Greed: When will we learn?

by Sep 25, 2008

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the financial crisis, and this Time article finally helped me put the pieces together. It seems to come down to one word: greed.

Greed motivated people to buy houses they couldn’t afford. Greed motivated them to pull all the equity out of their homes to buy toys they couldn’t afford. Greed motivated them to lie about how much they earned to qualify for loans they couldn’t afford.

Greed motivated mortgage brokers to wink and look the other way when they knew they were selling loans to people who wouldn’t be able to pay them. Greed motivated big lenders to gamble on perpetually rising home prices to keep funding their risky loans.

Greed motivated credit card companies to push illegal zero-percent $100,000 cash advances on people as down payments on homes, hiding the fact that their interest rates would skyrocket to 25% or more if they were just one day late on their payment.

Now we’re paying the consequences for all this greed, but have we even learned our lesson? Is it possible that greed is now motivating us to throw more money at the problem so we can get the party going again?

Jesus told a chilling story about wealthy, comfortable people (like the vast majority of Americans) who aren’t satisfied with their wealth and still want more:

The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:16-21).