The Ease of Riches is the Fire of Hell

Image resultI just finished the book, The Vanishing American Adult; subtitled, Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. Senator Ben Sasse [Nebraska] is the author.

I have to give him credit he doesn’t come out swinging at millennials. He doesn’t demean them and compare them to the older generation. He approaches arguments and suggestions for “righting the ship” as a collective problem and a collective effort. We all need to help each other become better, more resilient, self-reliant adults. He makes a strong case on how to resurrect grit, virtue, and a strong work ethic. Which may be the antidote for our nature of over-consuming and growing dependency. It is a good read, especially for young couples who are at the front end of rearing children, or grandparents desiring to influence grandchildren.

At the time I was reading this book my wife discovered a story from the life of her 4th great-grandfather, James Holt. In short, there was lucrative mine. James Holt and one of his son’s discovered the underground vault of riches. The initial minerals taken from it were tested and sanctioned as very fine indeed. James saw a respite from his hard labors.

And then a dinner guest.

Sometime in the summer of 1879, Parthenia—James Holt’s wife—was standing in the front gate of the yard beckoning all to the evening meal. She observed an elderly man with a long beard approaching their home on a donkey. She didn’t know him. He asked for a drink of water. Not expecting to lose any reward (see Matthew 10:42) she invited him to stay for dinner. He consented.

The family discerned that he was an “educated man and soft spoken.” He was readily able to “engage in easy conversation with the family.” His genuine and friendly nature won the Holt family’s trust. “Soon James was telling him of the Goldmine, found while . . . cutting his winter supply of fire wood.” James was forward enough with this stranger that he confessed he had already taken two sacks of ore from the mine and sent them to be examined by experts in Salt Lake City. He even gladly shared the results of their findings. “Word came back from Salt Lake – the ore was rich in gold and silver.” Which is why James “had made several trips back to the mine and dug more ore.” The fine mannered stranger could tell James was good on his word. “Sacks of ore were now piled in the corner of the kitchen.” James allowed the stranger to examine the sacks.

The financial prospects for this pioneering family where improving with each bag they drew from the mine. “James and his son were excited.  They planned to work the mine. Dreams of riches were woven that night and with each telling, the fever for gold climbed higher.”

With a calmness the dinner guest “listened to the stories and dreams.” In remarkable boldness, the stranger looked upon the patriarch and his kind family and said, “Holt, I promise you if you go on with this mine, you and your sons will all go to hell. This mine is not for you. But if you forget it and go on with your work here on the ranch, honor your Lord and your family, you will save yourself and your sons will become honorable men.”

What would you do? Surely some bewilderment came over James and his family. For what reasons was this stranger taking a firm stand about their ambition to chase the riches of the mine?

Remarkably James took no offense, nor did he challenge the certainty of the declaration from the stranger. “Courteously, James asked the stranger to stay the night, but the old man decline, saying he had to be getting on.” James and his wife walked to the end of the yard with him. The stranger mounted his donkey. They sent him on his way “with a wish of Godspeed.” This pioneer elderly couple who had come to this point in life with grit, sacrifice, and hard work conversed “about the pronouncement of their recently parted guest.” Turning their attention to the man riding away they were stunned to find “that the old man and his mule had disappeared from sight. He was never to be seen again.” The rest of the story can be conveyed by his great-granddaughter, Helen Gardner.

The conversation with the old man weighed heavily upon Holt’s mind. A few days later he decided to ride to the mine. To his surprise, as he approached the place where he had marked off his claim, everything was changed. The terrain was different. James found he could not identify one familiar landmark. For a man who knew the hills and valleys around his ranch very well, he could not understand what had happened. He felt lost and disoriented as he tried again and again to locate the mine.

He went back often, but the mine had vanished. Members of his family also looked, but the Goldmine was gone. . . .

There are happenings in the world that are not explainable. And to this day, though descendants have searched, the location of mine and the gold are still hidden. Eventually, James came to believe the mine was hidden from him and his family by a heavenly being . . . . This man came to warn him of the fate he and his family would suffer if they persisted in developing the Gold mine. Wealth from farming and other endeavors have come to James Holt descendants who live in enterprise St. George, Gunlock, Cedar city and in many parts of the United States. But the wealth is not come from gold.

James Holt was a practical man, and ambitious and a man of great energy. . . . It was the stopping of a heavenly stranger that change the Holt’s life for which, toward the end of almost 90 years of life, he acknowledged, made him a better man.

The ease of riches is the fire of hell. They can steal righteous ambition and great energy. We must be careful as to not let ease, comfort, and overdoses of entertainment and leisure ruin us. Industry and work, sweat and worry, struggle and triumph are needed for the maturity of spiritual, mental, emotional, and intellectual character. With this effort wealth is not only a blessing and joy, it is a resource to hopefully help others become self-reliant.

It dangerous in our day when we have so much and did so little to get it. We can, if we are not careful, or if we are prideful, rob ourselves and our posterity of personal growth and the development of spiritual stamina. An honorable effort to put our hands to the plow keeps us from putting our hands in the mischief of sin. Constantly plowing the ground makes life rewarding.


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