A few weeks back, my weekly roundup contained a link to a post titled Greed Is Good – Or Is It? What Jesus Would Say to Gordon Gekko. I recalled a passage I had once read that seemed applicable to this question, and I found it:
“And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31)
Rav Nahman said in the name of Rav Shmuel:
“Behold, it was very good”–that is the will to evil. But is the will to evil good? That is astonishing!
Yet were it not for the will to evil, men would not build homes, or take wives, or propagate, or engage in business.
And Solomon said the same:
“I considered all labor and all excelling in work,
that it is a man’s rivalry with his neighbor” (Eccles. 4:4)
… They said:
This being a time of good will, let us pray and ask for the will to evil.
They prayed and the will to evil was delivered to them.
The prophet said to them:
Know, if you destroy this one, the world will come to an end.
They imprisoned it for three days:
then they sought a new-laid egg in all the land of Israel,
and not one could be found.
(Gen Rabbah, 9:9; BT Yoma 69b–Glatzer trans.)
Note, this is a quote from the Talmud, and without opening up too deep a religious debate, let’s just look at what’s proposed by this passage. Solomon suggests that all labor is a form of rivalry with one’s neighbor. Taken in its entirety, this reading tells us that without (the word that translates to) Evil the world would quickly end, that even another egg would not be laid. I’ll surmise that translation instead of “evil” might be “Human nature” or “ambition,” but I find it interesting that even that long ago, there was a debate going on about man’s motivation and whether one could separate his dark side from that which makes him have a will to survive.