INSPIRATION often comes from the most unlikely places. This week I’ve been pondering the life of John D. Rockefeller. Remember him?
Rich guy. Made his money in oil. Gave a lot away.
Here’s what I didn’t know. At the turn-of-the-century, Rockefeller was not only the richest man in America, he was also the most hated.
Yep. Hated. As in the man carried a gun. Hired guards. And ended his life a recluse.
Why? To make his millions, Rockefeller lied, cheated, and put a lot of small oil companies out of business. He also opposed unions and was partly responsible for the massacre of union workers, their wives, and children while keeping others in perpetual poverty. Sad legacy for a man who was inspired as a youth by his Baptist minister to make as much money as he could and give it away.
All this I learned from the PBS documentary American Experience. (No, Downtown Abbey is not the only show worth watching on public television). Here’s what struck home. Speaking of Rockefeller, the narrator said, “Half the nation hated him. The other half wanted his money.”
That night as I was headed to bed, I thought of how similar this is to our response to God. Half the world hates him. If there’s a God, why did he allow my daughter to die? My mother to get sick? My husband to lose his job? The other half wants his money. Dear God, please fix my car, give me a bigger house, a raise, a book contract, good weather for my vacation…
And I thought, Which one am I?
I’m still thinking about it.
Where I want to be is somewhere is a middle, a space between the two where I can acknowledge God’s presence in my life and accept that he owes me nothing. I am merely the recipient of his grace.
Reading a biography last week on the life of teacher, writer, and preacher Oswald Chambers brought this home. After spending the early part of his life seeking to become a great artist for God, Chambers set aside his art to pursue only God. Yes, he still gave art lessons and enjoyed sharing his gift with others, but art was no longer his focus.
So, here I am. Having grown up wanting to use my writing for God, I am discovering that the true and highest pursuit is not the gift, the work, the words. The true and highest pursuit is God.
In this place I am not bound by disappointment or focused on divine blessing. I simply am. Whatever good comes to me is a gift.
Interestingly, it was Rockefeller’s son, J.D.R. Jr., who eventually patched relations between the billionaire and his enemies and improved the lives of all who benefited from his generosity. Unlike Rockefeller, God didn’t lie, cheat, or steal in his dealings with humanity. He owed us nothing. Yet his son still did the same thing.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” I Corinthians 9:15.
What do you think?