I begin most of my letters here with a derivative of that salutation. Dear Russell and Friends . . . But the letter on my table is not from Russell. It is from Steve Forbes, or rather it appears, from his desk. I don’t know Steve Forbes but he asks me to join him by buying a magazine. It is three and a half pages long, but a quick read due to capacious spacing and outsized font. The first words that receive the inflation denote the thesis of the letter. Mr. Forbes offers me something that he thinks I want: wealth and power.
Is he right? Before I discount advertising, I must assess its success. It often works. Very often. And those who can afford Forbes magazine and even its peddled luxury wares are not less vulnerable. Perhaps they are even more so.
Mr. Forbes thinks that I want to read about the lives of billionaires. In his words the magazine that bears his name is not all about business.
It’s also about enjoying the rewards of success. Exotic supercars. Yachts to die for. Hideaways that you can’t get to from here. The private plane circuit, where wealthy flyers never see the inside of a terminal. Plus, you’ll get ForbesLife, our guide to living the good life.
Is he right? Is wealth and power a worthy goal? Mr. Forbes is no fool, but I’ve been one. I’ve been sorely tempted to mistake my gifts for entitlement. I’ve been sorely tempted to direct my capacity toward temporary things that will not survive even my brief life. I’ve been sorely tempted to seek approval, influence, and regard. In truth – – I find power more tempting than wealth and view the latter as only the currency of the former. I have been tempted and I have fallen.
One reason I follow Christ is so that I can answer Mr. Forbes with honesty. Yes – – you’re right sir. I do want wealth and power. But, deep within me I know it is not enough. Deep within me I know that it will not survive me. Vanderbilt barely lived in America’s largest home. So what can replace wealth and power as my desire? Following Christ has given me that answer.
Mr. Forbes and his team are no fools. I’m not in the top 0.1% of income, but honesty compels me to acknowledge that I am in the top 1%. I’m not in the top 0.01% of intellect, but honesty compels me to acknowledge that I am in the top 0.1%. Honesty is not what I need. I need humility. By following Christ I see someone so much greater than me that I have no metric of comparison. Yet he came to serve and to suffer with us (compassion defined). Mr. Forbes may not be a fool, but I want to be. I want to foolishly reject the call to wealth and power although I know that I could realistically attain a measure of it. I want to foolishly love those who are poor and powerless.
Oh Mr. Forbes, you knew I would be tempted. I am constantly tempted by goals that honor myself and not my savior. Oh God – – please let me be wise and pursue your compassion. Let me live differently as a steward of the capabilities that are only a gift from you.
Dear readers – –
1) Does Mr. Forbes’ offer tempt you?
2) Atheist friends: how have you mitigated this siren call?
3) Christ followers and those of other faiths: same question.
4) Any: am I wrong to recoil from this letter? I welcome your criticism.
photo credit: “Biltmore Estate 14-2” by Biltmore_Estate_14.jpg: Doug Coldwellderivative work: Entheta (talk) – Biltmore_Estate_14.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –