We brought nothing; we take nothing

What matters in life is not what we have, but what we become. We can sit on thrones of power and position but may not be able to sleep in bed.  We can bask in the sunshine of worldly comforts but writhe in the shadows of pain.

Years ago, a restaurant in Chicago did a strange thing that stirred the hearts and minds of its guests. It had specially designed table mats that were offered as a take-away for its guests. Guests began to ask for few more of them as they left, as they were good enough for a wall-hanging.

It had a story which read: “In 1923 an important meeting took place at Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel.  Attending the meeting were the following men; The President of the largest steel company, the president of the largest utility company, the president of the largest gas company, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, the president of the Bank of International Settlements, the greatest wheat speculator, the greatest bear on Wall Street, the head of the world’s greatest monopoly, a member of President Harding’s cabinet.”    

The story went on to say that twenty five years later, the president of the largest steel company Charles Schwab died a bankrupt; the president of the largest utility company, Samuel Insull died penniless; the president of the largest gas company Howard Hobson became insane; the president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney was just released from prison; the bank president Leon Fraser committed suicide; the wheat speculator Arthur Cutten, died in poverty; the  Wall Street bear Jesse Livermore, suicided; the head of the world’s greatest monopoly Ivar Kruegar took his own life; the member of President Harding’s cabinet, Albert Fall was given reprieve from prison so that he could die at home.

In a parable, Jesus exhorts that one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. A rich man who, when his land produced crops in abundance thought to himself ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops? I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, that I have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Jesus then said, so is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:13-21).

Jesus does not condemn wealth or ambition to work for the things in life we need, but stresses on the priority of spiritual treasures over material. 

One who strives more towards God will obviously drift away from desires of power, position and possessions.  A missionary described how a tribe in Africa would remove the clothes of the dead before burial to remind themselves that they leave the world the way they came into it. 

Saint Paul rightly says “We brought nothing into this world, we shall not take anything out of it” (I Timothy 6:7).