Last week during our welcome and call to worship I shared briefly the story about the young man who got rich buying into Bitcoin. (Although we found out we are all rich, right!) I’ve probably had more comments and questions on that welcome than most other ones, so I want to share a little bit more of that story and application for you to think about this week.
The young man’s name is Erik Finman, now age 19, and you can google him and read his complete story from many different sources. It turns out I had a few of the details wrong. Erik was lucky, but that wasn’t the complete story. He also has a lot of entrepreneurial spirit in him. Seven years ago he received a gift of $1,000 from his grandmother, and he used it to buy his first 100 bitcoins. Again, I won’t take the time to explain what Bitcoin is, exactly, and I’m not even sure I could. The main idea is that it is an online, encrypted currency that claims to be able to protect itself from the other threats to regular currency such as theft, deterioration, and counterfeiting. However, detractors such as Warren Buffet, tell us cryptocurrency has no real value and could implode at any moment… so I don’t suggest risking your savings on it!
Eric watched the value of his investment grow, and finally he sold the bitcoins for $1,200 each, or over $100,000 after taxes. Then he launched his own online-education company, called Botangle, and later sold it for 300 more bitcoins. Today he has 401 to his name, and his net worth is close to $4 million. Although both of his parents are Stanford-educated doctors, he made an agreement with them that if he was a millionaire before turning 18, he wouldn’t have to go to college. He won. Now he spends time giving advice to other young people about investing, as well as collaborating with NASA on a future project.
I have my own story along these lines on a much smaller scale. Back in 2008 when the markets were in major turmoil due to the mortgage crisis and other issues, I had saved up about $6,000 and decided to try my hand at online investing. The volatility was off the charts that year, so it was possible to buy a stock in danger of bankruptcy one day and see it double the next. Of course the opposite possibility was true as well. To make a long story short, over the next six months I made a lot of money and lost a lot of money, but in the end I had tripled my investment account to close to $20,000.
So why didn’t I just keep going and become like Erik Finman or Warren Buffet? The truth is I probably got lucky that year and things would have eventually evened out, because I don’t have the talent or steely nerves of those guys, but the more pressing issue is that I could feel my hope shifting away from God. I would wake up in the morning, sometimes after a bad night of sleep, and the first thing I had to do was check the markets to see how I was doing. It was easy to project in my mind how at the pace I was “making” money, I could be quite wealthy in only 5 or 10 years. But before I got too deep into that mentality, God graciously called me back and reminded me there was much more to life than material wealth, so I gave up online investing and renewed my focus on ministry and family. Later the money I made enabled us to live in Haiti as missionaries, so it is good to know God can use even our wanderings for His purposes.
During the last few weeks Mike has given us some great teaching on stewardship and how to leverage our resources for God’s glory, but the truth is what God really wants is very simple. He wants my heart, and He wants yours. He desires that relationship above all else. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13) Money and wealth aren’t bad things, but they have the potential to distract our attention from God and our calling to build His kingdom, and that’s where the true riches are found!