I do not often talk about money from the pulpit or in my weekly column; however, from time to time we do need to be reminded about our responsibility in giving to God. I would like to do that now.
In the year 1923, nine of the world’s wealthiest men held a meeting at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. In attendance were the presidents of the world’s largest steel, gas and utility companies, the world’s greatest wheat speculator, the president of the New York stock exchange, a member of the President’s cabinet, a Wall Street tycoon, the head of the world’s largest monopoly and the president of the Bank of International Settlements.
The men who met at the Edgewater that day knew all the secrets of generating and manipulating capital. They could own anything and everything that money could buy. There was one more thing they held in common, which is that within the next decade they all lost everything they had.
The president of the largest independent steel company, Charles Schwab lived on borrowed money for the last five years of his life and died bankrupt. The president of the largest gas company, Howard Hobson, went insane. The president of the largest utility, Samuel Insull, died in a foreign land, penniless and a fugitive from justice. The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cotton, also died abroad and insolvent. The president of the New York stock exchange, Richard Whitney, was sent to the infamous Sing-Sing penitentiary. The member of the Presidential cabinet, Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could home to die. The Wall Street tycoon, Jesse Livermore, committed suicide. The head of the world’s largest monopoly, Ivan Krueger, committed suicide. The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Fraser, committed suicide (Patrick Morley, The Seven Seasons of a Man’s Life).
Although this is sad and shocking, the story of these nine men should not be surprising. The Bible warns the rich are not “to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God” (I Timothy 6:17).
In Proverbs 23:5 Solomon says: “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” The Puritan Charles Bridges said: “Here then lies the contrast. The world apprehends realities only in the objects before them, the Christian only in invisible things. Therefore, if our judgment looks upon the one as a shadow, and the other as a substance, let us see that we proportion our affections accordingly, giving the shadow of love to the things of earth, the marrow and substance of the heart to the things of eternity.”
In I Timothy 6:7, Paul reminds us: “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”
One man who discovered this to his dismay was Jay Gould, the nineteenth century financial genius. The man was worth 100 million dollars but he died in utter despair. His dying words were: “I am the most miserable devil in the world.” Although Gould had made plenty of long-term investments, none of them was long term enough. It was not until he lay on his deathbed that he realized how foolish he had been for failing to invest in eternal securities (Philip Ryken, Commentary on I Timothy).
Though there’s more that could be said, I will end with what the apostle Paul told the Corinthians about the giving of the Macedonians. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul said: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” Though Christ in His pre-existence with the Father, could hold a white-hot star in the palm of His hand, He emptied Himself of His riches and became one of us and then died for us – such was His poverty. That was heaven’s stewardship program – the genesis of the grace of giving – and it should be a pattern for us.
Several weeks ago we talked about Mark 12 and the widow’s mite (Verses 41-44). The point was that she had given all that she had out of her love for Christ. Though we are not called upon to give our every cent to Christ, it all belongs to Him and we should be good stewards before God of all the riches He has given to us.