Generational Drift

Psalm 78:1-7 says, “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”

John D. Rockefeller was, during his lifetime, the richest man in the world and if his wealth was adjusted for inflation today, he would make Bill Gates look like a pauper (340 billion to Gates’ 105 billion today).  Rockefeller is still vilified in the minds of many as a “Robber Baron”, punitive capitalist, and heartless captain of industry that drove many to bankruptcy through creation of the great Standard Oil empire.  His was a monopoly that eventually was broken up by the government in the early 20th century…only to make Rockefeller richer than ever.

What most do not realize is that Rockefeller (whom his detractors liked to call “Wreck-a-feller”) was a devout Christian whose character and fealty to the gospel was without question.  He was a faithful member of Euclid Avenue Baptist Church in Cleveland (where he began the Standard Oil empire) and was found there with his family every Lord’s Day.  When his growing business dictated he move to New York he became a member of Park Avenue Baptist Church. He long taught adult Sunday School classes that thrived.  His giving to the church and other Baptist initiatives was legendary.  Long before he set the standard of the wealthy creating philanthropies and foundations to distribute their wealth for the good of society, John D. gave to the cause of Christ consistently and beyond generously. And Rockefeller was no Sunday morning Christian.  His life was a consistent testimony and pursuit of Christ at home and in society.  He never drank, never had a moral scandal, and never cursed or used foul language.  He was a paragon of virtue.  The only area in which anyone could find fault in him was in his seemingly relentless and heartless business practices which purposed to eliminate competition by “buying out” or bankrupting his rivals.  It was all very legal but as you can imagine, it was not highly appreciated and the press excoriated him for it.

All this is to say… the Rockefellers raised their children to be devout Christians as well.  John D. Rockefeller Jr., who became Sr.’s successor, raised his family in the church too.  But Junior’s “job” for most of his adult life was overseeing the Rockefeller philanthropies and foundations.  The Rockefeller wealth was so vast that they could not responsibly give it away faster than they could make it.  So Junior made it his life’s work.  In the course of that, he became captured by evangelical modernism and liberalism that reduce the gospel to doing good and helping people. This was at the beginnings of the “social gospel” that is still with us today. Accordingly, while Junior himself was a believer, his children were not due to the influence of this liberal theology.  In two generations the Rockefeller family went from devoutly Christian to apostate.  What a tragedy.

My wife and I are so grateful to God that each of our children have made a profession of faith.  We rejoice that their lives manifest a measure of faithfulness to God, his people, and his church as a matter of habit.  Now the next generation of our family is making its appearance in the persons of Draycen, Griffin, Evelynn, Rhordyn, Gunner, Forrest, Ellorie, Amelia, Marcus, and Titus.   How we pray that faithfulness to Christ in our family will not end with our children but will continue to exist through the third generation of our grandchildren and Lord willing, beyond.  It is a fearful but true saying that the extinction of the gospel in a family is only one generation away.  Now, while we cannot guarantee that our children will be believers, we can do everything in our power to rear them so as to lead them to faith in Christ.  That is what we have done with our children (however poorly).  And we commit the same to the next generation.

A year ago at this time, we had exactly one of our grandchildren in our daily reach; Ellorie.  Marcus and Titus were in Virginia.  Gunner was in Louisville. Emilee’s four were in North Dakota and Forrest and Amelia were not yet born.  Today, all are around our Sunday dinner table except for Gunner and Forrest still down in Louisville.  We love having input into their lives.  We pray daily that they each one will love the Savior we serve.

I dare say John D. Rockefeller would today give every penny of the wealth he left to his family if only his subsequent generations would follow him to Heaven.  That, sadly, is a prospect that does not seem likely at this point. So, while I will never leave any of my family with the billions Rockefeller left his, I trust Michal and I will bequeath to them a far more valuable legacy; one that will urge them to the Savior and service in the kingdom. What legacy will you leave your children and grandchildren? Will it be financial wealth… or a wealth of service to the King of kings?

Terry

 

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