In a fascinating bestseller by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big to Fail, which told about the 2008 financial crash that devastated the world economy, Sorkin depicted one telling moment.
“The numbers in that area were indeed worrisome,” he wrote. “Lehman Brothers was leveraged 30.7 to 1; Merrill Lynch was only slightly better, at 26.9 to 1. [Hank] Paulson knew intuitively that Wall Street’s leverage problem could not end well. He also knew that the firms would never rein themselves in; they were all blindly chasing one another. He always reminded himself of a remarkably telling question that Charles Prince, CEO of Citigroup, had asked him the year before at a similar dinner: “Isn’t there something you can do to order us not to take all of these risks?”
Isn’t there something you can do to order us not to take all of these risks? In other words, the greed that dominates these men and women is so powerful, so strong, so overwhelming that, basically, they can’t control themselves. Hence, one of the nation’s more powerful CEOs asks the government to force them to stop taking these risks!
What a powerful example of Paul’s words: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:10). And in the case of the 2008 collapse, not only the greedy ones suffered but millions of others faced “many sorrows” because of that greed as well.
None of us are immune to it, this dangerous love of money. All we can do is, by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus, seek to subsume that love to the first and most important of all commandments: “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30). If we do that, this dangerous love, though probably always pulling at us, will never dominate to where we need to ask for government—the government! —help to save us from it.