Is Your Faith the Greediest?

Find out what these major religions have to say about greed.

 

Greed may be big in the news now, but the major religions have been dealing with the problems caused by greed for centuries. Most religions eschew greed, though for different reasons. Use this guide to see where the five major religions stand on that sin of sins, greed.





Buddhism

Buddhists believe they must keep themselves from clinging to material things. Attachment to material possessions keeps a person in state of

samsara

, or continual rebirths. One must overcome desire for and attachment to material things in order to stop the cycle of rebirths.

Greed is seen as the opposite of this renunciation of material things. Buddhist texts do warn specifically against greed. As the Buddha says in the Sutta Nipata, "Greed, I say, is a great flood; it is a whirlpool sucking one down, a constant yearning, seeking a hold, continually in movement; difficult to cross is the morass of sensual desire. A sage does not deviate from truth, a brahmana stands on firm ground; renouncing all, he is truly called 'calmed.'" Those that have reached a calm nature and have renounced material things are free from this world of difficulty and constant yearning.

Buddha spoke elsewhere about greed: "Greed is an imperfection that defiles the mind," says "The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha."

Buddhists also believe in the

samyojana

, the "ten fetters of existence," which bind people to the cycle of rebirths. Greed is an important part of the list of fetters-both greed for, or attachment to, a higher material existence and greed for immaterial existence are included among the ten fetters.

Christianity

Both Western and Orthodox Christians believe greed was instilled in human beings after the Fall, and the Ten Commandments inherited from Judaism include not one but two prohibitions against covetousness, often interpreted by Christians as greed.

Jesus is famous for living in poverty and warning against having or wanting too much money. The Gospel states, "Then he [Jesus] said, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15).'"

Other books in the New Testament explain further that worldly passions run counter to righteousness. The book of James says, "What causes wars, and what causes fighting among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (4:1-3)."

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