The Billionaire Who Wasn’t

Chuck Feeney

Yesterday, I posted an article concerning an ad for a book offer I received on how to use the Bible to get rich (Pray and Be Rich). In God’s amazing providence, I received another newstory today in my Inbox concerning a new book that also speaks about money (The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune).

The article details the life story of Chuck Feeney, co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), the world’s largest duty-free retail chain. In 1988, Forbes Magazine listed Mr. Feeney as the 23rd richest man in America (worth $1.3 billion), surpassing Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump.

Before I go on, I can’t help but to juxtapose the details of Mr. Feeney’s life with the news story sent to me by a friend concerning the recent scandal at Oral Roberts University.

Consider:

  • Over the past 25 years, Mr. Feeney has given away $4 billion; The university reported nearly $76 million in revenue in 2005, according to the IRS.
  • Mr. Feeney wears a $15 watch; Mrs. Roberts spent more than $39,000 at one Chico’s clothing store alone in less than a year, and had other accounts in Texas and California.
  • Mr. Feeney flies economy class; Mr. and Mrs. Roberts took the university jet to take one daughter and several friends on a senior trip to Orlando, Fla., and the Bahamas for $29,411.
  • Mr. Feeney does not own a home or a car; Mrs. Roberts was given a white Lexus SUV and a red Mercedes convertible by ministry donors. The Roberts’ home has been remodeled 11 times in the past 14 years.

    Ouch! “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Oh, how we need Christ and must guard ourselves against the love of money! “…those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction,” (1 Tim. 6:9).

    In his book, Mr. O’Clery reveals how Mr. Feeney may be destined to go down in history as one of the greatest American philanthropists.

    “…you should use your wealth to help people…I set out to work hard, not to get rich.”

    Quoting Mr. Feeney, O’Clery writes,

      “I had one idea that never changed in my mind — that you should use your wealth to help people. I try to live a normal life, the way I grew up,” Feeney said. “I set out to work hard, not to get rich.”

    Do you remember Paul’s admonition to the wealthy?

      17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life, (1 Tim. 6:17-19)

    It is highly instructive that Paul, immediately following his instructions to those who are rich in material possessions (i.e., all of us!), directs Timothy to the gospel, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you…” Again, in 2 Timothy 1:14 Paul exhorts Timothy, “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

    Opulence corrupts the gospel.

    Opulence corrupts the gospel. Luxuriating leads a man astray from following the pattern of the sound words he has received (2 Tim. 1:13). If you need proof, watch TBN.

    This invaluable deposit (far exceeding any monetary desposit) must be guarded as a valuable treasure in order to fight against the illusion that money can provide better than God (cf., v. 17).

    Guarding the gospel causes us to look to God and not His gifts in order to prevent lavish living and the reign of the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions.

    Note Calvin’s wise pastoral admonition, “God nourishes them to live, not to luxuriate,” (3.19.9). In warning against excessive care for the things of this world, Calvin writes,

      Where is your recognition of God if your flesh boiling over with excessive abundance into vile lust infects the mind with its impurity so that you cannot discern anything that is right and honorable?…Where is our recognition of God if our minds be fixed upon the splendor of our apparel? For many so enslave all their senses to delights that the mind lies overwhelmed. Many are so delighted For many so enslave all their senses to delights that the mind lies overwhelmed. Many are so delighted with marble, gold, and pictures that they become marble, they turn, as it were, into metals and are like painted figures. The smell of the kitchen or the sweetness of its odors so stupefies others that they are unable to smell anything spiritual. The same thing is also to be seen in other matters. Therefore, clearly, leave to abuse God’s gifts must be somewhat curbed, and Paul’s rule is confirmed: that we should “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” [Romans 13:14], for if we yield too much to these, they boil up without measure or control,” (3.10.3).

    Again, Calvin writes,

      Long ago Cato truly said: “There is great care about dress, but great carelessness about virtue.” To use the old proverb: those who are much occupied with the care of the body are for the most part careless about their own souls. Therefore, even though the freedom of believers in external matters is not to be restricted to a fixed formula, yet it is surely subject to this law: to indulge oneself as little as possible; but, on the contrary, with unflagging effort of mind to insist upon cutting off all show of superfluous wealth, not to mention licentiousness, and diligently to guard against turning helps into hindrances,” (3.10.4).

    “God nourishes them to live, not to luxuriate.”

    Guarding the gospel in our minds and affections, fights against haughtiness (v. 17), directs our hope on God rather than on the uncertainty of riches (v. 17), motivates our hearts to do good, to be rich in good works (v. 18), and to be generous and ready to share (v. 18).

    The gospel, when guarded in our hearts, leads us to store up store up treasure as a good foundation for the future, so that we may take hold of that which is truly life (v. 19)!

    Guarding the gospel serves as a constant reminder not just to the “man of God” but to all believers that it is of infinite value because it belongs to God and results in His glory and man’s salvation (cf., 2 Tim. 1:8-12).

    Because believers are weak and beset with much remaining sin (cf., Rom. 7) and because the enemy is relentless and the world constantly bombards believers with the temptation to “set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches,” (1 Tim. 6:17), Paul adds this phrase in 2 Timothy 2:14, “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us…”

    “…to indulge oneself as little as possible; but, on the contrary, with unflagging effort of mind to insist upon cutting off all show of superfluous wealth…”

    Like Timothy, we must guard, defend and hold onto the sound doctrine, the gospel, against every attack from without and every temptation from within. We must not allow the gospel we confess and proclaim to be corrupted or changed in the most miniscule way.

    We must guard the gospel in our own lives and we must guard the gospel from those who seek to corrupt it. Such a task is impossible apart from the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. “For apart from Me, you can do nothing,” (John 15:5).

    To follow Paul, we must like Paul, entrust ourselves first to God, who guards us, and His gospel if we are to have the strength and motivation to guard His gospel and to keep the gospel pure and to follow the pattern of sound words which we have been given. “…for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that Day,” (1 Tim. 1:12, NASB).

    “There are no pockets in a shroud.”

    The article continues,

      “Feeney kept his generosity secret for years, saying he did not want to “blow my own horn” or discourage others from giving to the same deserving causes.”

    Amazing contrast to the likes of Joel Osteen, the Roberts at ORU, Benny Hinn, TBN, and every other false teacher espousing the “health/wealth” bad news who boldy trumpet their ostentatiously rich and lavish lifestyles (at the expense of old grandmothers like mine who sat in front of a TV set in her last years trusting in her giving for better health!).

    Here is how the article concludes:

    Now in his mid 70s, Feeney is determined his foundation should spend its remaining fortune in his lifetime and is fond of a Gaelic proverb to explain the sense of urgency.

    “There are no pockets in a shroud.”

    The Gaelic proverb brings to light the Parable of the Rich Fool. For our own spiritual wellbeing, it is worth our time to read it once again:

      13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! (Don’t you know, There are no pockets in a shroud! -J.F.) This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

    May God have mercy on us to free our hearts from the things that corrupt and defile and to set our affections firmly on Christ, who is our great treasure and reward.

  • 2 Responses to The Billionaire Who Wasn’t

    1. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptFeeney as the 23rd richest man in America (worth $1.3 billion), surpassing Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump. Before I go on, I can’t help but to juxtapose the details of Mr. Feeney’s life with the news story sent to me by a friend … […]

    2. […] if it works for the church (i.e., Joel Osteen, Oral and Richard Roberts, Scandal Brewing at Oral Roberts U.) why can’t it work in corporate […]

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s

    %d bloggers like this: