Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Donald Trump and Warren Buffet on Heaven

Donald Trump and Warren Buffet are not only known for their billions of bucks, but also for their tendency to say whatever comes to mind. I guess having tons of money affords you the right to have no filter and a huge ego. Some would argue that business tycoons like these guys have the E.F. Hutton effect upon the masses, meaning that when they speak people listen. After all, we’ve always been told that, “money talks.” While these titans of Wall Street may know the in’s-and-out’s of the financial markets, I’m often astounded at how little they know about theology. Consider a couple of anecdotes:  

Early in 1989, a writer asked Trump the inevitable question about what horizons were left to conquer. “Right now, I’m genuinely enjoying myself,” Trump replied. “I work and I don’t worry.” “What about death?” the writer asked. “Don’t you worry about dying?” Trump dealt his stock answer, one that appears in a lot of his interviews. “No,” he said. “I’m fatalistic and I protect myself as well as anybody can. I prepare for things.” This time, however, as Trump started walking up the stairs to have dinner with his family, he hesitated for a moment. “No,” he said finally, “I don’t believe in reincarnation, heaven or hell—but we go someplace.” Again a pause. “Do you know,” he added, “I cannot, for the life of me, figure out where.”[1]

A few years ago the media made a big deal about the philanthropy of Warren Buffet, the world’s wealthiest man. A USA Today spread explained how Buffet decided to sign over $30.7 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Here is an excerpt from the article:
            “Warren Buffett's contribution of about $1.5 billion a year to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be used to seek cures for the world's worst diseases and improve American education, Bill Gates said Monday. “There is no reason we can't cure the top 20 diseases,” Gates said while appearing with Buffett during a donation ceremony at the New York Public Library. The Buffett and Gates families, as well as onlookers, were beaming as the so-called Oracle of Omaha officially made his benevolence a reality. During the ceremony, Buffet said, “I am not an enthusiast for dynastic wealth, particularly when the alternative is 6 billion people having much poorer hands in life than we have. There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way.”[2]

Do you think God is impressed by Buffet’s donation? What about Trump not doing any research about what lies beyond the grave; would he be that reckless with his money? Buffet thinks that he can buy his way into heaven though good works, while Trump has spent more time planning his next investment than where he will spend eternity. These examples go to show how foolish men plan more for this life than the next.

Jesus told the story of a rich farmer who enjoyed great success. Reflecting on his accomplishments, he said, "I know! I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I'll sit back and say to myself, 'My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!'” (Luke 12:18-19, NLT). But God told him, "You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?" (verse 20, NLT).

We can find some commendable things about this rich man. He was a hardworking farmer. He probably would have had to work longer and get up earlier and expend more energy than the other farmers of his day to achieve such success. He was a lot like Buffet and Trump; he had reached the top of his career and the sky was the limit.

But his mistake wasn't in being successful in his work. His mistake wasn't even in acquiring possessions. His mistake was failing to make plans for eternity. He was living large. But he forgot that the clock was ticking, that life was passing by. Later on, Jesus would say in Luke 12:15, “And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” He who dies with the most toys, still dies.  

In his commentary on Luke, John Phillips, makes three penetrating observations that we should consider about the rich fool. He writes, “This fellow made three mistakes. First, he mistook his bankbook for his Bible. He measured success in terms of what he read in his bankbook and his balance sheet that what he read in the Bible. Then too, he mistook his body for his soul. What use does the immaterial soul have for barns and banquets? Finally, this secular humanist mistook time for eternity. He thought he had many years on earth, but that night his life would be required of him.”[3]

The only way we can become rich is to declare spiritual bankruptcy and turn to Christ. -DM

[1] Lee Strobel, What Jesus Would Say? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 120-121.
[2] “Warren Buffett signs over $30.7B to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” USA Today, 26 June 2006,  <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/2006-06-25-buffett-charity_x.htm>
[3] John Phillips, Exploring The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2005), 180-181.

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