Greed Eliminates Common Sense
Greed deprives men of common sense; wisdom then becomes a mirage. For example, someone gives us a loaf of bread. He instructs us to pass the other half to a certain person, but because of greed, we decide to keep the whole bread. The common sense tells us that if we faithfully shared what we were asked to share, the giver will trust us and will use us repeatedly as a conduit. In the process of being a conduit, we will always benefit.
I know a case where a man had decided to be frequently sending his brother some hand-outs. He would also use him to deliver part of the money to their mother. At one point the brother failed to deliver Kshs 2 000/- when his share was Kshs. 10 000. By so doing the brother who sent the money got annoyed and stopped the regular Kshs 10 000 that he used to send his brother. Think about it, losing 10 000 because of 2 000!
I read a story of a young boy who was being routinely teased by some senior boys in their school. The big boys would offer him Kr. 10 and Kr. 5 coins simultaneously and ask him to choose one. In terms of size the Kr. 5 coin is bigger than the Kr. 10 coin. Whenever he was offered to choose between the Kr. 5 coin and the Kr. 10 coin, he would take the Kr. 5 coin.
The seniors knew that the young boy was supposed to be old enough to tell that the Kr. 10 coin was of more value despite its relatively smaller size. Whenever the young boy took the Kr. 5 instead of Kr. 10, they would laugh at him amused at how he was a fool, otherwise, how could he go for the size instead of the value? They used to do this frequently, deriving pleasure from this manifest foolishness on the side of the boy. Anytime they offered him the choice and he took the Kr. 5, they would laugh at him as they go their way.
One day the big boys met an old man. Wanting to share the fun with him, they pointed at the approaching young boy and told him that the poor chap doesn’t know that Kr. 10 coin is of more value than the Kr. 5 coin. The old man objected, saying that the young boy was old enough to tell the difference. They offered to prove to him that the boy was a fool. They offered the boy the 2 coins and asked him to choose one. As expected, he chose the Kr. 5. The big boys laughed as they walked away.
The old man was amused. After the boys had left, he asked the ‘foolish’ boy why he took a coin of low value instead of the one of higher value. The boy asked him to promise not let the big boys know why he always choose the smaller value. He told the old man that he knows that the day he will take the Kr. 10, that would be the end of the big boys offering him money. Otherwise, as they laughed at him, he had saved a lot from the big boys.
The young boy must be commended for effectively resisting greed that could have given him a momentary bigger gratification. It was well-thought of him to take little by little each time he got the offer. Resist greed and you may as well be wiser than the one who thinks you are a fool.
If we put words in the works of greed in order to describe its folly, there are cases where we may come up with a statement like: I would rather remain poor than be given a lot of money and expected to be faithful with it. If you are given 1 million and allowed to use 10% don’t take 11%. Because there is a lot of money in your hand, don’t start to focus your eyes on things that you cannot afford with your own money. The money is not yours and you must not budget with it. If you can’t afford what you want with your money, don’t try to buy it with someone’s money. It is simple: don’t torture your mind by thinking about things you can’t afford.
One of the most surprising stories of common sense taking leave is the parable Jesus told in Luke 20:9-16 (also Mark 12:1-9):
“… A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.
“Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others…!”
Although the subject matter of what Christ was talking about is stashed away in the parabolic value of the story, but we can see greed in the story’s literal value. The parable was not unrealistic, except that it expresses gross lack of judgement on the part of the farmers to whom the vineyard was leased. How on earth did they convince themselves that they will get away with their mischief? They even killed the son and expected that they would inherit the vineyard. Why did they behave as if the owner of the vineyard would just accept and move on? Isn’t it interesting that they arrived at the decision to kill the son after reasoning among themselves?
The story above shows how human beings can deceive themselves to the point of exterminating an unwanted reality from their consciousness—this they do to their own peril. If only one of them called out and challenged them to think: What about the owner of the vineyard, what will he do with us after we have killed the son? It couldn’t have needed deep thoughts to figure out the folly of what they were planning to do. Even after they started executing their evil plans, they never woke up to the reality of the futility of their depravity.