"Greed is good" were the famous words spoken by Gordon Gecko from the classic 1987 movie Wall Street. Gecko was unashamed of the relentless pursuit of money and material prosperity. Surely we're beyond his naked ambition for material gain - or are we? Join us as we reflect on greed, material prosperity and the human desire for more
The guest: Dr. Brian Rosner. Brian is currently Principal of Ridley College in Melbourne. Brian has worked as an electrician’s off-sider, a public servant, a school teacher, and a university and theological college lecturer. He is the author of numerous books, including Greed as Idolatry and Beyond Greed.
This show was recorded in partnership with Darebin Presbyterian Church.
Check out Gordon Gekko's famous speech in the movie Wall Street.
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Bigger Questions asked in this conversation
So Brian - you’ve worked in a variety of jobs: an electrician’s off-sider, a public servant, a school teacher, and a university and theological college lecturer. Did your attitude to money change with these different roles?
Well to kick off Bigger Questions we like ask a couple of smaller questions - just to get us thinking a bit. Today we’re talking with Brian Rosner about money and materialism. So Brian, I thought we’d test you on how much you know about the 1987 Academy Award winning movie Wall Street.
Nature of greed
So Brian, Gordon Gekko claims that greed is good, but what exactly is greed?
Why is greed usually seen negatively?
Why do we recoil at the idea of being labelled ‘greedy’? For the other things on Gekko’s list seem almost virtuous - we’re not usually opposed to someone who says, ‘I’m greedy for life, love or knowledge?’ So why money?
So it seems that greed is endemic - why is that?
Now Brian, you’ve written a couple of books on greed and materialism, including Beyond Greed, why was that? Were you hoping for lots of royalties?
There is a verse in the Bible, in the New Testament book of Colossians, where the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 3:5: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
So Brian, in what sense is greed idolatry?
Paul exhorts his readers to, ‘put to death, stop’, greed because it is idolatry, so why is idolatry so bad?
So how is God better than money?
Will putting to death greed get me a relationship with God?
Personal reflection on greed?
There was a time in your life where you received a particular financial opportunity - can you tell us what happened?
Surely there is wisdom in paying off your mortgage sooner, so what is the difference between greed and financial prudence?
Wisdom: Greed and money
The Old Testament wisdom book of Proverbs offers some wisdom on greed and materialism. Proverbs 30:7-9 says
“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
This speaks about ‘neither poverty nor riches’ - how is this a better vision for materialism than ‘greed is good’?
But it doesn’t sound terribly aspirational?
If Gordon Gekko was greedy for wisdom, what do you think he’d do differently?
How could the Bible’s wisdom be useful to Gordon Gekko?
The Big Question
So Brian, are we greedy?