Greed is madness. That was the opinion of early Christians. Greed, like delirium, stems from a false perception of reality. The Fathers of the Church marveled at the way men feverishly pursue stones and metals. These are mere earth, but by some derangement of the mind, men attach a value to them far exceeding any sober assessment.
Or consider the greedy man’s perception of his neighbor. For the insane person, others are mere actors in his fantasy, barely more than props. Isn’t it the same for the one struck by avarice? Others are objects, either for profit or loss, but not valuable in themselves. But the greatest delusion of greed is idolatry. Money, not God, is the greedy man’s hope and protector. The man gripped by greed has lost his grip on reality.
The young Solomon is allowed to ask anything from God. What an opportunity! Measuring his options, the new king makes a simple request: “Give your servant...an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” Concerned about the responsibilities laid upon him, anxious to be a good king, Solomon prays for wisdom. He knows that to rule well he will need a clear perception of reality. That’s wisdom’s gift. God, pleased by such a request, grants it enthusiastically: “I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.” Solomon had a great start, but greed will eventually rob him of it all.
St. John of the Cross uses Solomon as a cautionary tale: “Who would have thought that a man as perfect in the wisdom and gifts of God as Solomon...[would] construct altars to countless idols and then worship them himself?...[His] rush after his desires and the failure to deny them, gradually blinded and darkened his intellect so that finally the powerful light of God’s wisdom was extinguished.” Wisdom and greed are as opposed as sanity and lunacy. The young Solomon was wise enough to pray for wisdom, but becoming greedy, “in his old age, Solomon abandoned God.”
Knowing our penchant for riches, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to “a treasure buried in a field” and “a pearl of great price.” He knows how wealth can capture a man’s heart, how he might “sell everything” to have it. Greed can order (and disorder) one’s whole life. But when one treasures Christ, wisdom and its benefits are the natural result: “seek first the kingdom of God..., and all these things will be given you besides” (Mat 6:33). Greed is a ticking time-bomb. All will be lost someday. Only a fool hopes in paper and coins.