If you can spare a quarter-billion dollars, 924 Bel Air Road in Los Angeles might be your next home. This mansion, called “the eighth wonder of the world” by its developer, is making headlines today. I saw the article and immediately wanted to see more: the panoramic views, twelve bedrooms, twenty-one bathrooms, eighty-five-foot Italian glass infinity pool, James Bond-themed indoor cinema, and fleet of luxury cars and motorbikes.
Continuing the theme of wealth, Alex Caudros’s Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country fascinated me with its descriptions of challenges faced by the ultra-wealthy. One specialist serving such clients arranges kidnapping insurance and has created games to teach wealthy children how to handle money. Another knows the numbers to call for clients who want to buy a racehorse or sell a diamond necklace. She also knows discreet psychiatrists and can make sure every one of a billionaire’s homes has the same clothing so he doesn’t have to pack much when traveling.
While the Los Angeles mansion is making news, the 43,000 people who are homeless in Los Angeles County draw less attention. A recent report states that eight of the richest people on Earth own as much combined wealth as half the human race.
Continuing the theme of need, I was fascinated recently to learn the origins of hospitals. In the fourth century, a wealthy Christian widow named St. Fabiola gave money to build a hospital in Rome and worked personally to serve the sick. Around the same time, St. Basil distributed food to the poor of Caesarea, then built a hospital for his city. In AD 325, the Council of Nicea directed that every city with a cathedral should also have a hospital since people traveling on pilgrimages would often arrive ill.
Thus began the hospital movement.
Ten of the twenty-five largest health-care networks in the US are Catholic-affiliated. Many others, such as Baylor–Scott and White Health in Texas, are Christian ministries of healing.
While we are fascinated by success, we are fulfilled by service. How can we be even more fulfilled today?
On one hand, to “receive blessing from the Lord” we must “seek the face of the God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:5, 6). Then, when we seek God, he finds us. He is knocking at the door of our hearts (Revelation 3:20) but will not violate the freedom he has given us. The more we seek intimacy with the Almighty, the more almighty he becomes in our lives.
On the other hand, the more we serve this God, the better we know him. The best way to learn is to teach. The best way to know God is to seek to make him known. Then the cycle continues: the more we seek our Lord, the more we want to share what we find. And the more we share him, the more we want to seek him.
We can define our lives by the opulence of our homes and other possessions, or we can follow the example of Jesus. Soren Kierkegaard: “In the understanding of the moment, never has anyone accomplished so little by the sacrifice of a consecrated life as did Jesus Christ. And yet in the same instant, eternally understood, He had accomplished all, and in that account said, with eternity’s wisdom, ‘It is finished.'”
When your life is done, will you be able to say the same?