How Rich Are You?

If you visit Occidental Petroleum’s website, there’s no mention of Armand Hammer in the official history of the corporation.

Do a search for his name and you’ll get, “Nothing here matches your search.”

That’s remarkable, considering the fact Hammer was the CEO of Occidental for 35 years – right up to his death in 1992.

Hammer, who was a billionaire, had been enthusiastically profiled a few years earlier by 60 Minutes, and USA Today had called him a “giant of capitalism and confidante of world leaders.”  But his story wasn’t quite as crisp and clean as he tried to let on.

At one point he hired ghostwriters to conjure up flattering, fictitious autobiographies of his life.

He left behind a string of broken marriages; allowed his father to be jailed for a crime he committed; filed a claim of $667,000 against the $700,000 estate of his brother Victor, keeping the money from Victor’s wife and kids; and hid from an illegitimate daughter.

He had no friends at Occidental.

Within days of Hammer’s death, the company virtually disavowed any association with him.  Hammer’s pallbearers were his chauffeur, his male nurse, and a few other personal employees.  Family members, including his only son Julian, chose not to attend.

So here’s the question:  How many true-life accounts are going to be sufficient to convince us that accumulating money and power as a means to happiness is a bankrupt philosophy?

Theologian Miroslav Volf describes the two great alternatives for every human life.  We can either pursue the Richness of Having or the Richness of Being.

Unfortunately, however, most of us wonder whether we actually have to make that choice.  We would love for the Richness of Having to lead to the Richness of Being.  If I just get enough stuff, or maybe the right kind of stuff, or the latest versions of the right stuff, my deepest yearnings for fulfillment will be satisfied.

But all of us know, from experience, that this is one of dumbest ideas of all time.

It doesn’t help that our culture runs roughshod over the Richness of Being.

Every year we publish lists of the wealthiest, the most beautiful, the most successful, the most honored, and the most driven people in the world.  But nobody publishes Major League Grandmother cards – you know, the kind with the color picture on the front and the eye-popping statistics on the back:  “Grandma hung every one of my drawings on her refrigerator and said it was a masterpiece.  She attended 98.2% of my school plays and concerts.  And nobody on our block figured out more ways to make dinner with a single can of tuna.”

Our world rarely celebrates the richness of ongoing relationships that are powered by unconditional love.

But that’s where the real treasure is.

— Authored by Glenn McDonald

To learn more about E-Mail Ministry and read previous messages, visit our web site at:

E-Mail Ministry and its sponsors run this message as submitted and do not claim to own any copyright privileges on it.  The work was submitted to us as an item for distribution, and it was posted solely on the basis of its quality.  It is the belief of E-Mail Ministry and its sponsors that this message is in the common domain.