So, I’m reading the (subscription-only) Wall Street Journal yesterday and there is a front page article on the suicide of a German billionaire. Right next to it was a story of a real estate CEO who shot himself. Right next to that was a list of other suicides of prominent businessmen, some of whom are mentioned in this article.
Two thoughts came to mind: this is like the Depression when businessmen jumped off of buildings after the market crash. And the other was of the line from Clarence the angel after he jumps into the water to save George Bailey in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life: “Ridiculous of you to think of killing yourself for money.”
I wish every businessman (curious you never hear of a businesswoman killing herself) who is thinking of suicide could see the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Or, even better, I wish they could hear the Gospel proclaimed to them. What an incredible waste.
I imagine these people after they are gone looking back at such a decision and saying, “wow, I was sent to the Earth, and I made all this money, and the money became the single most important thing in my life, and when I lost the money I thought the world had ended. But here I am, and I continue on, and now that money doesn’t seem very important after all.”
Please don’t get me wrong. I understand that some of these people who committed suicide may have been suffering from an unbearable amount of shame. They had family members and business associates and investors who counted on them and who would despise them for losing the money. Some of them may have faced jail sentences.
But let’s look at the worst case for a billionaire who loses his billions: he and his family will have to live in a modest house and drive a modest car. If he is convicted of fraud, he faces years of trials and perhaps several years in a white-collar prison. Yes, he will face incredible shame, but what will he have learned? Perhaps he will have learned humility and perhaps, in a best-case scenario, he will find out what is really important: the family members who stand by him and the friends who turn out to be real friends.
I write all this as somebody who has spent a fair amount of time around high-powered businessmen and near-billionaires in my career and business life. Without seeming too judgmental, most of them do believe their money is the single most important thing in their lives and they can’t imagine living without it. But there are some of us, who have spent a lot of time around great wealth but have chosen other paths, who see that life is much better without great riches.
Helaman 13: 21-22: “For behold, he saith that ye are cursed because of your riches, and also are your riches cursed because ye have set your hearts upon them, and have not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you. Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things with which he hath blessed you, but ye do always remember your riches.”