When a person loves earthly things so much that he can't get along without them, he opens himself to much suffering, both
physical and mental. Some people, for example, have taken foolish risks to keep their riches intact. They have died
rushing into burning houses or were killed because they stubbornly resisted armed robbers. Apparently they felt that
without their material possessions life would not be worthwhile.
Others, when forced to part with their wealth, have been thrown into agonizing despair, even to the point of suicide. In 1975,
six armed gunmen broke into the deposit boxes in a London bank and stole valuables worth more than $7 million. One lady, whose
jewelry was appraised at $500,000, wailed, "Everything I had was in there. My whole life was in that box." What a sad commentary
on her values!
Our Daily Bread.
Eli Black was a brilliant businessman best know for two events in his life: He masterminded the multimillion dollar
takeover of the United Fruit conglomerate, and he jumped to his death from the 42nd floor of the Pan Am building in New York
In the book An American Company, an executive described a business lunch he had with Eli Black. When the waitress brought
a plate of cheese and crackers as an appetizer, Black reached out and took them, placed them on the table, blocked them with his
arms, and continued talking. The executive hadn't eaten for hours and hinted that he would like a cracker. But Black acted as
though he hadn't heard him and went on with the business meeting.
After a while, Black placed a cracker and cheese on the tips of his fingers and continued to talk. Several moments later,
Black placed the cracker on the executive's plate and then blocked the rest as before. It was clear that Black was in
charge, manipulating others as he pleased.
When you play "follow the leader," check to see who is at the head of the line. Eli Black, for all his power, ended up in
suicide. Jesus Christ, in all His humility, ended up the Savior of the world.
Our Daily Bread.
During World War II, "Eddie" Rickenbacker, American's most famous army
aviator in W.W. I, was appointed special consultant to Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson.
It was Rickenbacker's task to inspect the various theaters of war.
During one tour in 1942, Rickenbacker and seven companions made a forced landing in the
Pacific Ocean. There they experienced 24 terrifying days drifting in a lifeboat until they
were rescued by a navy plane. After his recovery from the ordeal, Rickenbacker said:
"Let the moment come when nothing is left but life, and you will find that you do not
hesitate over the fate of material possessions." Rickenbacker understood that at such
a time one is concerned about the fate of something more precious than material goods --
Morning Glory, January 18, 1994.
In the fifth century, a man named Arenius determined to live a holy life. So he
abandoned the conforms of Egyptian society to follow an austere lifestyle in the desert.
Yet whenever he visited the great city of Alexandria, he spent time wandering through its
bazaars. Asked why, he explained that his heart rejoiced at the sight of all the things he
Those of us who live in a society flooded with goods and gadgets need to ponder the
example of that desert dweller. A typical supermarket in the United States in 1976 stocked
9,000 articles; today it carries 30,000. How many of them are absolutely essential? How
Our Daily Bread, May 26, 1994.
During World War 11, "Eddie" Rickenbacker, America's most famous army avaitor
in W.W. 1, was appointed special consultant to Secretary of war, Henery L.
Stimson. It was
Rickenbackers task to inspect the various theaters of war.
During one tour in 1942, Rickenbacker and seven other companions made a forced landing
in the Pacific Ocean. There they experienced 24 days drifting in a lifeboat until they
were rescued by a navy plane. After his recovery from the ordeal, Rickenbacker said,"
Let the moment come when nothing is left but life, and you will find that you do not
hesitate over the fate of material possessions." Rickenbacker understood that at such
a time one is concerned about the fate of something more precious than material goods -
One night a thief broke into the single-room apartment of French novelist
Honorč de Balzac. Trying to avoid waking Balzac, the intruder quietly picked the lock on the writer's desk.
Suddenly the silence was broken by a sardonic laugh from the bed, where Balzac lay watching the thief.
"Why do you laugh?" asked the thief.
"I am laughing to think what risks you take to try to find money in a desk by night where the legal owner can never find any
Today in the Word, November 6, 1993.
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray my Cuisinart to keep
I pray my stocks are on the rise
And that my analyst is wise
That all the wine I sip is white
And that my hot tub's watertight
That racquetball won't get too tough
That all my sushi's fresh enough
I pray my cordless phone still works
That my career won't lose its perks
My microwave won't radiate
My condo won't depreciate
I pray my health club doesn't close
And that my money market grows
If I go broke before I wake
I pray my Volvo they won't take.
Steve Farrar, Family Survival in the American Jungle,
1991, Multnomah Press, p. 63.
There are two ways to get enough: One is to accumulate more and more, the other is to desire less.
Christopher Winans, in his book, Malcolm Forbes: The Man Who Had
Everything, tells of a motorcycle tour that Forbes took through Egypt in 1984 with his Capitalist Tool motorcycle team.
After viewing the staggering burial tomb of King Tut, Forbes seemed to be in a reflective mood.
As they were returning to the hotel in a shuttle bus, Forbes turned to one of his associates and asked with all
sincerity: "Do you think I'll be remembered after I die?" Forbes is remembered. He is remembered as the man who
coined the phrase, "He who dies with the most toys wins." That was the wisdom of Malcolm Forbes. In fact, that was his
ambition. That's why he collected scores of motorcycles. That's why he would pay over a million dollars for a Faberge egg.
That's why he owned castles, hot air balloons and countless other toys that he can no longer access.
The Lord Jesus Christ gave us words of superior wisdom when he said, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the
whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). It is a fatally deficient wisdom that declares "He who dies with the most
Steve Farrar, Family Survival in the American Jungle,1991, Multnomah Press,
The only reason a great many American families don't own an elephant is that they have never been offered an elephant for a
dollar down and easy weekly payments.
The world is full of people who are making a good living but living poor lives.
Life is tragic for the person who has plenty to live on but nothing to live for.
George W. Truett, a well-known pastor, was invited to dinner in the home of a very wealthy man in Texas. After the meal, the
host led him to a place where they could get a good view of the surrounding area.
Pointing to the oil wells punctuating the landscape, he boasted, "Twenty-five years ago I had nothing. Now, as far as you can
see, it's all mine." Looking in the opposite direction at his sprawling fields of grain, he said, "That's all mine." Turning
east toward huge herds of cattle, he bragged, "They're all mine." Then pointing to the west and a beautiful forest, he exclaimed,
"That too is all mine."
He paused, expecting Dr. Truett to compliment him on his great success.
Truett, however, placing one hand on the man's shoulder and pointing heavenward with the other, simply said, "How much do
you have in that direction?" The man hung his head and confessed, "I never thought of that."
Our Daily Bread, October 24, 1992.
Dream On. Postwar Americans always cherished the expectation that their standard of living would improve with each
generation. In polls at the onset of the Reagan era, 2 of every 3 respondents said they expected to be better off than their
parents. Now, that figure is being reversed. Almost three fourth of the 1,000 people who answered a Roper poll for Shearson
Lehman Brothers say the American Dream is "harder to attain" than a generation ago. And 60 percent say achieving the dream
requires more financial risk than it did for their parents.
The poll also finds that some of the values held most dear during the 1980s -- like wealth, power and fame -- are those
that Americans are now most likely to deem "unimportant." The most important elements of today's American Dream center on
family and friends. But money remains something to dream about. For Americans with household incomes under $25,000, it would take
$54,000 a year to fulfill the American dream. Those who make $100,000 plus crave an average of $192,000. In other words, the
American Dream usually lies nearly twice the distance away.
Amy Bernstein, U.S. News & World Report, July 27, 1992,
Anonymous writer, about an American tourist's visit to the 19th century Polish rabbi, Hofetz
Astonished to see that the rabbi's home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a bench, the tourist asked,
"Rabbi, where is your furniture?"
"Where is yours?" replied the rabbi.
"Mine?" asked the puzzled American. "But I'm a visitor here. I'm only passing through."
"So am I," said Hofetz Chaim.
Christopher News Notes.
"I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them and that is faith in
Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them a single shilling, they would have been rich; and if they had not that,
and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed."
You can't have everything. Where would you put it?
Steven Wright in Omni.
Thank God for Advertising
Critics of advertising maintain that advertising has created a national avarice which, in turn, has produced a "materialist
society." They proceed from there to insist that this impulse toward affluence has resulted in a kind of general unhappiness.
This proposition concludes that the more "things" we have, the unhappier we become.
It represents a return to the "happy savage" thesis. The critics are right about the essential role advertising
has played in contributing to America's high standard of living, but they are wrong in concluding that it produces unhappiness.
It might be helpful to start with some notion of what does, in fact, make people happy.
The Gallup International Research Institute recently conducted a survey of 60 countries representing two-thirds of the
world's population, the purpose of which was to measure human satisfactions, need and concerns. They wanted to find out what
makes people happy. The inescapable conclusion of the study is that the more people have, the happier they are.
Louise F. DeMarco, Advertising Age.
The love behind a gift is more important than the gift itself. The person who has learned this will not be frustrated
because his gift is small, like the husband who wrote the following lament to his wife on Mother's Day:
M is for the mink coat you want, dear,
O is for the opal ring you crave,
T is for the tiny car you'd love, sweet,
H is for the hat that makes you rave,
E is for the earrings you'd admire, love,
R is for the rug on which you'd tread;
Put them all together, they spell bankrupt,
So I'm giving you this handkerchief instead.
Dan Crawford (1870-1926) spent most of his adult life serving as a missionary in Africa. When it was time to return home to
Britain, Carwford described to an old Bantu the kind of world he was about to return to. He told him about ships that ran under
the water, on the water, and even those that flew above the water. He described English houses with all of their
conveniences, such as running water and electric lights. Then Crawford waited for the old African to register his amazement.
"Is that all, Mr. Crawford?" the aged man asked.
"Yes, I think it is," Crawford replied.
Very slowly and very gravely, the old Bantu said, "Well, Mr. Crawford, you know, that to be better off
is not to be better."
W. Wiersbe, The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching &
Preachers, p. 188.
Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story about a successful peasant farmer who was not satisfied with his lot. He wanted more of everything.
One day he received a novel offer. For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in
the deal was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown. Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast
pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground. Well into the afternoon he realized that
his greed had taken him far from the starting point. He quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky,
he began to run, knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would
be lost. As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart
pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared. He
immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth. In a few minutes he was dead. Afterwards, his servants dug a grave. It
was not much over six feet long and three feet wide. The title of Tolstoy's story was: How Much Land Does a Man Need?
Bits and Pieces, November, 1991.
The boxer Muhammad Ali was known as "the champ," arguably the most famous athlete of his generation. He was on top, and his
entourage of trainers and various helpers shared the adulation with him. But the party ended, leaving many of Ali's loyal
followers disillusioned--and in some cases, destitute. Ali himself, now halting in speech and uncertain in movement, says "I
had the world, and it wasn't nothin'."
Today in the Word, October, 1990, p. 11.
I'll never forget a conversation I had with the late Corrie ten Boom. she said to me, in her broken English, "Chuck, I've
learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and
takes it from me!"
Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of
I have a friend who, in mid-career, was called into the ministry. In fact, God ultimately led him overseas. At that point he found
it necessary to move all his family and as many of their possessions as possible beyond these shores, all the way to the
island of Okinawa. He told me, "We packed everything we could in barrels and shipped them on ahead. And then we put all of our
possessions that were a part of our trip into our station wagon. We packed that car all the way to the top of the windows."
While driving to the place where they would meet the ship that would take them to the Orient, they stopped for a rest and a bite to
eat. While they were inside the restaurant, a thief broke into their station wagon and took everything except the car. Nice of
him to leave the car, wasn't it? "The only thing we had," he said, "were the articles of clothing on our backs. Our hearts
sank to the bottom!" When asked about it later, he said, "Well, I had to face the fact that I was holding real tight to the
things in that car. And the Lord simply turned my hands over and gave them a slap...and out came everything that was in that car.
And it all became a part of the Father's possession."
Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of
Mediocrity, p. 114.
The sort of clothes I wear, the kind of house I live in, or the quality of my furniture should not be the result of other people
doing so or because it is customary among those with whom I associate. But whatever is done in these things in the way of
self-denial or deadness to the world should result from the joy we have in God, and from the knowledge of our being His children,
and from entering into our precious future inheritance. Not that I mean in the least by this to imply that we should continue to
live in luxury, self-indulgence, and the like while others are in great need; but we should begin the thing in a right way. Aim
after the right state of heart; begin inwardly instead of outwardly. Oh, how different if joy in God leads us to any
little act of self-denial! How gladly we do it then! How much does the heart then long to be able to do more for Him who has
done so much for us!
I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God. If anything will advance the
interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to
whom I owe all my hopes in time or eternity.
From the standpoint of material wealth, Americans have difficulty realizing how rich we are. Going through a little mental exercise
suggested by Robert Heilbroner can help us to count our blessings, however. Imagine doing the following, and you
will see how daily life is for as many as a billion people in the world.
1. Take out all the furniture in your home except for one table and a couple of chairs. Use blanket and pads for
2. Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit, shirt or blouse. Leave only one pair of
3. Empty the pantry and the refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few
potatoes, some onions, and a dish of dried beans.
4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, and remove all the electrical wiring in your house.
5. Take away the house itself and move the family into the toolshed.
6. Place your "house' in a shantytown.
7. Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs. This is no great loss because now none of
you can read anyway.
8. Leave only one radio for the whole shantytown.
9. Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten miles away and put a midwife in charge instead of a doctor.
10. Throw away your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash
hoard of ten dollars.
11. Give the head of the family a few acres to cultivate on which he can raise a few hundred dollars of cash crops,
of which one third will go to the landlord and one tenth to the money lenders.
12. Lop off twenty-five or more years in life expectancy.
By comparison how rich we are! And with our wealth comes responsibility to use it wisely, not to be wasteful, and to help
others. Think on these things.
A number of years ago there was a popular program called The Goldbergs. In one episode, Jake Goldberg came home for supper
and excitedly told his wife, Molly, about a great idea he had. He wanted to go into business. Molly had some money put away,
anticipating just such a thing, and she gave it to him. As they sat at the dinner table, enthusiastically discussing the future,
Jake said, "Molly, some day we'll be eating off of golden plates!" Molly looked at him and replied, "Jake, darling, will
it taste any better?"
I am not a connoisseur of great art, but from time to time a painting or picture will really speak a clear, strong message to
me. Some time ago I saw a picture of an old burned-out mountain shack. All that remained was the chimney...the charred debris of
what had been that family's sole possession. In front of this destroyed home stood an old grandfather-looking man dressed only
in his underclothes with a small boy clutching a pair of patched overalls. It was evident that the child was crying. Beneath the
picture were the words which the artist felt the old man was speaking to the boy. They were simple words, yet they presented
a profound theology and philosophy of life. Those words were, "Hush child, God ain't dead!"
That vivid picture of that burned-out mountain shack, that old man, the weeping child, and those
words "God ain't dead" keep returning to my mind. Instead of it being a reminder of the despair of life, it has come to be a
reminder of hope! I need reminders that there is hope in this world. In the midst of all of life's troubles and failures, I
need mental pictures to remind me that all is not lost as long as God is alive and in control of His world.
James DeLoach, associate pastor of the Second Baptist Chruch of Houston, quoted
in When God Was Taken Captive, W. Aldrich, Multnomah, 1989, p. 24.
I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.
In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen retells a tale from ancient India:
Four royal brothers decided each to master a special ability. Time went by, and the brothers met to reveal what they had
"I have mastered a science," said the first, "by which I can take but a bone of some creature and create the flesh that goes
"I," said the second, "know how to grow that creature's skin and hair if there is flesh on its bones."
The third said, "I am able to create its limbs if I have flesh, the skin, and the hair."
"And I," concluded the fourth, "know how to give life to that creature if its form is complete."
Thereupon the brothers went into the jungle to find a bone so they could demonstrate their
specialities. As fate would have it, the bone they found was a lion's. One added flesh to the bone,
the second grew hide and hair, the third completed it with matching limbs, and the fourth gave the lion life.
Shaking its mane, the ferocious beast arose and jumped on his creators. He killed them all and vanished contentedly into the
We too have the capacity to create what can devour us. Goals and dreams can consume us. Possessions and property can turn and
destroy us--unless we first seek God's kingdom and righteousness, and allow Him to breathe into what we make of life.
In her book, Discipline, the Glad Surrender, Elisabeth Elliot reveals four meaningful lessons to be learned from the discipline
of our possessions: "The first lesson is that all things are given by God...Because God gives us things indirectly by enabling
us to make them with our own hands (out of things He has made, of course) or to earn the money to buy them...we are prone to forget
that He gave them to us. We should be thankful. Thanksgiving requires the recognition of the Source. It implies contentment
with what is given, not complaint...it excludes covetousness. The third lesson is that things can be material for sacrifice.
The Father pours out His blessings on us; we, His creatures, receive them with open hands, give thanks, and lift them up as an
offering back to Him...This lesson leads naturally to the fourth which is that things are given to us to enjoy for awhile...What
is not at all fitting or proper is that we should set our hearts on them. Temporal things must be treated as temporal things--
received, given thanks for, offered back but enjoyed.
In Touch, May, 1989.
All he ever really wanted in life was more. He wanted more money, so he parlayed inherited wealth into a billion-dollar pile
of assets. He wanted more fame, so he broke into the Hollywood scene and soon became a filmmaker and star. He wanted more
sensual pleasures, so he paid handsome sums to indulge his every sexual urge. He wanted more thrills, so he designed, built, and
piloted the fastest aircraft in the world. He wanted more power, so he secretly dealt political favors so skillfully that two U.S.
presidents became his pawns. All he ever wanted was more. He was absolutely convinced that more would bring him true
satisfaction. Unfortunately, history shows otherwise. He concluded his life emaciated; colorless; sunken chest;
fingernails in grotesque, inches-long corkscrews; rotting, black teeth; tumors; innumerable needle marks from his drug addiction.
Howard Hughes died believing the myth of more. He died a billionaire junkie, insane by all reasonable standards.
Bill Hybels in Leadership, Vol X, #3 (Summer, 1989), p. 38.