What Would Jesus Say to... Part 3
What Would Jesus Say to Donald Trump?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
November 7, 2004

 

According to Forbes, he ranks as the 205th richest man in the world. In the U.S. alone, he ranks 74th. The difference between him and many whose names would appear ahead of his is, he didn’t just inherit his money… he earned it. And not just once, but twice!

Donald John Trump is the very definition of the American success story, continually setting the standards of excellence while expanding his interests in real estate, gaming, sports, and entertainment. He is the classic businessman – a deal-maker without peer and a generous contributor to charity. Let me tell you about some of his history and his business adventures.

Trump started his business career with his father, Fred Trump. Fred himself was a real estate man, who came to specialize in building and managing rental properties for middle-income families in Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn. The Donald has been quoted as saying,

“My father was my mentor, and I learned a tremendous amount about every aspect of the construction industry from him.”
~ Donald Trump

Likewise, his father often stated that…

“Some of my best deals were made by my son, Donald... everything he touches seems to turn to gold.”
~ Fred Trump

But after about five years, Donald stepped out on his own. He had bigger dreams than his father, and he knew there was no way he could accomplish them in Queens or Brooklyn. So Trump entered the very different world of Manhattan real estate. At the time of his move, he was practically broke. But he managed to negotiate a membership into a very exclusive club where he was able to network and make a lot of very valuable contacts.

That was then… the early 1980s. If you were to visit New York City today, you would discover that the Trump name is synonymous with the most prestigious of addresses. Among his properties are the world-renowned Fifth Avenue skyscraper, Trump Tower (where Asprey has just signed a lease paying the highest square foot rent anywhere in the world), and the luxury residential buildings, Trump Parc, Trump Palace (the tallest building on the East Side of Manhattan), Trump Plaza, The Trump World Tower (the tallest residential building in the world) and Trump Park Avenue.

Over the years, Trump has owned and sold many great buildings in New York including the Plaza Hotel, the St. Moritz Hotel (which he’s owned and sold three times… now called the Ritz Carlton) and recently, the land under the Empire State Building.

In 1999, the Trump International Hotel and Tower opened its doors to the world. This 52-story super luxury hotel and residential building has the highest sales prices and rentals in the U.S. It is one of only three hotels in the United States that has received five stars from Mobil for both the hotel and restaurant. It has also received the Five Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Services. Needless to say…

Trump has been very successful in real estate. He is currently the owner of the largest parcel of land in New York City, the former West Side Rail Yards. On this 100-acre property, fronting along the Hudson River from 59th Street to 72nd Street, the biggest development ever approved by the New York City Planning Commission is being built. When completed, this $5 billion project, known as Trump Place, will have 5,700 residential units and more than 5 million square feet of commercial space. Including the parking garages, Trump Place will comprise over 10,000,000-square feet of space! As a comparison, the AOL Time Warner Building is approximately two-million square feet. So far, 5 towers have been completed and are occupied, and two additional buildings are under construction. There will be a total of 18 buildings on the site.

It wasn’t always rosy for the Donald, though. Back in 1990, the real estate market in New York declined drastically, and he saw his net worth plummet from an estimated $1.7 billion to $500 million. At that time, the Trump Organization required a massive infusion of loans to keep it from collapsing, creating a situation which raised questions as to whether the corporation could survive bankruptcy. But he climbed back. From being nearly $900 million in the red at one time, Trump was reported to be worth close to $ 2 billion by as early as 1997.

Today, Trump is one of the world’s largest operators of hotels and casinos. The Trump name stands proudly on three world-class casino hotels in Atlantic City. They are also the only five star, five diamond-rated hotels in Atlantic City: The Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino on the Boardwalk, the Trump Marina Casino Resort in the Marina District and, of course, The Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, home of one of the world’s largest casinos and one of the most luxurious casino-hotels ever built.

Trump has diversified in recent years. Trump’s portfolio now also includes Trump National Golf Club in Westchester, New York. And he recently purchased the largest parcel of land in California which fronts, for almost two miles, along the Pacific Ocean. Seventy-five luxury estates and a championship golf course, to be called (of all things) Trump National Golf Club/Los Angeles, will be built on this site. Plus, he’s building another Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey and is already operating one on a $40 million course in Palm Beach.

The Donald has also partnered with NBC in the ownership and broadcast rights for the three largest beauty competitions in the world: the Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA Pageants. Trump’s well-known as a womanizer, and is often seen surrounded by models, so this seems oddly appropriate.

Speaking of women, Trump’s relationships, or more to the point, his breakups have been infamous. It’s a little concerning that a man who once considered running for president of the U.S. has often been the target of the tabloids because of his failed relationships. He’s been married to a model, Ivana, an actress, Marla, and in January he’s getting married for the third time for yet another model, Melania.

And he’s become an accomplished author. Trump’s first autobiography, “The Art of the Deal,” has become one of the most successful business best-sellers of all time, having sold more than three million copies and was a New York Times number one best-seller for several weeks. The sequel, “Surviving at the Top,” was also on the New York Times best-seller list as a number one best-seller, and the same for his third book, “The Art of the Comeback.” His most recent book, “How To Get Rich: Big Deals from the Star of The Apprentice,” became an immediate bestseller on all lists.

Donald’s involved in numerous civic and charitable organizations. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Police Athletic League and United Cerebral Palsy. He also serves as a Chairman of the Donald J. Trump Foundation as well as Co-chairman and builder of the New York Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund. And he was a committee member of the Celebration of Nations commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and UNICEF.

[PLAY AUDIO – For the Love of Money, by the O’Jays]

In January of this year (2004), Trump joined forces with Mark Burnett and NBC to produce and star in the television reality show, “The Apprentice.” This quickly became the #1 new show on television last year, made history in ratings and received great reviews. Few shows have gained the worldwide attention of “The Apprentice,” and Trump is now starring in season two.

CARTOON

Money is central to The Apprentice and to the life of Donald Trump… money in the form of cash or money in the form of investments. And Donald Trump has been highly successful in acquiring it and in the process has become a celebrity in his own right. In fact, 98% of the people in our society know who Donald Trump is. This year, the top-selling Halloween masks of human beings in the U.S. were the presidential candidates, Bush and Kerry, followed by Martha Stewart, Arnold Swartzenegger, and then Donald Trump. Here’s a picture of the mask, although I don’t think they got the hair right. (But then, Donald never gets the hair right himself.)

He has money, he has power, and he has fame. So what would Jesus say to someone like Donald Trump? That’s the question we’re going to explore over the next several minutes. You can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill in the blanks as we go.

 

What Would Jesus Say to Donald Trump?

 

I think the first thing Jesus might say is, “Donald, …”

1. Don’t confuse money with meaning

“Donald, you may make millions of dollars, you may build huge skyscrapers and live in a luxurious estate, and you may plaster your name over everything you own, But that doesn’t bring meaning to your life.”

That’s something Jesus might say to The Donald. In fact, that’s what He says to all of us in His Word. In Luke 12:15, Jesus said…

Luke 12:15 (NLT)
“Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.”

So Jesus says that no matter how much wealth we gain and no matter where we fall on Forbes lists of the richest people in the world, it will never truly satisfy you and it will never add one bit of meaning to your life. Because your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.

That’s the message of Jesus. But contrast that with the message of this world. This world tries to convince you that money is all that matters. With enough money, your life can be meaningful and satisfying. If your life feels empty, it’s because you don’t have enough stuff. So get out there, work a little harder, make an extra dollar, and then you’ll find fulfillment. Pay attention to the ads on T.V., and you’ll notice that commercials rarely try to sell a product… they try to sell happiness. They try to convince you that their product will bring you that happiness, if you just have the money to buy it. If you wear the right clothes or drive the right car or use the right deodorant, you’ll be amazingly happy.

But the truth is, the more you get, the more you want. Until you reach a point where you have everything you could ever ask for and you’re still not satisfied. Of course, we all claim we believe that. We all agree money can’t buy happiness. But we could check our bank statements to see how many of us really believe that.

According to a Barna Research study…

  • 51% of Christians and 54% of non-Christians believe that no matter how they feel about money, it is still the main symbol of success in life.

  • 19% of Christians and 20% of non-Christians believe that you can usually tell how successful a person is by examining what they own.

  • 32% of Christians and 44% of non-Christians indicate that money is very important to them.

~ www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=29

Personally, I think those numbers are a little low. I think a lot of people may claim that money isn’t all that important to them, but just watch how they live and the truth will be revealed.

The Jan. 9, 1989 issue of U.S. News & World Report reports that Donald Trump once said…

“Whoever says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.”
~ Donald Trump

That’s what Donald believed fifteen or sixteen years ago. He’s had his ups and downs since then, so I don’t know if he still believes that or not. But what would Jesus say to a person who thinks that money can buy happiness? I think He might remind him about someone else who had a similar perspective. King Solomon in the Old Testament had everything he could ever desire… Wealth… Power… Women… Fame… As I was reading some of his writings this week, I couldn’t help but see the parallel between him and Donald Trump. Let me read some of what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes. I’m going to read a number of verses, so hold on and pay attention…

Ecclesiastes 2:1, 4-6, 8-11, 20, 23 (NLT)
I said to myself, “Come now, let’s give pleasure a try. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless…
I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves… I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!
So I became greater than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me… Anything I wanted, I took. I did not restrain myself from any joy… But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless. It was like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere…
So I turned in despair from hard work. It was not the answer to my search for satisfaction in this life… It is all utterly meaningless.

And then, a few chapters later, Solomon summarizes his conclusions about the pursuit of material wealth…

Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 (NLT)
Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth—except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers!


Don’t confuse money with meaning. That’s one thing Jesus might say to The Donald. A second thing Jesus might say is, “Donald…”

 

2. You Can’t Take It with You

“Everything you gain, Donald… everything you earn… isn’t going to matter in the end because you can’t take it with you. You may be able to build and buy and renovate palaces here on earth, Donald, but in My kingdom you can’t buy a mansion. Everything you possess will be left behind.”

The saying is, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But the reality is, “He who dies with the most toys still dies.” Solomon said basically the same thing…

Ecclesiastes 2:21 (NLT)
For though I do my work with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, I must leave everything I gain to people who haven’t worked to earn it. This is not only foolish but highly unfair.

Jesus Himself told a story to illustrate this… Bev read it for us earlier…

Luke 12:16-21 (NLT)
“A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. In fact, his barns were full to overflowing. So he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store everything. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get it all?’
“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

A person should live for what will last forever rather than what money can buy since it is only temporary. Paul wrote… read it with me…

1 Timothy 6:7 (NLT)
After all, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die.

Ancient kings and Pharaohs were unwilling to believe that. They thought they could take everything with them into the next life, so they struggled all their lives, making life insufferable for thousands around them, to amass a gigantic fortune to accompany them in death, and, presumably, to provide them with comforts in the life they expected beyond the grave.

The largest monuments on earth are testimony to the attempt by the rulers of Egypt to “take it with them” when they died. The pyramids are incredible structures and are very impressive to see, but they are basically just tombs where the Pharaohs were buried with much of their wealth. Then, with carefully concealed entryways, and mazes of passages, and with myths, lies, and curses, the pharaohs hoped to prevent would-be grave robbers.

Of course, they failed. Today, like the touring display of King Tut’s golden treasures, their former wealth either ended up in national museums or were sold in bits and pieces on the black market. And their mummified bodies are, like their fabulous wealth, on display to the public. The couldn’t take it with them.

Skip over a continent. In ancient China, rulers were sometimes buried in huge crypts, accompanied by dozens of wooden warriors on wooden horses, with gold, silver, jewelry, silks, weapons, and exquisite works of art alongside them. Sometimes, loyal servants, wives, and bodyguards were either required to commit suicide or were put to death to accompany their ruler into the underworld. Not only did they think they could take material wealth with them, they thought they could take their friends, guards, and family with them, too.

But you know better than that. You know you can’t take it with you, so when you die you can leave your wallet behind so your family and friends can go out for supper after the funeral. As Jesus said in the Greatest Sermon in History…

Matthew 6:19-20 (NLT)
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves.”

Everything you have is going to spoil, corrode, be stolen, rot away, and break down (usually right after the warranty runs out). There’s nothing in this life that is invincible. And you can’t take it with you.

“There won’t be a U-Haul following your hearse.”
~ Billy Graham
 

I think the next thing Jesus might say to Donald Trump is a warning. He might say, “Donald,…”

 

3. Protect Yourself Against the Greed that So Easily Entraps

“The point is that you can’t be too greedy.”
~ Donald Trump

So Jesus might tell Donald, “You know, you said that you can’t be too greedy. That’s concerns Me, because really, you can! You can become too greedy. And that worries Me. So be on guard against it.”

“What would you do for a million dollars?” That question was the basis of another reality show, The Benefactor starring Mark Cuban. The show’s over now, but it revealed that people were willing to do a lot for it. But that’s always been true…

  • Judas betrayed Jesus for money (Luke 22:3-6). Do you think anyone can be guilty of this today?

  • Demas was a servant of Paul’s who abandoned him because of his obsession with material things (2 Tim. 4:10). Do you think money tempts or corrupts any Christians today?

  • A rich young man asked Jesus how to get eternal life, and Jesus told him to give all his possession to the poor and follow Him. But the man went away sad because he had a lot of stuff he didn’t want to give up. (Matthew 19:16-26). Do you think there are people today who never choose to follow Jesus because they don’t want to give up their stuff?

But the problem isn’t the money… it’s the obsession with it. Read this aloud with me…

1 Timothy 6:9-10 (NLT)
But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil.

It’s not money, it’s the love of money. It’s the insatiable and unrelenting passion for money that’s the problem. We read a verse from Luke 12 earlier, and we’d be wise to heed its warning. In the NIV it says…

Luke 12:15 (NIV)
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

“So Donald, protect yourself from the greed that so easily entraps.” And I think Jesus might also say to Donald, “Donald,…”

 

4. Continue to be a Generous Giver

It’s amazing how many people resent The Donald because he is rich, but the truth is that he does some good things with his money. And it would be unfair for us not to recognize that this morning. He has several charities that he supports in significant ways. He also rebuilt the Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park. New York had been trying for seven years to rebuild and restore the Rink, when Trump stepped in and did the job in three months and at only 10 percent of the City’s $20 million cost.

My favorite story of Trump’s generosity is about an unemployed mechanic who once helped Trump get his limo functioning again after it stalled on the highway. The man had no money, yet he didn’t accept any payment for his services. Trump was impressed by the man’s generosity, so the next day he sent flowers to the mechanic’s wife, and a letter certifying that the man’s mortgage had been paid off in full.

So Jesus might say to Donald, “Thank you for being generous. Thank you for making kind and wise use of the riches I have blessed you with. Keep up the good work.”

The thing about generosity is that it helps keep our hearts right with God. When you willingly and cheerfully give out of your own pocket to people and ministries that need those funds, you acknowledge the place of priority God has in your life. You reinforce that God is your first love, and the role of greed and selfishness in your life is weakened.

Three passages on generosity… read the first one with me…

Psalm 37:21 (NLT)
The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.

2 Corinthians 9:11, 13 (NLT)
Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously… You will be glorifying God through your generous gifts. For your generosity to them will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.

1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NLT)
Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone… Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them.

So Jesus might commend Donald and encourage him to keep giving generously to those in need. And then He might tell him one more thing… a reminder… He might say, “Donald,…”

 

5. The Only Thing of Real Value is a Relationship with Me

I think Jesus might tell Donald, and might tell us this morning, “It’s good to be ambitious and have goals. Money in itself is not evil and being rich is not wrong. But don’t get confused. Don’t put your trust in your treasure. Don’t begin thinking that material possessions are of ultimate importance. Keep your focus on Me, because in the end all that really matters is a relationship with Me.”

I think Jesus might say something to Donald that echoes what He asked His disciples…

Matthew 16:26 (NLT)
“And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

The Apostle Paul came to understand this. At one point of time, Paul himself was very ambitious… maybe not for money but certainly for power. Then He encountered Jesus and his whole perspective changed. Let’s take a look at a couple of things he wrote… read this with me…

Colossians 3:2, 5 (NLT)
Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.
Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry.

Philippians 3:8-9 (NLT)
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him.

We’ve been talking this morning about what Jesus might say to Donald Trump. But the truth is, I think the things that we’ve talked about here are the same things Jesus might say to you and to me. Because we all deal with and struggle with money. Oh, we may not have quite as many zeros behind our net worth as Donald, but the issues of money are just as real in our lives as they are in his.

The most important thing in life is not the rate of return on your investments, it’s not the surplus in your bank account, it’s not even the outstanding debts you owe. It’s becoming one with Christ. There’s an old song I used to sing that says…

 

I Want Jesus More Than Anything
by Don Marsh

I want Jesus in my life
More than anything this world can offer me
For I know that He alone can satisfy
Just to know His leading in my life
Is worth everything that I might sacrifice
Oh I want Jesus more than anything

So take the fame that I might want
And all the things that seem so dear
I’d rather have Him than any praise
That men may give to me
I want Him to have control
And be the breath of life in me
I’d rather have Jesus
I’d rather Him more than anything

© 1974 John T. Benson Publishing Company (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc., 741 Cool Springs Blvd., Franklin TN 37067)
CCLI License No. 2226745

That’s my heart’s cry this morning, and I pray it’s yours as well.


 

 

 

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