderfully, showing us how a simple change in perspective can change a man's heart.  We're glad, of course, for the other characters who no longer have to deal with the skinflint Scrooge, but we're even more glad for Scrooge himself, who finds a bit of happiness in his remaining years on the planet.

Greed hurts everyone, but it especially hurts the greedy person.  If I have to deal with a greedy person, it affects me negatively for a moment or three, but then I leave, and then I avoid that person.  The greedy person, though, because of a fixation on something material or something they're afraid of losing, hurts and alienates people, and very often ends up quite alone until he or she is able to rid him or herself of the fixation on their object of greed.

Somehow, these people need to learn that they're fine just as they are, and that their lives aren't being made richer by possessing the things which they crave, but poorer because of the way that they act in trying to get the things they crave and trying to hold on to the things they have.  My hope is that they can be happy without the need, without the things.



The bounty of nature is too little for the greedy person.



There is no vice which humankind carries to such wild extremes as that of avarice.

Johanthan Swift

There is a sufficiency in the world for people's need but not for people's greed.

Mohandas Gandhi


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Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person
in an endless effort to satisfy the need
without ever reaching satisfaction.

Erich Fromm

A greedy person and a pauper are practically one and the same.

Swiss proverb


Greed lessens what is gathered.

Arab proverb

Articles and book excerpts on greed:

On Giving      Khalil Gibran


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Nothing makes us more vulnerable than loneliness, except greed.

Thomas Harris


Hell has three gates:  lust, anger, and greed.

from the Bhagavad Gita


She had been so wicked that in all her life she had done only one good
deed--given an onion to a beggar.  So she went to hell.  As she lay in
torment she saw the onion, lowered down from heaven by an angel.
She caught hold of it.  He began to pull her up.  The other damned saw
what was happening and caught hold of it too.  She was indignant and
cried, "Let go--it's my onion," and as soon as she said, "my onion,"
the stalk broke and she fell back into the flames.

E.M. Forster

Greed, envy, sloth, pride and gluttony: these are not vices anymore. No,
these are marketing tools. Lust is our way of life. Envy is just a nudge
towards another sale. Even in our relationships we consume each other,
each of us looking for what we can get out of the other. Our appetites
are often satisfied at the expense of those around us.
In a dog-eat-dog world we lose part of our humanity.

Jon Foreman

Most of the mess that is called history comes about because kings and
presidents cannot be satisfied with a nice chicken and a good loaf of bread.

Jennifer Donnelly


Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth
and whatever you feed it is never enough.

Janwillem Van de Wetering

Greed is an imperfection that defiles the mind; hate is an imperfection
that defiles the mind; delusion is an imperfection that defiles the mind.

Gautama Buddha

Selfishness and greed, individual or national, cause most of our troubles.

Harry S. Truman


The ugliest thing in America is greed, the lust for power and domination,
the lunatic ideology of perpetual Growth--with a capital G. "Progress"
in our nation has for too long been confused with "Growth"; I see the
two as different, almost incompatible, since progress means, or should
mean, change for the better--toward social justice, a livable and open
world, equal opportunity and affirmative action for all forms of life.
And I mean all forms, not merely the human. The grizzly, the wolf,
the rattlesnake, the condor, the coyote, the crocodile, whatever, each
and every species has as much right to be here as we do.

Edward Abbey
Postcards from Ed

Either the key to one's wallet is in one's heart, or the key
to one's heart is in one's wallet.  So, unless you express
your charity, you are locked inside your greed.

Noah Benshea
Jacob the Baker