Whose advice will you take?
For those whose career life happens in the marketplace, the points on the scoreboard have the “$” symbol. “Bottom line” becomes the bottom line; if money makes you the “winner,” the leaderboard is maintained by Forbes. Every year, their Forbes 400 list updates the current prize winners…
Right now, the No. 4 spot is held by Warren Buffett. His current stash – $67.5 billion – does not include the $37+ billion he has given away since 2005. Had he held those donor funds, his $104 billion would have placed him today at #2, just behind Jeff Bezos.
It’s a good thing Buffett gives – rather than takes – advice about his marketplace activities. Conventional wisdom would suggest that a 60-year-old with $3.3 billion should retire early, move toward sunshine and place their funds in CDs and tax-free municipal bonds so they can enjoy their Golden Years. If Buffett at 60 had decided to wait until 65 to enact the elder exit – to run up the score a bit – he would have considered the same passive strategy (in 1995, at 65) with $11.8 billion in hand.
Warren chose not to leave the field, or to adopt an end-of-life/reduction-of-risk posture. He stayed at the table – through the tech crash of 2000, the Great Recession of 2008, the CV-19 of 2020 – and has parlayed his positions into ever-increasing success. Had he stepped away at 60, 97% of his accumulation – both retained and contributed – would have gone to someone else.
Bernie Madoff’s score was estimated at $17 billion in 2007, before he was exposed and convicted of a Ponzi-styled scheme that defrauded multiple members of the Forbes elites. He didn’t retire from the game; he was disqualified, and is now living out his “retirement” in the care of the Federal penal system, currently in North Carolina. He’s expected to die serving his 150 year sentence.
Down here, in a world that worships Mammon and defines life by dollars, people follow the leaders hoping to emulate their results. Up there, in the Kingdom that will never end, the metrics of significance contrast sharply with the measure of success. Smart people hoping to be rich here flock to Omaha to hear the counsel of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger; even wiser people listen when the Apostle Paul offers his tips on how to get on – and, stay on – the leader board in Heaven.
Hear his encouragement as he takes a quick time-out on the sideline, before getting back onto the field: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
We find the unchanging facts of life in the Scriptures. For the followers of Jesus, two truths are gamechangers: 1) Salvation is a gift: it cannot be earned or deserved; it manifests God’s grace. And, 2) Status is a reward: it must be earned and deserved; it demonstrates God’s justice.
Our entry to Heaven is based on God’s works on our behalf. But, our rewards in Heaven are based on our works on His behalf. “Saved” is an absolute, same-for-everyone certainty; “Rewards” are a biblically-revealed, God-determined variable, different-for-everyone certainty.
Two things can diminish or destroy your heavenly honors: 1) retire from Kingdom duty because “you’ve done enough;” or, 2) disqualify yourself through a lack of discipline.
In the next three episodes, we’ll address the miscues that have derailed Kingdom leaders – in the past, and in our generation – and how to avoid those traps. I hope it scares the hell out of us…