Christian Life 

The cost of naked greed

Gordon Gecko's "Greed is good" culture in the banking system is costing lives whilst corporate financiers fail to answer the most obvious and basic of questions.

by Watchman

Gordon Gecko - "Greed is Good".

 Gordon GeckoWE bumped into him the other day while he was out walking the family pet. “Yes”, he is still involved in looking after the financial assets of one of our best-known High Street banks - but no longer as an accounts manager, rather as an employee of a security firm responsible for collecting cash from the bank’s branch offices. And when he sees the expression on the faces of his former colleagues, he is glad that he is out of it.

He left the bank over a decade ago - fed up with the changed environment which regarded employees as mere functionaries, and ‘targets’ as the be all and end all of a day‘s work and the absolute measure of his perceived worth. His area manager had left some years earlier. [I know the gentleman concerned: He is a Christian and he told me at the time that he ‘couldn’t stand having to function as a “money salesman’”.]

Did no one see it coming?

So there is a ‘history’ behind the question that the Queen posed the other day to the financial gurus at the London School of Economics. Why was it, the monarch asked, that no-one saw that credit crash coming? Why indeed? But of course the answer is that some, many even, did; and not least my dog-walking friend and his former boss. 

Regarding the underlying causes and the actions of the banks, one financial wizard and former employee of several high street ‘names’ recently said of his erstwhile colleagues in the wold of banking: "They disregarded the risks to go for aggressive growth," he said. "The City set them targets and put them on the treadmill to their big fat bonuses. The folly of it was obvious at the time to many bankers. But those who put their foot on the brake were told to move aside because they were old-fashioned."

And with that view my friend heartily concurred. But by this time the dog was getting bored with our conversation, so our dissection of global economics needed to end. With the lead tugging, he (the man, not the dog) summed up the dynamic underlying the current chaos in one word. “Greed”, he said from over his shoulder as we went our separate ways.

The cost in human lives

And it has been this greed that has pushed ‘easy money’ at us all; and not least at those who could not really afford it. Faced with the constant “go on, spoil yourself” pressures from a pervasive and powerful advertising industry pushing the retailers’ wares, many have succumbed to the temptation. And very sadly some have not survived.

In a recent analysis of the current financial plight one columnist for the Independent wrote about a woman, Jeanette Leigh. Aged just 31, she recently got off the plane at Manchester Airport following a holiday in Tenerife and received a text message saying her home had been repossessed. She went straight into the toilets at Terminal Two and hanged herself with the cord from her tracksuit bottoms. What a tragedy. And the question arises: “Who lend her the money to go on holiday when her home was on the line?” Could it have been one and the same outfit?

No wonder that the prophets’ warnings of yesteryear need to be broadcast loudly in our day. How many more Jeanette Leighs will there be before someone calls a halt to the “Greed is good” culture. And how many more straightforward questions will our Queen have to ask before she receives an honest reply?

In a reversal of roles it was the monarch who has exposed the financiers and corporate chiefs in their “Emperor’s new clothes”. It will take more than a fig leaf or bank note to cover their nakedness; and tragically any resolution will come much too late for Jeanette Leigh.


Ed postcript: Jan 2009

German billionaire Adolf Merckle committed suicide by throwing himself under a train, “broken” as his business empire crumbled under a growing burden of debt, his family said.

The 74 year-old businessman was hit yesterday evening near his hometown of Blaubeuren, 44 miles southeast of Stuttgart, a police officer said in an interview. His body was found on the tracks at around 7:30 p.m. about 300 yards from his home and a suicide note had also been found.

“The dedicated family businessman was broken by his inability to handle the situation and he ended his own life,” his family said in a statement today. “The distress at his companies caused by the financial crisis and the resultant uncertainty of the last few weeks” contributed to his death, the family added.    Read full story at

Watchman, 17/11/2008

(page   1   2)
Penny Lee 18/11/2008 21:38
Jesus talked about heaven with its gates of pearl, walls of jasper and all manner of precious stones, streets of pure gold etc. so He clearly doesn't have a problem with appropriate extravagance.

Maybe He should get rid of all the luxurious items there and send down the proceeds to the poor of this world. :-O

I think that is one of the most lovely things to look forward to in heaven - being able to enjoy all the beautiful gifts of God in extreme abundance without feeling that somehow I'm not supposed to have them or enjoy them. But of course by then my heart will be completely in tune with His and so all of these things will take second place to my relationship with Him. If only we could reach that place on earth, if only.....
Ralph Smith (Guest) 18/11/2008 22:10
"Jesus talked about heaven with its gates of pearl, walls of jasper and all manner of precious stones, streets of pure gold etc. so He clearly doesn't have a problem with appropriate extravagance."

There is a lot of symbolism in the bible!
Penny Lee 18/11/2008 22:22
I believe that is what is really there in all its beauty.
And that belief has only been reinforced by recently reading a book called '90 Minutes in Heaven' by Don Piper.

God does opulence we, as yet, know nothing about.
Ralph Smith (Guest) 19/11/2008 08:11
I suspect mankinds idea of opulence and God's idea are poles apart, we only have to look at the current economic situation to see that. The important thing for Christians is not to get caught up in the former. I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one sister.
Bible Reader (Guest) 19/11/2008 11:23
I was once asked to do a Bible study on "riches". What I found was that (almost)everytime "riches" were talked about in a worldly sense they were portrayed as a snare whereas when "riches" was mentioned in a positive context it was as in "riches in heaven" i.e. commeding us to strive after spiritual riches.

Some years ago a mainstream Scottish denomination published its accounts in its magazine. One of the churches had a £1 million in the bank (as well as one of the biggest and grandest church buildings).

It's bad enough that banks and big business strive after these things, but when we see the church doing the same....

Little wonder that when Christians from abroad (Africa/Asia) come to the West they struggle to cope with all of this.
Ralph Smith (Guest) 19/11/2008 14:39
It is amazing how we can all read the same bible yet see these things so differently! My understanding of Jesus and His teachings is that we as individuals, as well as communities of His people are called to a life of simplicity. To be different than the world and its grasping ways!
Penny Lee 19/11/2008 20:17

I don't support the world's grasping ways any more than any other Christian and I've seen grasping Christians a plenty too. I don't believe God meant for us all to live in poverty. However, if God has blessed us with material wealth or possessions then we have an added responsibility in what we do with them. They should never take the place of God or become more important than doing His will. We should be able to remain content either with or without them.

I suppose I would be considered 'working class' yet I feel tremendously blessed with the opportunities and gifts which God has given me and I am determined to give them back to Him so He alone gets the glory.

This situation does not in any way conflict with my conscience but, in effect, makes me more compassionate to those who have nothing and whose lives are devoid of any joy or love.

I realise I am rich in Christ and my material possessions, such as they are, are a poor second to my relationship and hope in Christ. That, though, doesn't mean I despise what God has given me in terms of life's comforts. I am extremely thankful for them but they don't have a hold on me. Only God has that - thanks be to God!
Ralph Smith (Guest) 19/11/2008 22:28
Amen and amen. You are right it is a matter of conscience, and God does bless etc. However getting the thread slightly back on track;

1. Lambeth Palace etc do not in any way reflect a life of simplicity, which Jesus undeniably calls us to - individually and collectively.

2. Looking only to the Old Testament in terms of justifying opulence is a dangerous place for us to be. Paul tells us in Corinthians that we need to be careful how we build the Christian faith, as we may be disappointed to discover that 'on that day' it doesn't go up in smoke (1 Cor 3: 10 - 15). The Gold , silver and costly stones that he mentions are in the spiritual and NOT the material sense!
Penny Lee 20/11/2008 00:18
"The Gold , silver and costly stones that he mentions are in the spiritual and NOT the material sense!"

except in Heaven........(ouch!!!! :-D)
Ralph Smith (Guest) 20/11/2008 08:10
Time to give this one up..!
(page   1   2)

NOTICE: - The 'Response' facility on some articles may be restricted to CT site members. In these circumstances comments/questions from non-site members should be sent to the Editor by e-mail: editor<atsign>

Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Christian Life > Christians and Politics > The cost of naked greed