John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil company in 1870.
He was the first American billionaire and one of the richest men to ever live.
I am sure many people today wish they could have walked in his shoes.
If, somehow they could, I think some would find it to be eye-opening.
Are you richer than John D. Rockefeller?
As wealthy as he was, Rockefeller might have had anything that money could buy. But what a few hundred dollars may buy today, couldn’t be bought with millions 150 years ago.
Today, we have central heating and air conditioning, cars, planes, Tempur-Pedic mattresses, iPods, and millions of other gadgets. Even Rockefeller in his day couldn’t buy air conditioning. Maybe he had fifteen people fanning him on a hot summer’s day (because he could afford it), but I would rather have air conditioning. He probably had chauffeurs to take him by horse and buggy all around town, but I would much rather be riding in a ten-year-old Chevy. Wouldn’t you?
If we change the way we think of “wealth” and compare our standard of living to Rockefeller’s, we’re doing pretty good. In fact, I would go as far to say the majority of Americans live an all-around more “comfortable” life than Rockefeller did. Who then, is actually richer?
How much do we really need to be happy?
If your household annual income is over $50,000, then you are in the top 1% richest in the world. (See for yourself at the Global Rich List.) And if we can agree that most of us are living a more comfortable life than a billionaire at the turn of the Twentieth Century, then shouldn’t we be happy with what we have?
Should the fact that someone is living a more comfortable life than we are make us less comfortable? Or couldn’t we be satisfied knowing that we live a more comfortable life than 99% of the world’s population, or the richest man 150 years ago?
And maybe we aren’t complaining — maybe we are just using our credit cards instead. Do we really need all the junk we are buying or are we forgetting how good we actually have it?
Why not keep up with the Joneses?
What’s the point with all this? Why spend energy trying to be grateful for the things we have? Why not just try to keep up with the Joneses? Here are a few reasons:
Life is far more enjoyable when you are grateful. Grateful people divert their energy to seeing the good things they’ve been given rather than focusing on what they don’t have. This alone makes them much happier and far more enjoyable to be around.
You can save a lot of money. When you are thankful that you have a car rather than having to ride the bus everyday, it makes it a lot easier to break the habit of buying a new car every year. This can apply to anything — HDTV is great, but so is color TV. Remember when that was the new break-through technology?
Forgetting about the Joneses can set you free. Doing things to impress and appease other people is a dangerous trap. So many people voluntarily become “puppets” to those they are trying to impress — trading control of their lives for temporary social approval. Having been enslaved by it for years, I suggest forgetting about what the Joneses think. They’re overrated anyway.
You can actually enjoy the things you have. Everything loses a bit of its appeal as we get used to it. From a new pair of shoes, a new car, a spouse, or anything else — they are all really exciting while we are anticipating them. But, once we have them for a while, they just aren’t as exciting as they once were. By truly appreciating it and focusing on the benefits of it rather than the “greener grass” elsewhere we can truly enjoy what we have.
I don’t say all this to suggest that we all should live like we are hovering around the poverty line. I merely want to suggest that maybe, just maybe, we have it a little bit better than we think. Regardless of whether you have 60″ HDTV and a new BMW or a 19″ Sanyo and a 10 year old Chevy — be grateful. Either way, Rockefeller would be jealous.
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied with contentment. -1Tim6.6
This was a good, quick read that puts thing into perspective. Nice job. (A little late, I know- but I just found your site.)
james stokes says
A good article that brings priorities into perspective.
It seems very common to take things for granted, particularly in seasons of family harmony and the career is both prosperous and personally gratifying. I have been blessed with senior management careers with high profile companies. I must say the compensation and benefits were very generous but I did not really enjoy what I was basically sacrificing the majority of my life’s activities for financial gain.
I eventually arrived, or better yet led to a place where finances are not top on my agenda. I have endured health issues over the past several years that have greatly reduced my ability to produce as accustomed. In spite of the health issues, the Lord opened up home-based positions where I could basically set my own hours. Financially, I matched my previous corporate year’s income while working half the hours.
So, your article on prosperity and what it means to me now is far different if asked the same question ten years ago.
First, it is true that if you don’t have your health money while necessary is not as important.
Second, I have found whatever my financial situation I have never slept without a roof over my head or missed a meal. Although, missing a few meals would be beneficial!
Money is not a goal, it is an instrument used for earthly transactions. With the correct priorities, finances will seldom if not never be a problem.
As we all know seek first the kingdom of God. If freely we receive and freely we give we will have success. My desire is to be a giver and not a tither. Is to possible to live on the 10 percent and give as the Lord directs the remaining 90 percent. I want to find out! Cliche I know, but true regardless, if the Lord can get it through you he will get it to you!
Me too on the 90/10 James – love it!
I’ve wondered at times about this perspective in great wealth back then vs the standard western lifestyle of modern history. I agree with you. Thank you for reminding me that as stressful and uncertain life is today, the average person has access to incredible opportunities and comfort not thought of just a hundred years ago. Thanks be to God, literally.
Kevin @ ChristianSimplicity says
Perspective is a wonderful thing. We’ve been trained to always look up the socio-economic ladder instead of down. Better yet, don’t look at the ladder at all – seek the kingdom and let money have its proper place. That’s easier said than done. Our capitalistic consumer society is constantly engaged in undermining contentment and satisfaction and coming up with all sorts of things to distract us.
Kevin, I couldn’t agree more. Good points. God bless!
good heading for blogpost. but why comments are dated back
Yep Vinodh, the article was originally written a while ago and updated and republished.
Gail Hunt says
Thanks for reminding me of the blessings I have.. I am rich in many ways that I take for granted.
Vinod -Blog may have been updated.
Our definition of wealth these days is warped and this seems to be the problem.
We compare ourselves with others and want what they have.
All the gold in King Solomon’s mine couldn’t have bought one electronic calculator, not even a simple one from today’s dollar stores! Even the slide rule was still being used in the mid-1970s.
Good to get a bigger perspective. Overall I am very thankful and grateful as I never expected to have a new car or own a home and those both befell me over the last 5 years. I wasn’t seeking after these things and yet the Lord provided. The only place I struggle to be content at times is regarding my paycheck, as we have not had a raise in over 7 years and yet are doing more. Yes, I was thankful I still HAVE a job as many lost there’s but I do agree sometimes I take it for granted..need to work on that.
Plus we are RICH n Christ. What he provides is beyond what we ask or think or even deserve! Did Rockefeller have those riches?
This is a great post. Thanks so much for a reminder of a simple, yet too often forgotten principal: contentment.
Love this blog, love the comments! 🙂 So true! When we count our blessings we also end up much more joyful, and God is pleased with a thankful attitude. Right now I’m thankful to be under a roof, with electricity! We can be thankful for big things and little things alike. I struggle sometimes with wondering what “The Joneses” think. I wish it weren’t like that. But I’m reminded that man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you. Give to God. Be patient and watch out because blessings are headed your way. You can’t outgive God.
Joseph Hogue says
Great post Bob. Definitely going in my Best of the Blogs roundup tomorrow.
Being happy with what we’ve got is one of my favorite PF topics but also one of the most difficult to build into a lifestyle.
Umesh Kumar says
Really great stuff. Everybody wants to become rich, they follow other rich people and try to walk following them.
great truth. great wisdom. I celebrate you
Ron Ryan says
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”–Cicero. Being thankful for everything is important for us to grow as we should. Even the tough times and circumstances are teachers of a sort. We are better able to understand, to empathize and comfort others who are going through the same difficult circumstances once we have been through them ourselves.
Our relationship with God; close relationships with family and friends; good, vibrant health; and money enough for our basic needs make us rich indeed..
Yeah. We sometimes forget the things that money cannot buy that God has so freely given. Being born in this generation is enough reason to be grateful.
Excellent article! Thanks for sharing it. I will share it with my loved ones.
Tyler @ BibleCents says
Our society has a lot of technology and gadgets but I would argue whether any of that stuff makes our lives any “better”. We can think of ourselves as being richer than Solomon or Rockefeller because of the stuff we own, but is that the measure of our satisfaction we are striving for; feeling richer than someone else?
It’s a great idea to recognize that having the bank account of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet today may only buy you the everyday pocket tricorder (for you trekkies) of the future. Use that info to realize that being rich is a pretty silly end goal when you think about it. Instead, get your heart set on a more lasting treasure (Matthew 6:21).
Tyler, I completely agree. I don’t think are lives are better as a result of the stuff, but society as a whole has dramatically increased its standard of living and we tend to forget that.
Tyler @ BibleCents says
True Bob. Thanks for the reminder and encouraging us to think about it different way.
Paul Flynn says
Thanks a lot for sharing this, it’s exactly what I yearned for at such a time. I think, as much as gratitude may not be the greatest virtues, it’s vital for us to thrive as we should. Undoubtedly, relationship with God is of utmost importance. Coupled with sound relationship with family, friends and good heath is what true riches mean to me. Ultimately, I deem it right to cherish every moment in life, ‘being grateful in good times and in bad”(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). In the long run, we get to be able to advice others who are going through trying moments since we’ve been though there ourselves.
This is stupid. Yes, we have many modern comforts, but it’s the adjustment to the comforts that makes it so that we are looked down on by others in society if we are unable to buy the same. Rockefeller was able to buy the one thing that is almost entirely money-driven: status. You are not even remotely addressing the correct need through the ‘answer’ you provide in this post. Instead, you are asking people to stuff down their feelings, and even more damaging, their desires. Giving us all a sure-fire way to feel even more discontent in the future, when we next desire something flashy and realize that we are completely unable to live up to this ideal.
So who cares if I’ve got a better ride than a guy who lived a hundred years ago? The comforts of my life now are nothing close to Trump’s, or whoever you want to peg as today’s Rockefelller. My ranking in modern times, in the society that I live in is very low. I know that people are going to respond with all kinds of crap about how I need to work to reframe how I see my own world, but that is exactly what that is: work. And because it is based on actual human needs that are unmet, it will never, ever end.
So what’s the answer then? Find a better way to meet the need that you are trying to fill. If you’re overworked, find a way to fit relaxation into your schedule. If you love beautiful things, then find a way to view or create beauty on a regular basis. And if you crave status, that unpious, unhumble, distinctly un-Christian cancerous growth on your soul? Have at it. But I would suggest that most of us want something more than just status, so if the effort of creating it is leaving you exhausted and unfulfilled, then mindfully meditate more. Life is supposed to be fulfilling, not an endless search, or a daily ‘battle’ to squash down the desires of our hearts with articles like this.
Larry Burkett says
Thanks for the reminder, Bob! Please continue the great work and God bless you!
Thank you Bob
Thank you Bob, I needed that.
Stephanie Dolan says
I think the bible has interesting lessons to experience about debt as well as finding your security in Jehovah, God, Source, I am. The world supports you even when you have no income. I never have experienced homelessness but I watched a group of individuals camp in the cold winters of Ohio and come in for a Hot meal at church weekly dinner. Food is abundant. Company is abundant if you open yourself to the people around you. It comes down to basic needs: shelter, food, healthcare, toothpaste, tooth brush, hair brush, running water, sewer systems, it is nice to have light, heat is necessary, soap, vinegar, and baking soda to clean yourself, clothing, and, shelter, potentially you may also need pet food if you have a pet. All the rest…is luxury. Please make sure your necessities and luxuries do not harm the planet. Typical soaps harm the planet. Bronners, baking soda, vinegar cost pennies on the dollar for the big brand names on tge market.
Very thoughtful. Happiness comes from gratefulness. Just like saying that Goliath might have been too big to defeat at first, but a better perspective would be that that he was too big to be hit easily and not miss your mark. Like David did.
Vivian Gavuvu says
Thank you Bob, by reading this piece it has just inspired me and reminds us that with whatever blessings we have big or small we must always be grateful and most of all be content. God is good all the time.
Jimmy @ CC Bank says
It’d be nice if all these modern-day revolutionaries could grasp this instead of pining for the destruction of western civilization and the implementation of their Utopian planned economy. They have seemingly no gratitude for all the wealth they have that they didn’t even have to earn.
Aparna @ Elementum Money says
This is a good reality check to most of us. Same goes for when we think about war. The world might look unsafe with noise about violence all around but research tells us it is actually one of the most peaceful times to live in. It’s really all about perspective and looking at the bigger picture.