According to Greek mythology, Tantalus, the king of Tantalis, was one of the few mortals to be invited by the Olympians to their sitting. The sittings were for dining, wining and council deliberations. However, greed destroyed Tantalus relationship with the gods. It is in one of these sitting that he offended the Olympians by allowing greed to rule over him. Tantalus is said to have stolen nectar and ambrosia, a drink and food meant for the gods alone. He quickly brought the delicacies to his kingdom to share with fellow mortals.
As a penalty, the gods threw Tantalus in the Underworld.
In the Underworld, there was a lake with a threatening rock overlooking right above Tantalus. The lake was full of water, but he could not drink of it for it dried every moment he would bend to drink. Around him were trees with succulent fruits, but every time he tried to access one, a strong wind blew away the trees. With each passing time, Tantalus starved and became terrified. This gave birth to the phrase, ‘to tantalize’.
Hesiod on greed
Hesiod was a great Ancient Greek poet. Historians say that only two of his complete epics remain. These two are Theogony and Works and Days. Hesiod flourished around 700BC. In one of the epics, Works and Days, Hesiod wrote, “Wealth should not be seized: god-given wealth is much better; for if a man takes great wealth violently and perforce, or if he steals it through his tongue, as often happens when gain deceives men’s sense and dishonour tramples down honour, the gods soon blot him out and make that man’s house low, and wealth attends him only for a little time.”
The imp of greed
Greed has a way of destroying dreams, destinies and lives, not just in mythologies, fantasies but in real life too. The effects of greed are not only felt by the perpetrators but by other people too. Greed gives birth to corruption. Corruption begets economic, social and political evils. The ramifications of greed cannot be controverted.
We will always struggle and scramble for position in lower rungs of the United Nations Human Development Index as long as we are still keeping this vampire in our bosom. Why should we eat what we didn’t cook? Why should we harvest what we didn’t plant? Why should we take a bribe? Why should we threaten, coerce, terrorise and harass fellow humans in the name of ‘creating wealth’ for ourselves? For how long are we going to condone the culture of greed?
Gehazi is a character in the Holy Bible who typifies the spirit of greed (2 Kings 5). Consumed with greediness, Gehazi reaps big in the form of silver and leprosy. Greedy never walks alone. It is continuously in the company of dishonesty and selfishness.
Israelites in Egypt
The Israelites lived in Egypt for many years. During this time, they tasted every bitter fruit of slavery, hard labour, deaths and diseases. At an appointed time, they left Egypt. The journey to the Promised Land had just begun. The crossing of the Red Sea was epic. Immediately after the miraculous escape from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites came face to face with unlike hurdles. They quickly forgot about the dark past and miraculous deliverance and in its place started complaining. Complaining became their preoccupation. Come on! I thought life in slavery is worse than walking in a desert as s free man/woman and under the guidance of a God who is omnipotent!
They wanted more than what God was already providing. Greedy had set in, and it didn’t take long before it destroyed them.
That is how we behave sometimes. God blesses us with githeri, and before even we swallow it we are already saying ‘I wish it were pizza’. God blesses us with an automobile, and before we learn how to change oil, we are already unhappy with its fuzzy stereo. This kind of preoccupation is a sign of greed. When are we going to be happy and thankful? If nothing has ever made you happy and contented, then nothing will ever do.
Socrates knew this when he said, “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”