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 descendents 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 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. My possessions are given by God and should be used 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 labored for. Wills are essential, but I’ll still leave what I’ve amassed behind. Jesus says 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 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 we have comes from You and should be used for Your honor and glory.
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