Rich Man, Poor Man

By Steve Wolfgang

A century ago, when the railroad baron Jay Gould was manipulating various financial affairs, someone asked a friend if he would be willing to do the work Mr. Gould was doing for his board and clothes. The reply was, “Do you think I’m a fool?” His friend then remarked, “That is all Mr. Gould is getting out of it.”

When you stop to think about it, there is more than a little truth in that remark. About all anyone gets out of possessions, however great they may be, is his board and clothing. One’s clothing or bedding may be “better” than another’s, but one can still only wear one suit of clothes, or sleep in one bed, at time. And, try as we might, we cannot seem to be able to eat today for next Thursday.

It is true that the possession of wealth may open a few avenues of pleasure to those who have it, which avenues may be closed to those who do not. But does wealth open any essential and enduring pleasures to anyone which are not equally available to the humblest citizen?

One who, in the warmth of a small hearth, surrounded by his family, a few chosen friends whose good will he enjoys, the opportunity of doing an honest day’s work in some productive industry, access to a few good books or some uplifting form of art or music, surrounded by God’s great outdoor cathedral with the heavens shining above him and nature unfolding around him, quite possibly is in a position to get more satisfaction out of life than a multi-millionaire, engrossed with many cares and bearing many burdens.

If all were known about the conditions under which the rich often live, would they be envied, and their possessions coveted? One who can relate to these sorts of ideas may well find the biblical book of Ecclesiastes interesting reading, indeed.

And if you can grasp those ideas, it is not far to an understanding of the answer to Jesus’ question in Matthew 16:26: “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Guardian of Truth XXX: 12, p. 371
June 19, 1986