Please understand that I write this with due respect to all faith groups and totally believe in a separation of church and state. I merely refer to the Christian Gospels of Mark (11:15–33), Matthew (21:12–27) and Luke (19:45-20:8) to illustrate a point. Within these episodes (maybe flashbacks is a better word) there is the story of Jesus Christ and it seems to be maybe the only point in which He really lost his temper. Various accounts of this story include that he turned over the tables of the moneychangers and vendors, released many of the animals intended for slaughter, and making a whip out of cord to cause further chaos. This borderline violent behavior far exceeded what today a prosecutor would indict for misdemeanor disorderly conduct as Christ’s one man riot disrupted the typical activity of the temple. Christ’s specific complaint was that the people were turning God’s house into a marketplace. He was completely accurate in that analysis as the temple should have been reserved as a spiritual place for reverence, prayer, family and faith. The vendors had indeed setup shop and thought it was time to cash in of the faith of those visiting the temple.
Today in our classrooms across the nation (which should be places of learning) students and teachers are having to continually adjust to the shrinking budgets set by the state legislatures and Congress. While they are having to do more with less many teachers are being laid off as principals and school boards are forced to make tough decisions. After high school many students are faced with skyrocketing costs of college and the epidemic of student loans. Upon completion of college many students are still having difficulty finding a job as the lenders close in for the kill.
Our medical network was supposed to be a place of healing but now our nation has an unprecedented population that is indigent and unable to afford basic healthcare for their families. The millions of Americans that have to work part time jobs have no health benefits as the cost of healthcare continues to skyrocket. Families having to deal with a tighter budget in this economy have to deal with rising premiums, unrealistic deductibles, co-pays and now the Obamacare mandate. While the incarcerated get access to constitutionally mandated minimal healthcare, many elderly that need healthcare the most are seeing their pensions cut and benefits shrinking. Insurance companies are narrowing down the their definitions as to what medical procedures are covered while physicians have to tell patients bad, terrible, or even worse news.
Our courtrooms were originally set up to dispense justice but that has been hopelessly corrupted. In the criminal court the state has almost inexhaustible resources, money and personnel with an agenda to convict the defendant. The lucky defendants are able to pay for counsel out of pocket while the unlucky ones are left with the court appointed counsel that have little time, attention or patience for indigent defendants besides communicating and recommending plea deals. What determines outcome in courtrooms (family and civil courts as well) is not the difference between right and wrong, responsibility, good and evil but rather who has the bigger wallet to hire the best legal counsel that money can buy and the wealth needed to fight out the case.
Other examples in government of this sort are easy to come by. We entrust the police department to maintain the peace and quiet of a livable society but they are defining success based upon arrests, asset forfeiture and criminal conviction numbers. Our elected politicians are supposed to be leaders who serve the nation but they are instead at the behest of wealthy donors.
I cite this Christian Gospel reading and other instances of greed in our society to show that the infestation of a greedy marketplace has invaded other areas of our society for the worse. This point is something I am sure that all faiths can easily agree on. Christ complained that people turned the temple into a marketplace. The reality is our turning the classroom that was supposed to be for learning, the hospital that was supposed to be for healing, and the courtroom that was supposed to be for justice into marketplaces is no better. Medical treatment, quality education and social justice are basic human rights that all people should have access to, not just those wealth enough to monopolize them.
I in no way intend to communicate that money or markets are evil or inhuman in nature. They are a necessary part of our lives and society. We should be able to go as often as we need to purchase food, clothing and other supplies needed for maintaining ourselves and our families. The goal should be to have these things in a well balanced moderation. We should learn to leave the commerce of the mall at the mall and not take that consumerism into the courtroom, hospitals, houses of worship, or classrooms. Each of these places has a purpose and we should not corrupt their purposes by mixing them with personal greed. The problem becomes when that greed controls your life.
I submit that there are a few behavioral indicators related closely to one another that the greed is dangerously overtaking your life. When you find that you are so driven for personal gain that all of your decisions become motivated or decided by greed (typically but not always financial). This means that twenty four hours a day you are consumed by accessing your current material assets and obsessing over how to increase accumulating more assets. This means that you find that money or greed is making decisions for you. An example of this is in our legislature as when they are writing budgets for jurisdictions it is difficult to determine whether the politicians are spending the money or if the money is spending the politicians. This is the same for voters as many statistically vote according to their financial health and not the moral responsibility of the candidate. Politicians believe that votes and elections can be easily purchased. Do you believe it is merely a consistence that gas prices temporarily drop in the weeks before an election and then skyrocket back up before inauguration? The greatest indicator that greed has dangerously overtaken your life is obviously when greed becomes more important than everything else in life. Family, friends, basic human rights, liberty (yours or someone else’s) are all cast aside to pursue the accumulation of more. This may mean a legislator willing to sell out the liberties of the people in his own district by acquiescing to some legislative provision being lobbied for by American Corrections Corporation and secured by a campaign donation.
The resulting evidence of human greed is evident in even the most commonly known wealth distribution statistics. More than 90% of the world’s wealth is owned and controlled by top wealthiest 1% of humans. Here in the United States we have 5% of the world’s population greedily consuming more than 35% of the Earth’s resources.
None of this rambling should be interpreted that money or wealth but rather a caution of the corruption of greed. That greed should not be taken into a house of worship, classroom, hospital or courtroom but rather left at the mall.
There are many wonderful things that can be done with the blessings of such wealth and money. One could go around funding healthcare for the indigent, writing checks to schools, financing college students, donating to the food bank, assisting legal aid clinics, and serving those who may not be so fortunate.