July 9-15, 2012
Editorial: Destructive, home-wrecking greed
Translated by Lydia Ma
News headlines in Taiwan for the past week has been riveted on former Executive Yuan Secretary-General Lin Yi-shih who allegedly received big sums of money in kickbacks and then used his position ask for more. Lin’s wife and mother, whom the courts once considered as witnesses, quickly became suspects as investigations continued. Because this story has fueled much public debate and speculation, finding some peace and privacy will be difficult for Lin’s family for quite some time.
Proverbs 15:27 teaches us that “ a greedy and grasping person destroys community; those who refuse to exploit live and let live.” From this scripture passage, we learn that greed not only destroys a person’s good reputation, but it also brings shame to the entire family. In contrast, people who choose to live in integrity and obedience of the law will have peaceful lives. We see these two principles at play in the lives of Lin Yi-shih and all those involved in this scandal.
Lin has been dubbed by a historian as the modern-day version of Heshen, a Qing dynasty official. When both men came under investigation, they began to literally burn piles of cash that they had stashed in secret places such as safety deposit boxes and ponds or water pools in their own homes. Heshen was eventually executed by Emperor Jiaqing and when all of his belongings and money were confiscated, the amount of money collected was so much that the Qing emperor did not need to collect taxes for 20 years. It is truly repulsive to see government officials abuse their powers and privileges by using them to oppress and mislead people.
Lin’s wrongdoings remind me of an adage written by British historian John D. Acton to Bishop Mandell Creighton. In a letter to Creighton, Acton wrote that “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. One Chinese writer, Lin Yutang, also noted that there are three big lies in life: reputation, profit, and power. I think he made a very good observation on these three popular pursuits.
Though corruption is an age-old problem that is hotly debated every time it is uncovered, it has neither disappeared nor lessened with time. This may be one of the reasons why God specifically commanded “no lusting after your neighbor's house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don't set your heart on anything that is your neighbor's.” in the tenth commandment. God knew that greed and lust, if not checked, would prompt humans to break all of the other nine commandments, such as worshipping other gods, bearing false witness, etc.
At the end of the day, the controversy surrounding Lin Yi-shih, the observations of many people over the years, and God’s reminder that “A greedy and grasping person destroys community; those who refuse to exploit live and let live” (Proverbs 15:27) serve as great reminders and lessons for all of us.