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Listen while you read: "It Is Well With My Soul"1 (Lyrics)
Matthew 6:19-20a – Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven. (NLT)
Extravagant beyond imagination was all that ran through my mind.
George Vanderbilt created Biltmore in 1895 for family and friends as an escape from everyday life. His descendants still own this magnificent display of wealth that rests beautifully on 8,000 acres of land. After six years of construction, George officially opened the estate on Christmas Eve for himself, his wife Edith, and their daughter Cornelia.
As my wife and I and hundreds of others toured selected rooms of this immaculate estate, we witnessed opulence at its best: a banquet hall that once sat 38 people around a large oak table, a billiard room, a library where nearly half of Mr. Vanderbilt's 23,000-volume collection lines the walls in floor-to-ceiling bookcases, guest bedrooms with private bathrooms, a bowling alley, and a 70,000-gallon indoor swimming pool.
I couldn't help but wonder what George Vanderbilt thought about Jesus' warning against storing up wealth on earth. But then again, was Jesus really saying that it was a sin to do so? Perhaps, His warning was only against the dangers of what wealth can do to our focus.
Earthly possessions may pretend to grant happiness — as they did for the Vanderbilt's, their family, and their many guests — but if the state of happiness disappears when the possessions do, then happiness was never truly experienced in the first place.
Possessions can be used foolishly or for God's purposes. Many people still enjoy the elegance of the Vanderbilt estate. King Solomon was the wealthiest man ever to live, but he divided his loyalties and possessions between the one true God and the false gods of his many wives. God gives me my possessions, and I should use them to advance His kingdom.
Nor can I take my possessions with me when I die. Mr. Vanderbilt left all his behind at 51. No doubt, he ensured through a will that his family inherited what he had laboured for. Wills are essential, but I'll still leave behind what I've amassed. Jesus says that I should store my goods in heaven, and this I do by service to Him.
Possessions are temporary, but they have eternal implications. We can use them selfishly and be poor eternally, or we can use them to benefit others and God's work and be rich eternally. Which are you doing?
Prayer: Father, guide us to understand that all that we have comes from You and should be used for Your honour and glory. Amen.