Just a Little Bit More

  John D. Rockefeller, Sr., one of the richest men in history, was once asked how much money it takes to make a man happy. Rockefeller's famous reply was, "just a little bit more." In his book, The Call, theologian Os Guinness cites this exchange to illustrate the difficulty of resisting the siren call of money—and how a proper understanding of God's call on our lives can help. Throughout history, Guinness writes, people have always understood that the pursuit of money is insatiable. "As we seek money and possessions," Guinness writes, "the pursuit grows into a never-satisfied desire that fuels avarice—defined in Scripture as a vain 'chasing after wind.'“ In fact, the Hebrew word for money, kesef, comes from a verb meaning "to desire" or "languish after something." Jesus Himself personified money by calling it mammon, the Aramaic word for wealth. His point, Guinness writes, is that money "is a power in the sense that it is an active agent with decisive spiritual power." It can be "a genuine rival to God.” Now, money itself is not evil of course, it can be used for great good. It is the worship of money that becomes sinful and destructive. Individuals and societies that devote themselves to money soon become devoured by it, Guinness warns. This leads to commodification—the process by which money "assumes such a dominant place in a society that everything (and everyone) is seen and treated as a commodity to be bought and sold." Buying, selling, and marketing are legitimate in their place, Guinness writes, but "not everything can or should be given a market value. The sign of a good society is the level and number of things acknowledged to be beyond market values—and thus appreciated for their own sake" and not merely for financial rewards. The early Puritans understood that a proper sense of calling could protect them from the insatiable desire to accumulate wealth. Guinness defines calling as "the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion... lived out in response to his summons and service." Ironically, the diligence of the early Puritans did bring about wealth, and this created a stumbling block for the generations that followed for whom Mammon became an idol. As Puritan leader Cotton Mather warned, unless we are vigilant, a godly calling will bring forth prosperity, only to result in prosperity's destroying the sense of calling. How do we maintain that vigilance in a society that celebrates great wealth? By reminding ourselves of God's calling on our lives and being aware of the power that Mammon can have over us. A proper view of calling means, Guinness writes, "that for followers of Christ, there is a decisive, immediate, and moment-by-moment authority above money and the market. The choice between Masters has been made." You and I ought to help our churches regain the concept of Biblical calling. Read Os Guinness's book for a better understanding of God's call in your own life. Who knows? If John D. Rockefeller had had a biblical view of calling, he might have been content with the millions he had instead of always looking for "just a little bit more."


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary