I just watched the film, “All the Money in the World. Remember the kidnapping of John Paul Getty, III? Grandpa Getty was the richest man in the world, lived an incredibly extravagant life-style but was so stingy he’d wash his own undies and hang them on his antiques to dry. When Tray was abducted, the Italian kidnappers demanded seventeen million dollars which Getty refused to pay. The ransom was reduced but Getty still wouldn’t pay. After his abductors cut off the boy’s ear and sent it to a London newspaper, Getty relented and promised four million. When the deal was ready to go through, at first Getty released only one million dollars. Finally, he came up with the other three million. Paul III was released and the old man soon died. After he died, the mother of his heir became the executor of the estate.
A story I remember from sixty plus years ago was an interview I watched on a grainy black and white T.V. screen -“LIVE FROM ENGLAND.” This was one of the first live interviews from overseas and the transmission was poor. We could see, however, a black and white image of a seated, dour, prune-faced man with an unfortunately large nose. The interviewer asked the richest man in the world this question: “Are you happy, Mr. Getty?” The response was a sour and emphatic” NO!”. And then the old man who was richer than any man who had ever lived went on a tirade about his financial difficulties. I guess he perceived himself as rich though he was always greedy for more.
Later, in the ’90s, “Greed is Good” became the hallmark of Wall Street. As capitalism’s spirit took over the hearts of financial wizards, Michael Douglas had those mortal words to offer to an entire hall full stock brokers, financial advisors and those swooning in the financial air of blossoming investments.
Greed, one of the deadly sins opposes trust in the providence of God. Think of St. Francis of Assisi who publicly divested himself of all his middle-class trappings, including taking off all of his clothes in the public square, while the bishop looked on horrified. Francis depended on God for everything: food, clothes, shelter, love. He felt he had nothing to worry about — ever. Along with the surety of God’s love for him, Francis experienced deep happiness.
I see so many people everyday moving fast, hurrying somewhere. It’s a busy city. People everywhere motivated and on the move, searching for what will make them happy. St. Augustine humbles us with this reminder: “You have made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless ’til they rest in Thee.” Not all the money in the world could buy us that peace.