I’ve not seen a lot of movies with Leonardo DiCaprio except Titanic, and I thought he played quite a good part. And as a young man, he appears to be very successful in the entertainment industry. I recently read a speech he gave unfortunately, was full of expletives, but I’ll take them out and quote part of what he said. I’ve been a rich man. I’ve been a poor man and I choose rich every time. Of course, at least as a rich man. When I have to face my problems, I show up in the back of a limo wearing a 2000-dollar suit and a $40,000 gold watch, and I want you to deal with all your problems by becoming rich. All you have to do today is pick up that phone and speak the words that I’ve taught you.
Now, Leonardo was giving a lecture to a group of people. It was quite a bold, self serving statement, I thought, and then I started to feel sorry for this young actor. It seems that he felt that becoming rich is all that matters in life. That’s not really the case. We read of stories all the time, and we may know from personal experience how people of great wealth have lost it all. Bad decisions or circumstances can cause riches to disappear in the blink of an eye. And sadly, some people treat money as though it were a god. They love it, make sacrifices for it. They think it can do anything, and their minds are filled with thoughts about money.
The Futility of Money
We’re bombarded on television with shows like The Lives of the Rich and Famous. And today, no matter what we possess, someone else has something bigger, better or different never seems to end. And so much of our media sends the message that the richer you are, the happier you are and the bigger impact you’ll make in life. Malcolm Forbes merely reflected our society when he famously said, the one who dies with the most toys wins. What about greed?
Fred Catherwood said, the logical result of the belief that there is no life after death, we grab what we can while we can. However, we can and we hold onto it hard, but I think it begs the question. How much do we really need, anyway? Leo Tolstoy once told the story about a successful peasant farmer who was not satisfied with his lot. He wanted more of everything. One day he received quite an unusual offer for 1000 rubles. He could buy all the land he could walk around in one day.
Now the only catch in that deer was he had to be back at his starting point by sundown. So early the next morning, he started out walking at a fast pace. Midday came. He was very tired. He kept going, covered more and more ground. And into the afternoon, he realised that his greed had taken him far from the starting point. He hurried up, watching the sun, beginning to sink low in the sky, and he started to run, and he knew if he did not make it back by sundown, the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would be lost.
And so as the sun began to sink, he came within sight of the finish line. He called up every bit of strength to cross the line just before the sun disappeared. but he collapsed in a few minutes. He was dead. His servants afterwards dug his grave. It wasn’t much over six ft long and three ft wide, and the title of Tolstoy’s story was, ‘How much land does a man need?’
The hard reality, of course, is that everything we one day will be left behind. And it would do us good to remember the words of Jim Elliott, the Christian missionary. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. And I think that’s a wonderful statement reminding us that living our lives for an eternal purpose means you won’t lose out even when you die. I’m not saying that having a lot of money is wrong.
Indeed, in the Bible, we read that people like Job, Abraham, David, Solomon, Barnabus had riches, but Jesus gave an excellent illustration. In Luke, 12, a rich man had a fertile farm that produced many crops. In fact, his barns were full to overflowing. He couldn’t get any more in, he thought about his problem. I know I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have enough room and I’ll sit back and say to myself, ‘Friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy. Wine, women and song for you.’ But God said to him, Fool, Tonight you’ll die. Then who will get it all? Yes, said Jesus. Every man is a fool who gets rich on Earth, but not in heaven. God desires that we store up riches in heaven.
Bring up what counts most for eternity
Dear Lord, I know some people say I want to be rich. I want to be famous. But, Lord, you bring us to a new meaning when we say whoever is first will be last, seek first the Kingdom of God. I want to be among those people who put trust in you as my first priority. Amen.