/ Nathan Eshelman

Despair In the Midst of Abundance

Yesterday the CFO of a major US retail chain jumped to his death in Manhattan, with the NYPD reporting that he "appeared to suffer from injuries indicative from a fall from an elevated position..."

I am reminded of the book Counterfeit Gods: the Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power. In that book, the author said that the 1929 stock market crash resulted in a series of suicides among Wall Street executives. In 2008, following the global economic crisis, another series of CEO and CFO suicides occurred. Loss of wealth, for some, resulted in the taking of one's life.

He would go on to write:

"In the 1830s when Alexis de Tocqueville recorded his famous observations of America, he noted a 'strange melencholy that haunts the inhabitants...in the midst of abundance." Americans believed that prosperity could quench their yearnings for happiness, but such a hope was illusionary...because de Tocqueville added, 'the incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy the human heart.' This strange melancholy...always leads to despair of not finding what it sought... Despair is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing. When you lose the ultimate source of your meaning or hope, there is no ultimate source to turn to. It breaks your spirit." Counterfeit Gods, xiii.

Some of the financial pundits are telling us that we are about to enter another time of economic despair. I don't know, but I do know that those that put their hope--their ultimate source of meaning--in prosperity and wealth will find themselves ultimately disappointed. Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and [money] (Matthew 6:24)."

Yesterday's Manhattan suicide reminded me that many have made an idol made out of comfort, prosperity, and wealth. That may be, in short time, taken away. Again, I don't know. But I know that putting one's hope and trust in such things leads to despair; ultimately it is a sacrifice of self on the altar of wealth. It is idolatry.  The Bible says that making an idol is useless and "Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them (Psalm 115:8)."

Idolatry of wealth will bring ultimate despair and prove to be useless. Only Christ can satisfy the questions of ultimate meaning and hope that you are seeking.

Nathan Eshelman

Nathan Eshelman

Pastor in Orlando, studied at Puritan Reformed Theological & Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminaries. One of the chambermen on the podcast The Jerusalem Chamber. Married to Lydia with 5 children.

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