Accidental Billionaire

Are you familiar with the clothing brand Patagonia? I had heard of it but didn’t know much about it or the owner until recently. Yvon Chouinard founded the company in 1973, but not intentionally. He doesn’t like to be called a businessman. He was an avid rock climber and environmental activist who began making climbing spikes for himself and his friends. Many stories are circulating about him right now, so if you are interested in learning more about him or his business, it is easy to find. Here is a link to one of them, where I retrieved some information for this blog.

He went from metal spikes into outdoor clothing with great success. He always gave back part of his millions of dollars in profits to charities throughout the company’s history to combat climate change. But he has been making the headlines the last few months because he recently gave the company away, with exceptional circumstances.

He created a charitable trust and a partnership with a non-profit that will receive all the future profits, over a million a year, to be exact, to help combat climate change and protect undeveloped land. It is almost unheard of that anyone would give away their fortune these days and take measures to ensure future profits are secure for a cause instead of leaving them to his family. They didn’t want it either.

I don’t know much about him or his beliefs, but this reminded me of the story about the rich young man who met Jesus and asked what he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus recites many commandments and tells him he will inherit the kingdom if he does well. The rich man confirms that he has kept all of them. From the human perspective, his answer is believable. But the man went away sorrowfully when Jesus asked him to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor. Jesus pointed out that the rich man lacked that one thing. He had replaced trust in God and treasure in heaven with earthly riches (Mark 10:17-31, ESV).

This does not mean everyone must sell all they have to follow Jesus and inherit the kingdom. Instead, our hearts must be focused on God, and everything we own must be surrendered to Him and handled properly as a good steward of the gifts God has given us. Everything we have is God’s. He generously entrusted them to us. It is our responsibility to honor Him with everything.

The man was sad, but he didn’t repent or make changes. He just left Jesus’ side to keep his earthly possessions intact. Jesus describes how difficult it is for those with material possessions to enter the kingdom of God because it reinforces self-sufficiency instead of dependency on God. They are relying on themselves, which is a dangerous stance to take. He is opposed to submitting to God’s will. Anyone who trusts in riches as an idolatrous replacement for God cannot enter the kingdom of God.

The camel fitting through the eye of a needle stresses that it is humanly impossible, but with God, anything is possible (Mark 10:27, ESV Emphasis mine). I am so glad my salvation and entry into heaven don’t depend on my efforts and ability to achieve it. I’m putting my money on Christ, and hopefully, the owner of Patagonia is too.

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:19-20, ESV).

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