02 April 2010

PURE GREED

The seven deadly sins are supposed to be pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. Although I don't believe in sin (acts that are transgressions against divine law) most of these behaviors can be harmful to oneself and a few can be harmful to others. Some are mere personal failures and some are definitely unethical behaviors.
The one I find most abhorrent is GREED. Legally, any money one earns is his/her own to do with what s/he wants, but ethically, I ask, just how much money does any one person need to live a comfortable life? And how can someone make a billion dollars and not feel some need to help those who have so much less?

I saw a news report on NBC yesterday about hedge fund managers who have turned the economic downturn into a personal boon. The 25 top earners in 2009 increased the value of their personal wealth by $25 billion, an average of $1 billion each. The top earner, gained $4 billion for himself.
When they realized the government was not going to allow banks to fail, they scooped up bank stocks at bargain prices. Since the market has gone up dramatically, these people are living like royalty. One has a 35-room mansion with an in indoor pool, an outdoor skating rink, and his own Zamboni.


I like to play with numbers to figure out what that much money would mean. Most of the people pictured in the report looked to be at least in their forties, so I figure most will live about 40 more years. If they stuffed their mattresses with their money and never earned a penny in interest, dividends or capital gains over those 40 years, they would each have $25 million (before taxes) per year or over $2.83 million each month.
According to Census Bureau figures for 2007 (couldn't find anything more recent) the median household income in the U.S. was a little over $50,000/year. A household in the median range would have to work more than 40 years to earn what these guys would have for one month.
I'm not sure if I could manage to spend $2.83 million for the rest of my life, let alone in one month.

Since the Christian population of this country hovers around 75%, we can assume that about 3/4 of these people are Christians. I'm wondering how many of them will greedily keep all the money for themselves and how many might use the money in more productive ways. Perhaps most of them think "Christian charity" is charity only to themselves. I wonder how many know that Jesus instructs those who wish to go to heaven to give all their money to the poor:
"And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? . . . Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." (Matthew 19:16-21. See also Luke 12:33.

Now, I really don't expect anyone to give away everything they own, but some charity is certainly warranted for those who are raking in billions.
If each of these top 25 earners would give away half of their 2009 gains, what could their $12.5 billion buy for those who are struggling?


250 million pair of $50 shoes or 500 million pair of $25 shoes
or
$50 worth of groceries for 250 million people worldwide
or
125,000 homes (at $100,000 each)
or
416,667 mobile homes (at $30,000) for residents of Haiti
or
pay one month's mortgage (at $1500) for 83 million families in jeopardy of loosing their homes
or
pay 833,333 small businesses $15,000 each to help pay the salary of one new employee
or
provide health care for 1.04 million families for a year


There are a zillion more things they could do with their money:
AIDs prevention campaigns in Africa
re-train laid-off workers
vaccinations
basic health services for the poor
medications for senior citizens who can't afford to pay for their own
literacy classes
build/renovate schools
environmental needs
scientific or medical research
clean water in poor villiages

The list could go on an on.

Several years ago, I found a list on CNN Money listing the richest people in America. Five members of the family that owns Walmart were numbers 17-21 on the list, each worth over $17 billion. If each of those people were responsible for, and the sole supporter of, 20 people (including themselves) for the next 80 years, each of those 100 people would have about $7800 to spend each day. And these are the people that can't afford to pay for health care for their workers.

I'm sorry, but no one is worth a billion dollars, and absolutely no one deserves their own personal Zamboni.


UPDATE: August 4th 2010
Non-believers Bill Gates and Warren Buffett announced that they had come up with the idea called "The Giving Pledge" and had convinced 40 American billionaires to pledge at least half their wealth to charity and will continue to call on the other 350 billionaires in the U.S. to take the pledge, resulting in approximately $600 billion in charitable donations.


* * * * * * *

You might find this interesting:

Ecclesiastes 5:10
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.

1 Timothy 6:7-10
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Proverbs 28:27
He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.

Proverbs 28:20
....he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.

Deuteronomy 23:19-20
You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.

Matthew 5:42
Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

5 comments:

Snowbrush said...

And then there is the disproportionate amount of the earth's resources that they use--and waste.

libhom said...

What I find interesting is that churches seldom criticize this kind of greed.

C Woods said...

Snowbrush ---
Thanks for reminding me of the environmental impact. As a nation, we use far more than our fair share of the earth's resources, but these people and their families might possibly use more than some small impoverished countries.

libhom ---
I once listened to a talk show (this was in the early 70s) featuring a man who had been a corporate executive who quit his job to work for Jerry Falwell. He implied that anyone who wasn't wealthy did not believe in God enough, for if they had prayed enough, were pious enough, or had enough faith, God would certainly have rewarded them. I was so incensed by this that I had to call in to scold him (as if he cared.) I am sure some of the very poor are the most religious, while some of the world's fat cats are only religious for show.

If Christians would care as much about the Bible verses that demand they be charitable as they do about the "abomination" of homosexuality, this might be a much more pleasant world.

I added a link to my post to a site that lists all the Biblical verses having to do with money.

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C Woods said...

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