Dear Jesus Santa, Excuse My Greed

In an article titled “10 Worst Marketing Blunders of 2009” I came across the most egregious use of the old form of the prosperity message I have seen in a very long time. It is also one of the most transparent, as far as where the problem is in this type of thinking.

It is all in building your little straw man after you have diverted attention from the actual focus of the admonition of Jesus’ teaching. Maybe the thinking comes from a lack of grammatical understanding, although my bets are on the blindness of greed. To “love others as our­selves” is primarily focused on the directive to love others. That is where our action is to be taken…. the “ourselves” part is to tell us how and to what degree. It is a form of the Golden rule, which reverses the emphasis from what we get out of it to caring more about people other than ourselves.


First the banking industry made a big show of cutting the obscene bonuses it was paying itself for going on the dole. Meanwhile they hoped no one would notice the allegedly eliminated bonuses were now being paid as plain old salary.

But wait … that’s not all!

Apparently still feeling that their efforts to destroys the economy were still underappreciated, bankers started claiming Jesus wanted them to do it.

“The injunc­tion of Jesus to love others as our­selves is an endorse­ment of self-?interest,” Goldman’s [inter­na­tional adviser Brian] Grif­fiths said Oct. 20, his voice echo­ing around the gold-mosaic walls of St. Paul’s Cathe­dral, whose 365-feet-high dome towers over the City, London’s finan­cial dis­trict. “We have to tol­er­ate the inequal­ity as a way to achiev­ing greater pros­per­ity and oppor­tu­nity for all.”

How much LSD do you have to take to interpret Scripture this way? However much it is, it is certainly being passed out at all the best financial institutions. Two weeks later, Barclays CEO John Varley spoke at the venerable St. Martin-in-the-Fields and tried to wrap the Bible around his bonus.

“There is no conflict between doing business in an ethical and responsible way and making money. We make our biggest contribution to society by being good at what we do. Profit is not satanic.”

I guess it all depends on who gets to determine how we define ethical and responsible. Perhaps Varley could have gotten away with this specious argument had he not added this gloss to the text after the service: “Is Christianity and banking compatible? Yes. And is Christianity and fair reward compatible? Yes.” (Not a good sign when a banker can’t even get his verb and subject numbers to add up.) Hey John, can we parse the word “fair” for a moment?

I believe the renowned 20th century theologian Ray Price put it best when he asked, “Would Jesus wear a Rolex on His television show?

I do believe that God wants to bless us, and that prosperity is part of that. How, though, can one edit out all the portions of scripture that admonish us to share with others, take care to practice equity, practice generosity to the poor, … in other words, the many ways we are to act in loving others?

Perhaps some of these bankers should be shown another Bible verse, from the Old Testament this time:
“Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”

2 thoughts on “Dear Jesus Santa, Excuse My Greed”

  1. It’s not about Greed

    There are between 7 and 14 articles and blogs a day all identifying the crisis of 2008, CEO behavior and bankers bonuses as all about greed. We are quickly moving towards an accusatory cultural position that if one gets too much (a relative term) then one is filled with greed. It is similar to the diagnosis of narcissism that has been grossly misused and misapplied. Misused to the degree, where if one is selfish or lacks empathy or takes more, one is called a narcissist. This places the accuser in the position of blaming those who have more and fails to understand what motivates them to engage in this behavior.
    What brought about the banking crisis in America was not about greed, it was about the pathological need to increase one’s status. Studies have demonstrated that high levels of testosterone do not necessarily lead to a macho man hell bent on being aggressively consumptive but a man excessively focused on status, filled with envy, and an overwhelming desire to have what the other guy has. Consider this: At a “gin and tonic” party at a mansion of a successful banker an attendee reported the following. “After I got my drink our host led us to his greenhouse and showed his magnificent collection of valuable and delicate orchids. It was his hobby and he would travel the world collecting rare and exotic plants. Upon return to the house I could not help but notice two sets of women; an old or original group of wives at one end of the large room and a group of trophy wives at the other end, nervously eyeing each other.” What drives these men to engage in one-upmanship is not greed — but one-up-man ship status. They see their colleagues with a more expensive car, they start thinking about getting a one, they see a colleague with a jet and they have to have one too, they see a colleague with a beauty and they want one. Houses, cars, wives, art, orchids, watches, office, etc.; these are status symbols and for these men they are exceedingly important. They become a measure of their self worth. The parties, the country club, the university club, the yacht club, and the workplace are all places where executives parade their stuff. Many suggest this is nothing more than narcissistic characters impressing others to obtain love. But this may not be the case. They live and work within a culture that is status driven and issues of exclusion and inclusion are associated with the attainment of status. In this culture those who have more create envy and they aggressively engage in the struggle for ever higher status. The “my d–k is bigger than yours,” is ever present. The truth of the matter is underneath they believe they will always an inadequate d–k.

  2. Although you wrote a very good stand alone essay here ( and thank you for taking the time to do it)… in the end I think it is a straw man. I still make the case that it is about the greed.

    See this portion of your statement, “an overwhelming desire to have what the other guy has.” ? That is greed.

    Having more doesn’t equal greed… some people are born into a state of “having more”. It is what happens when the need to accumulate more despite the consequences for others, taking what is not rightfully yours, and not sharing what you have with those in need that indicates that greed is at work.

    One upmanship is another way of describing “pride”. Another basic vice, but not the one behind this particular use of scripture by the men quoted in the article.

    Greedy people may share the trait of pride and vice versa, but I don’t think that is a given.

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