The Jekyll Island Club was the most exclusive group of people in the world. Members included such notables as Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt, Pulitzer, Macy, and Goodyear.
The small island, just off the coast of Georgia, was covered with lush vegetation, secluded beaches, and abundant wildlife. By 1886 Jekyll Island became the private playground of America's wealthy elite. Cottages consisting of fifteen to twenty-five rooms, including formal dining rooms, lavish parlors, five to twenty bedrooms, and servants' quarters were not uncommon. Jekyll Island also offered many recreational facilities including a golf course, stables, tennis courts, boating, and hunting all for the exclusive use of its members. A gamekeeper was hired to keep the area well stocked. In addition, the Club House, which opened in 1887, provided accommodations for a hundred guests. Its dining room featured fine cuisine and the best wines. A single meal could consist of up to ten courses; and last up to three hours.
For over fifty years this private island was seen as the fulfillment of the American dream. All the money, prestige, and power they could amass was at their fingertips. But something went wrong.
If I Only Could Be Rich
'If only I could be rich,' you say to yourself. The desire for wealth and status begins simply enough. For example, you notice a new car, with all the bells and whistles you have always wanted. Such an automobile would make you the envy of all your friends. You plan strategies on how to get what you want. The desire for more becomes an obsession. Soon you have your dream car. But in time it doesn't seem to satisfy any longer; and the cycle begins all over again. The real problem isn't in having things; but looking to them to bring meaning and fulfillment to your life.
Solomon, king of ancient Israel, had it all: houses, furniture, land, clothes, gold and women. His experiences led him to this conclusion:
"He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver;
Nor he who loves abundance, with increase.
This also is vanity.
When goods increase,
They increase who eat them;
So what profit have the owners
Except to see them with their eyes?
The sleep of a laboring man is sweet,
Whether he eats little or much;
But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.
There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun:
Riches kept for their owner to his hurt" (Ecclesiastes 5:10-13).
Real contentment comes not from what you own, or your status in life; but by keeping our focus on the important things. Namely, the realization that what we do with our lives is more important than the accumulation of things (I Timothy 6:6-10).
Beware of Covetousness
Today the beautiful mansions of Jekyll Island serve as monuments to a bygone era. The giants of industry are gone now. Tourists take "cottage" tours and eat lunch in the Club House dining room where once the wealthiest of the world dined. Today the island and all of its estates, belong to the state of Georgia.
Two hand carved stone statues of Corinthian lions stand before the ruins of a once lavish house. They are all that's left of the once grand cottage of Edwin Gould. One day, Mr. Gould's son was killed while hunting. Grief stricken he left Jekyll Island never to return. A new reality came to this part of Jekyll Island that day. Namely, that wealth could not replace a loved one, and happiness is not found in riches.
After years of disrepair the cottage was finally torn down. The only things left standing were two stone lions standing guard over a ruined, ghostly estate. They stand as a mute testament of Christ's warning, "Take heed, beware of covetousness: for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things, which he possesses" (Luke 12:15).
Next time you find yourself consumed in the race to make money or envious of people who seen to have it all, remember to take time to enjoy what God has given you. Take time to enjoy a family meal, appreciate nature, and listen to fine music, read a book. Take time to recall those things which money can't buy; and remember, "Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5).