Avoiding greed helps a person lead a virtuous life in this lifetime. The Holy Kural, a first-century Hindu text, teaches that the virtuous shun greed, among other qualities. " Virtue is living in such a way that one does not fall into these four: Envy, anger, greed and unsavory speech (4:35)." The Kural also says, " Do not seek the fortune that greed gathers, for its fruit is bitter in the day of enjoyment. To protect his own prosperity from decline, one must not crave the property held by others (18:177-178)."

Islam
Muslims are required to pay zakat, a mandatory donation to charity. Zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, is meant to keep Muslims free of greed. Islam teaches that it's alright to have some possessions, but the payment of zakat helps keep one's wealth in check.

Greed is seen as a distraction from God. The Qur'an states, " The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things) (102:1)."

At the same time, Islam, like Catholicism and Judaism, understands that some material things are necessary-it is only when they mislead that they become harmful. One hadith, or saying of the prophet, states, "Eat what you want and dress up as you desire, as long as extravagance and pride do not mislead you (The Prophet Muhammad, as reported by Abd'Allah ibn Abbas)."

Judaism
There is no direct admonition in Judaism about being greedy, though the Torah includes many prohibitions against obtaining money wrongfully. Judaism does not encourage poverty or asceticism and instead understands that desire for money or material possessions is often necessary. The Midrash explains, "were it not for the yetzer hara (the evil urge), a man would not build a house, take a wife, beget children, or engage in commerce."

Money, as long as it helps one secure a living and aid others less fortunate, is a good thing. But desire for money becomes problematic when one is greedy for property that is not one's own. As Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, says, "Let your fellow's property be as dear to you as your own." Instead of being greedy, Judaism teaches it is better to be happy with what one has, as Ben Zoma said, "Who is rich? He who is satisfied with his lot."

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the great 18th-century Ukrainian rabbi, taught that people help control desire for money by giving charity. He wrote that when the messiah comes, there will be no more desire for money.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus