If there is any story that stands out in the halls of business: it’s the story of John D. Rockefeller
He went on to become the the richest American ever.
At his peak his wealth was 1.5% to 2% of the U.S’s GDP (his personal wealth $1.4 billion; the US GDP $92 billion).
His philanthropy equated to hundreds of millions of dollars (billion adjusted for inflation).
And yet some historians will paint him as simply a ruthless, greedy businessman. They say, “There’s nothing to learn from such a man.”
And they are right.
Or are they?
The facts are this:
- He was a devoted father.
- A devoted husband.
- His “monopoly” brought order to an industry full of discord.
- He loved the Lord and his philanthropy was birthed out of that love
In this post we’re going to delve into the lessons future Christian millionaires can learn from the man himself: John D. Rockefeller.
1. Rockefeller Understood What Most People Don’t: The Importance of Money
As a young man John D. Rockefeller had the financial “plan” for his life:
The Bible says,
“A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19 KJV)
Most people are taught that money is a necessary evil. They say,
“Yes we need it but it doesn’t have much importance in our lives.”
That is completely wrong.
This “money isn’t everything” philosophy has led to some terrible statistics:
- 42% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck., including 25% of those earning more than $100,000 per year.
- 29% of American workers have less than $1,000 in savings.
- Half have less than one month’s income saved.
- The personal savings rate in 2014 was just 4.4%, meaning that out of every $1,000 earned, the average American spent all but $44.
- Millennials have a savings rate of negative 2%, thanks to factors like high student loan debt and skyrocketing rent prices.
- Approximately 10 million U.S. households have no bank account whatsoever.
- The average American household has total debt of $117,951.
- There are nearly 1.9 billion active credit card accounts in the U.S., split among 199.8 million cardholders. That’s nearly 10 per consumer. Keep in mind that this figure includes corporate credit cards, as well as personal.
- Total U.S. credit card debt is $793.1 billion.
- Americans spent $70 billion playing the lottery in 2014. That’s about $300 per adult.
And yes money is still the LEADING cause of friction in marriages.
Money is extremely important. Those, like John D. Rockefeller, who value its importance tend to have to more of it. While those that don’t don’t.
Steve Siebold–who interviewed over 1,200 millionaires over the last 34 years–had this to say,
Rockefeller wanted options for his life and the life of his family. He understood how money would give him those options.
2. He Did What Most People Didn’t: He Kept his Mind on Wealth
When you read the accounts of people who knew John D. Rockefeller you hear different things.
So say he was quiet…
…and so on. The one thing the majority did say was that he was prosperity minded. He thought about wealth consistently.
He studied the habits of successful businesspeople. In fact, Ron Chernow his biographer said this,
In addition to studying successful business people, he studied beautiful neighborhoods and homes. He kept his mind on abundance even when he dealt with certain periods of lack.
The Bible says,
“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NCV)
The mind is an interesting machine. Whatever it focuses on it goes in the direction of:
- If it goes in the direction of God, it has more Godly thoughts, and the person has a Godly life.
- If it goes in the direction of fitness, it has more fit thoughts, and the person tends to be more fit.
- If it goes in the direction of poverty, it has thoughts of lack, and that person tends to be more poverty stricken.
- But if it goes in the direction of wealth, abundance, and affluence….
….you get the point!
It doesn’t matter what you have or don’t have, if you want wealth keep your mind focused on wealth. Read books on wealth, find wealthy people, thank God in advance for wealth, meditate on Scriptures dealing with wealth, and etc.
Soon enough you’ll find wealth or it will find you.
3. He Wanted to Change the World And See More Increase: He Learned How to Give
Over time John D. Rockefeller’s philanthropy equated to hundreds of millions of dollars (billion adjusted for inflation)…
… and he did this because he learned how to give at an early age.
His giving began with his first job as a clerk at age 16. By the time he was twenty, his giving exceeded 10% percent of his income. According to Chernow:
Rockefeller was always under the belief his success was divinely inspired. He said, quite emphatically:
“God gave me my money.”
Why did God single John D. Rockefeller out for stupendous wealth? He believed it was because he was a good steward. In his seventies he said:
“It has seemed as if I was favored and got increase because the Lord knew I was going to turn it around and give it back.”
In this culture giving (or tithing) is considered a hoax, a con, and a joke. There is a never ending argument about its merits: one group for, and another group against.
In Jewish culture though it’s a little different.
In Jewish culture giving (or tithing) is considered an ancient formula for becoming wealthy. In the Talmud it says:
“Aser bedevil shetisasher” or “Tithe so that you will become rich” (Taanit 9a)
In other words, tithing is a partnership between the giver and God. The giver partners with God in helping the world, God partners with the giver in business affairs.
In fact, when the Bible speaks about the tithe it uses the Hebrew word “maaser”(pronounced mah-as-ayr‘). It’s used 32 times in the Old Testament.
English is read left to right, Hebrew is read right to left.
The Hebrew language is a language of root words. Prefixes and suffixes are added to build on the meaning of the root word.
So in this word the first letter mem (מ) conveys this meaning:
Changing a verb into the noun of that word
For example: adding mem “to preach” (verb) turns it into “preacher” (noun).
Now taking away mem (מ) from “maaser” we’re left with “aser” which means rich.
So another way of interpreting
“The rich is in the tithe.”
Or with “maaser”:
“The one tithing becomes rich.”
But check this out:
There is enough statistical data that proves the correlation between tithing and greater wealth.
Now to be clear–I’m not suggesting that if you tithe:
- someone is going to pay off your debt
- a check is coming in the mail
- or you’ll be a millionaire overnight
Not at all.
I AM saying that there is story after story of affluent people who loved God, who testify to the power of tithing and giving. So whether you are a millionaire or just starting out…learn to give now.
4. He Did What Most People Fail to Do: He Never Gave Up
There was one thing that separated Rockefeller from the crowd: his bulldog tenacity.
He rarely EVER gave up!
One instance was when he was looking for work.
His father was a womanizer who left his family for lengthy periods of time. It was on such a long absence that John D. decided to forgo college and look for work.
This job search began in Cleveland in August of 1855.
He began by looking through the city directory for bigger businesses with high credit ratings. According to him,
Every morning he left at 8am and didn’t return till late in the afternoon. He did this for six weeks. SIX DAYS A WEEK. His feet grew sore from the trek but he refused to give up.
When he exhausted his prospects, he simply created a new list and started over.
Another person might have been discouraged but Rockefeller grew more determined with rejection.
Then on September 26, 1855 he walked into the offices of Hewitt and Tuttle–merchants and produce shippers–and got a job as an assistant bookkeeper.
For the rest of his life Rockefeller honored September 26th as “Job Day.”
There is something about a persistent spirit that makes God smile.
I mean someone who will kick, claw, scratch, persist, and encourage themselves in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
Dont get me wrong there ARE times when all we can do is stand still and look to Him for help. But then there are those OTHER times when He opens doors as we move forward:
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Quit praying and get the people moving! Forward, march!'” (Exodus 14:15 The Living Bible)
The Power of Industriousness
The Bible says,
Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need.” (Ephesians 4:28 AMP)
People like Rockefeller–who achieve anything worthwhile–know the value of industriousness. These are the people who don’t wait for something to happen–they make it happen. In fact, when Jesus spoke about the resourcefulness of a manager He said:
“Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.” (Luke 16:8-9 MSG)
S. Truett Cathy–founder of Chick-Fil-A–knew the value of industriousness. When he and his brother decided to open their first restaurant they underestimated the cost of the project. But with each problem they found creative answers:
- A shortage of nails. They solved this problem by going to small towns where nails could be found and by strengthening bent nails.
- A shortage of lumber. They solved this problem by finding scrap wood from torn-down buildings.
- A lack of reasonably priced restaurant equipment. They purchased used equipment from restaurants that had gone out of business.
- A shortage of reasonably priced skilled labor. They did much of the construction themselves. This involved learning how to hang sheet rock and dig footings
- A shortage of some critical items, particularly meat. They solved this by asking for help for from one of the local large restaurants. That restaurant had privileged access to meat suppliers and agreed to purchase meat for the Cathy brothers.
This industriousness has paid off to the tune of $9 billion in sales in 2017.
The bottom line is this:
Do you want “Rockefeller success?”
Don’t have enough to work with? Even better.
Learn to never give up!
5. He Freed Himself: He Made Money His Slave
He knew from early on that money was important. But he also knew he wanted to be the master of money– not its servant.
By the time he was 12 he had saved $50, about $1400 in today’s money. He then loaned a farmer the $50 at 7% interest. At the end of the year he collected $3.50 with absolutely no work. He later said,
When Jesus spoke about good stewardship it wasn’t just about handling money…it was about multiplying money:
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.” (Matthew 25:14-18 KJV)
The another translation says verse 16 like this:
The servant who had received five talents went and put them to work, and gained five more.” (Matthew 25:16 Berean study Bible)
Rockefeller was a hard worker. When he worked as a bookkeeper he would sometimes put in 12 hour days. But even while he was an ordinary laborer he would trade his own money in different futures and commodities.
In other words, he was always looking for ways to put his money to work.
Jesus also said,
And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, ‘Occupy till I come.'” (Luke 19:13 KJV)
That Greek word “occupy” is the Greek word “diapragmateuomai” (pronounced dee-ap-rag-mat-yoo’-om-ahee). It has different meanings:
- “Gain by business trading.”
- “Busily engaged in making trades.”
- “Increase by trading.”
It implies active, detailed trading that “buys right” and then knows just when to exchange.
So in other words:
- “Gain by business trading” till I come.
- “Be busily engaged in making trades” till I come.
- “Increase by trading till I come.
One of the differences between the rich and the poor is the rich put their money to work more than the poor. Check out this video below:
Another thing about John D. Rockefeller was He HATED waste of any kind.
Rockefeller had a love of numbers and accounting, so early on he decided to apply the same accounting to his own life. He paid a dime for a small red book, called it Ledger A, and recorded all receipts and expenditures. He tracked and was careful not to waste a dime.
This habit of tracking every penny aided him well in his business career.
One particular instance is when he inspected a Standard Oil plant in NY that filled and sealed five-gallon tin cans of kerosene for export. After watching a machine solder caps to the cans, he asked the resident expert how many drops of solder was used.
The expert replied, “Forty.”
Rockefeller replied, “Would you mind having some sealed with thirty-eight and let me know?”
When they used thirty-eight drops there was a leak, but not at thirty-nine. So thirty-nine became the standard. It had a tremendous impact. According to Rockefeller,
“That one drop of solder saved $2,500 the first year, but the export business kept on increasing after that and doubled, quadrupled–became immensely greater than it was then; and the saving has gone steadily along, one drop on each can, and has amounted since to many hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Here’s the Next Step…
Now to turn it over to you:
Which of these Rockefeller lessons are you going to implement today?
Are you going to focus more on wealth?
Are you going to strengthen your never-ever-give-up muscles?
Or maybe you’re going to start tracking your money like John D. Rockefeller.
Either way let me know by leaving a comment below.