Three Five Seven – # 232

Three, five, and seven
3 5 7
By Stan Shapiro MD, Grand Lodge Education Officer G.L. of MN

“Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” – Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom

“Greed has taken the whole universe, and nobody is worried about their soul.” – Little Richard


Masonry can help us develop our spiritual selves and understand the deeper meaning of our existence. The Virtues impressed upon us in the Masonic First Degree as the formula to govern our conduct can also help us understand our spiritual selves and how to live a better life. Virtue derives from the Latin where it means masculine strength. We are taught the Cardinal Virtues of Fortitude or Courage, Temperance or Restraint, Prudence and Justice and the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love or Charity. The Greeks believed Prudence had to be present for the other Cardinal Virtues to properly develop. As Masons we are also learn to avoid wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony (the “Seven Deadly Sins”).

However, Greed is a serious problem in our society and is direct opposition to what we are taught about Charity and it interferes with our spiritual development. Greed is a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed. The sense of entitlement and the materialism associated with it inhibits our compassion for others. Masonry teaches us to not be Greedy and to be tolerant and care about others without regard to their wealth or race. Some examples of Greed are: the obscene salaries of CEOs (even when the company is failing), outsourcing, competition in the workplace, cheating on college campuses, scam artists who steal from the elderly, lobbyists’ who unfairly influence legislation (for example, in the insurance, pharmaceutical, weapons and petroleum industries), crooked politicians or police, college leaders who exploit teen sports stars, reckless ventures in the stock market, murders in the illegal drug world, Medicare fraud, worldwide sex slavery of women and children and efforts to destroy human rights. Some who inherit a fortune or win a lottery ruin their lives because of Greed. The legend of king Midas teaches how Greed can be destructive.

As Masons we have the opportunity to not only develop these virtues within ourselves but to model them as we deal with others and the community. Our lodges support community events and hold fundraisers to raise money for the needy, the arts, scholarships and other charitable endeavors. The community is able to see that we devote time, which is also a precious commodity, as well as money. A question we need to ask ourselves is have we given enough to charitable causes? When we consider our basic needs and the things we realistically want, do we balance these with the charitable needs in our community? When we practice frugality we can become misers. Are excessive material comforts really what life is all about? Maimonides (1) said the highest level of giving is when neither the giver nor the recipient knows each other.

People often ask what the meaning of life is. Some believe it is helping others. A curmudgeon once said “people have been helping others for centuries and it hasn’t done any good because there are more people in need today than in the past.” That is not the practical wisdom that we strive to learn as Masons. The majority of the people in the world and many in the United States are living on the property level. There is a real need for charitable giving. One way to help the needy is to provide opportunities for education which gives them a way to learn how to improve themselves and their standard of living.

An important lesson about the meaning of life and about greed is written by Daniel Kline.(2) “A vacationing Greek-American comes upon an old Greek man sitting on a rock, sipping a glass of ouzo, and lazily staring at the sun setting into the sea. The wealthy American notices there are olive trees growing on the hills behind the old Greek but they are untended, with olives just dropping here and there onto the ground. He asks the old Greek who owns the trees. “They’re mine”, the Greek replies. ”Don’t you gather the olives?” The American asks. “I just pick one when I want one,” the old man says. “But don’t you realize that if you prune the trees and picked the olives at their peak, you could sell them? In America everybody is crazy about virgin olive oil and they pay a damn good price for it.” “What would I do with the money?” the old Greek asks. “Why you could build yourself a big house and hire servants to do everything for you.” “And then what would I do?” “You could do anything you want!” “You mean, like sit outside and sip ouzo at Sunset?”

(1) The Guide Of The Perplexed Moses Maimonides Translated by M Friedlander Ph. D.

(2) Daniel Kline Travels with Epicurus. “Out on a walk on the island of Hydra– page 22

Words to Live By: “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”–Sir Edmund Hillary

“It is not the man who has little, but he who desires more, that is poor.”—Seneca

“Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance”– Epicurus

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