Misplaced envy

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

A Filipino-Chinese businessman with whom I was catching up expressed what I could only call as envy towards another “businessman,” whom he described as raking in billions via online gambling. My friend was clearly amazed at how some people could rake in so much money simply by providing online facilities or portals for anybody – anywhere to register and bet, and it was all legal because the Philippine government sanctions online gambling. My seniorly friend was so envious that I began to feel sorry for him, considering how he spent the last 50 years putting up companies, buying and selling stuff, providing technical services and many more ventures and misadventures, hired hundreds of people through the years but never did he rake in billions of easy money. He has lived in the same compound that belonged to his parents, drives the same cars that he has had for 20 years and yes, he has given himself trinkets such as personal audio stuff, golf and cheap watches but never was he part of the easy money jet-setters who commute via helicopters and flaunt their connections with politicians.

I decided to step on the brakes for my friend’s trip of “misplaced envy” and pointed out that we both knew many “billionaires” with whom we would not trade places, knowing the disastrous relations they have with their wife, wives, partners and paramours. I reminded him of the respect he has earned, even love from his children, friends and most employees in contrast to the fear, animosity, even contempt that those so-called big time players are surrounded with because of the way they made their fortunes, the high risks and stakes they took and how all the power got to their head.  In spite of his stature my friend drives himself, never needed a bodyguard and his family has never been a magnet for criminals. On the other hand, we all see so many “big shots” or “tycoons” who surround themselves with half to a dozen security escorts and travel in bulletproof SUVs.

Others have literally become slaves or prisoners of their “business,” no longer able to live a normal life, constantly suspicious of people who they think or worry might mean them harm. Some very hard working and principled billionaires I know have inadvertently found themselves inside gilded cages that won’t allow them to drop everything at any time because the wealth and success demand their imprisonment or to be “tied to their chair.” Some of them are really nice people living such lonely lives. Incidentally, not all the gold might be theirs. In a world where fronts and dummies abound and medium to big enterprise demands large investments, don’t be too envious because someone’s wealth might be “borrowed” by a dummy or a front or it might be borrowed from the bank. In one Bible study I led, I asked the envied rich member to talk about his “wealth” and our brother in the Lord asked, “Who wants to trade places with me so I can pass on all my utang or debts to you?” He was not in the poor house but sustaining a sizeable business sometimes necessitates loans. So are you still envious?

I reminded my envious friend of a very well known Bible verse on the matter that goes like this: “For what profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul” (Mark 8:36).

Some of those billionaires we knew traded love and true relationships in their pursuit of fame and got notoriety instead. Yes, many still ride high on their piles of cash and influence but there is a continuing tally of misery and tragedy that accounts for people that have fallen from power, lost it all, got sick and, worst of all, the list of loved ones who have had to live with the consequence of association with these sort of “businessmen”. They live lives constantly attracting free-loader politicians, corrupt government officials, even real life criminals, always asking if not demanding for money or pay-off. Instead of happiness or real love or true happiness, their billions have provided a means for these individuals to justify their poor moral choices by surrounding themselves with “rewards” such as cars, planes, helicopters, women, ritzy properties and the expected arrogance of impostors pretending to be happy.

But all that is nothing compared to what others have paid in terms of sickness and tragedy that have befallen them or their loved ones. As I pointed out earlier, the most common feature among them are broken homes, broken marriages and ultimately, for those who just won’t quit while they’re ahead, “Karma” or divine justice steps in and whacks them where it hurts and where their money and influence can’t do anything. Disease sets in and wreaks havoc in the lives of their children, their spouse, etc. In the letter of St. Paul to Timothy (1Timothy 6:10) he pointed out: “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with griefs.” As one of my wisest mentors once told me as we consoled each other over the deaths of loved ones in one year: “All the money and influence we can draw on in business is meaningless and cannot restore good health to the critically ill or bring back our loved ones from the dead.” That was Dec. 24, 1994 and to this day I remember those words.

Just in case you find yourself being envious or expressing “misguided envy,” just memorize this instruction and promise from God himself: Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

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