Greed Is Good – Or Is It? What Jesus Would Say to Gordon Gekko

by Jason on May 26, 2010

Do you remember the famous words of Gordon Gekko, the fictional character that Michael Douglas played in the 1987 movie Wall Street?

Greed is good!”

This line has become so famous that even political leaders have used Gordon Gekko’s line in speeches.

Here’s the full quote from Gekko:

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.

Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.

Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind

But does greed really mark the upward surge of mankind or does it propel us into a downward spiral that eventually destroys us?

What would Jesus say to Gordon Gekko if he met him in his luxurious corner office overlooking the city? 

We get a sense of what he might say in Luke 12, where Jesus is preaching and teaching to a huge crowd when some random guy shouts and asks Jesus  to help him get his Father’s inheritance that is not being shared by his brother.

Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach about money and greed:

Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” 

Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12:13-15 NLT

Greed Is Good?

What is Greed anyway? 

Greed is an overwhelming desire to have more of something than is actually needed! 

How often do we think we need new clothes, more shoes, a bigger TV, a better car, a nicer house – I could go on and on.

Greed is an overwhelming desire to have more of something than is actually needed!

So I imagine Jesus sitting in Gekko’s office chair, looking around his posh corner office and saying,

Gordon, you know, you think that greed is good – that all this stuff you have is really what you want - but it’s not.  

Greed is not good – in fact, you really need to guard against it – you need to detach yourself from it!  And I say this to you because I love you and I know what’s best for you.

Maybe he’d say something like this,

Gordon, you are not defined by your work, your office or your investment portfolio – those things never last.  Pursue things that will last!  Pursue True Wealth!

Or this,

Gordon, you think your little empire will make you happy, but you are empty – money is acting as your functional savior - you have no lasting fulfillment - true joy doesn’t come from money, but from a right relationship with me.”

So why would Jesus say things like this? 

Why would Jesus say  “Guard against every kind of  greed”?

I think there are three main reasons – and we’ll save that for tomorrow’s post.

What Do You Think?

Readers, what else do you think Jesus would say to Gordon Gekko?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin@OutOfYourRut May 26, 2010 at 9:10 am

We probably don’t need to speculate what Jesus would say to Gordon Gekko. Greed is all about the stuff of this world–which are the very things Jesus directed us against.

Chris@FeFi May 26, 2010 at 11:01 am

Man, forget greed…what was wardrobe thinking with that tie, pant and suspender choices!? Ever heard the saying, “God don’t like ugly”?!


JoeTaxpayer May 26, 2010 at 11:32 am

I can’t find it right now, but I recall a passage in which the Big Guy ™ imparts something on to man which has an ambiguous translation. Depending on context it is evil and/or ambition. It then falls on man to fight and control that part of his nature to use it for the purpose of good not evil. As one’s drive to procreate is also buried within our nature, my control lead me to a monogamous relationship, others, unnamed, not so much.
If Greed (and ambition) leads a man to find a cure for cancer, or to create clean power at a cheap price (think a $1000 panel that’s enough to power your home) then bring it on. When it leads to a Madoff, it’s another story.
Let’s not ignore the Greed of Gates and Buffet, whose combined wealth has employed tens of thousands of people, and whose legacy is a charitable foundation that will bring good to its beneficiaries.
I’m not so arrogant as to try to suggest what He’d say to Gekko any more than I’d picture Him talking to Bugs Bunny, but I’d say “Use that wealth for good. You won the game, now share the spoils.”

Joe Plemon May 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm

In answering the man who wanted Jesus to divide the inheritance, Jesus saw through the surface issue to a deeper issue: the man thought that more money would make him happy. Jesus quickly challenged the man’s motives (greed) and challenged him to seek values in life that are greater than one’s net worth.

What would Jesus say to Gordon Gekko? I am pretty sure that He would not approve of Gekko’s philosophy of greed, but He would also zero in on Gekko’s deeper motives and values. He had a way of doing that.

By the way, just so I would understand the word “greed”, I looked it up in a dictionary. Greed is defined as “An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.”

Good post with interesting comments!

Jason @ One Money Design May 27, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I love Wall Street. Must have seen it 20 times. :)

Greed certainly isn’t good and leads us into destruction. If Gekko would turn the energy he had for the love of money to love of Christ he could have been a richer man. Maybe that’s what Jesus would have said.

Added this to my roundup for tomorrow. :) Creative post!

Jason May 28, 2010 at 5:22 am

Thanks for weighing in J – Good addition to what Jesus would say – and he says that to all of us. We don’t have to be a Gordon Gekko for our hearts to be led astray by wealth and possessions.

Jason May 28, 2010 at 5:24 am

Joe – you’re right, Jesus always cut through to the motives of the heart and challenged people’s framework and worldview and then showed them that He was the answer! Thanks for the comment!

Jason May 28, 2010 at 5:29 am

JoeTaxpayer – maybe it’s semantics, but I wouldn’t label that as greed per se – maybe ambition, which you mentioned or determination. No matter, if it is greed or something else, although there may be great things coming from their drive, Jesus would still confront them on their motives. That’s the route he always took in the gospels when talking to others, he got to the heart issues of man to show them that it is not ____ (fill it in with whatever they’re after) that is what you really want and need – it is a right relationship with me (Jesus).

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