Greed Can Make People Do All Kinds of Evil

Hands reach toward a pile of gold coins.

Greed is an excessive desire for increased financial gain or social worth, such as prestige or power. (Image: Oleschwander via Dreamstime)

Greed is a powerful emotion that can drive people to do all kinds of evil in the pursuit of wealth and power. It is a destructive force that can corrupt even the most well-intentioned individuals, causing them to put their own self-interest above the well-being of others. Whether it is through fraud, manipulation, or exploitation, greed can lead people to engage in unethical and harmful behavior in order to satisfy their own desires. As the saying goes: “Money is the root of all evil.” When people allow greed to take hold, the consequences can be devastating for both themselves and those around them.

Two greedy travelers 

Once, two persons surnamed Zhang and Wang traveled together. They came across a gold ingot on the road and were overjoyed. Zhang said to Wang: “I believe that it was the local City God who allowed us to have this fortune. So we need to express our thanks by making some offerings.”

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“What a good idea! Why don’t you go shopping for the food and drink we will offer and I will wait for you in front of the City God’s temple,” Wang said. 

A bowl of colorful vegetables and a cup of wine sit next to a beautiful yellow flower and an incense stick given as a traditional Balinese offering at a shrine.
They agreed to make an offering of food and drink to the local City God to express their thanks for finding the gold ingot. (Image: Javarman via Dreamstime)

While they both appeared to be happy, they hid ulterior motives in their hearts. For example, Zhang thought: “If two persons must share the gold ingot, each will only have one half. How long can a person live on that?” Wang also thought: “I would rather possess the entire ingot than divide it into two parts.”

Hatching a plot

When their greed arose, they each began to plot how to kill the other. In order to keep the ingot for himself, Zhang planned to poison the food and drink he bought and use it to kill Wang, while Wang prepared an ax to kill Zhang after observing that nobody else was in the temple.

Both men thought they had come up with a clever plan, and that the other party would never know.

An evil reward for evil deeds

Zhang came to the temple after purchasing the food and drink for their offering. When he was worshiping the City God, Wang suddenly swung the ax at his head, killing him.

Out of greed, as Zhang was worshiping the City God, Wang suddenly attacked him with an ax.
As Zhang was worshiping the City God, Wang suddenly attacked him with an ax. (Image: Tsyganek via Dreamstime)

After Zhang died, Wang was elated. As he was about to run off with the gold ingot, he suddenly felt hungry, so he decided to just take the food and drink offered in front of the City God. After he finished eating and drinking, he began to feel dizzy. Soon, he died from the toxic effect of Zhang’s poison.

Because of their greed, Zhang and Wang both wanted to keep the gold for themselves. This led them to think of harming others, but in the end, they unexpectedly both harmed themselves. It is the retribution of karma and shows that all evil arises from greed.

Greed is a corrosive force that causes people to put their own self-interest above the well-being of others. While it is natural to want to be successful and to have financial security, it is important to remember that there are limits to what a person should be willing to do in the pursuit of these goals. By being mindful of our own capacity for greed and working to cultivate virtues like generosity, empathy, and kindness, we can help to counteract the destructive power of this emotion and create a more just and compassionate world.

Translated by Joseph Wu

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