The ornate office building had a spacious lobby.
Sitting in the corner, in a large, voluptuous brown leather chair, the dapper businessman in the blue pin-striped suit and dark red tie listened attentively.
He had just finished an interview with The New York Times.
Asked what he believed in, he looked earnestly into the eyes of the young reporter. “God, family and hamburgers”.
Then as he got up to walk to the elevator, he turned and smiled broadly. “But when I go in the office I reverse that order”.
Ray Kroc, founder of the McDonald’s empire, had climbed to the top of the world with a ruthless passion for the franchise sale of hamburgers and fries. By the time Kroc died in 1984, the ubiquitous Golden Arches spanned the globe.
Ray Kroc died rich.
In his business, profits came first, followed by family. God came last. He compartmentalized and prioritized his busy life. Sunday may have been set aside, but it had nothing to do with the rest of the week.
God was good. But money was king.
Christians recoil at such a blatant diminution of God. We all profess to put God first in our lives. For me, it’s sometimes easier said than lived. Every day, I face the world, the flesh and the devil. They work in a diabolical tandem to distract my attention from First Things.
Priorities. They may be important but they’re not always easy. Sometimes I find myself inadvertently reversing the order. It’s a challenge – and temptation – that many of us struggle with. We’re in this world, Jesus sends us into the world and we can’t escape the world – nor does the world escape us.
William Wordsworth observed:
“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers”.
In the scriptures, God reminds us of the primacy of the spiritual. Jesus drove the point home on many occasions, in many ways.
When the wealthy farmer boasted of his gains and his plans, Jesus tells us that God gave him a dramatic reality check:
“God said, ‘Thou fool! Tonight, thy soul shall be required of thee’” (Luke 12:20, KJV).
Death would sweep away a lifetime of prideful illusions of self – sufficiency in an instant. As often as it happens, man still presumes.
“Man proposes,” wrote Thomas a’ Kempis, “but God disposes”.
“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21, NLT).
“God said …”
God told the man his life would be over that night – not a jealous rival, not a disgruntled employee, not an ignored wife – God said it to him.
Jesus asks each of us:
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36, KJV).
“Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Mark 8:37, NLT).
It’s not wealth that is the root of all evil – that verse is often misquoted and misunderstood. Nowhere does Jesus condemn riches or success. It’s the love of money above all else – especially above our love for God – that is the sin that so easily ensnares us and hollows out our lives.
When we begin to lust for more, when we cut ethical corners to succeed, when we abandon our families to pursue our material goals; when we vainly imagine that our own skill and talent and hard work have given us our money – and, worst of all, when we proudly assume it’s our money and not God’s, then we run the risk of losing our own soul in order to gain the world.
Then wealth becomes our master and not our servant; our idol rather God’s gift; our end and not our means.
When this happens it’s a tragedy. Ebenezer Scrooge could warn us of the shallow folly of a materialistic and selfish life.
God forbid it in our own lives!
Priorities? What is profit – and what is loss? Theologian and author Leland Ryken aptly observed:
“We worship our work, work at our play and play in our worship”.
Ray Kroc may have “reversed the order” of his priorities when he entered his office but on the night God required his soul it didn’t matter how many burgers and fries the world was eating.
Jesus told us our priority – the First Thing of our lives; the One Thing that will forever dwarf all others and insure, when that day of reckoning comes, our life was lived at a profit and not at a loss.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”(Matt 6:33, KJV).
The day is hastening when it won’t matter who was rich and powerful or popular – or poor, scorned and unknown.
God tells us what’s important:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NKJV).
Try and save your life by trusting in the power and wealth of this world and you will surely lose it. Lose your life for the cause of Christ and his kingdom and you will save it through all eternity.
There is a profit. There is a loss.
What does the balance sheet of your life show?