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After a weather related stay of execution, the Tappan Zee Bridge on the Hudson River 25 miles north of Manhattan was dispatched on Jan. 15 by explosive charges courtesy of the Controlled Demolition Company.
Local riverside restaurants were ready. Before the original Jan. 9 send-off date, many eateries were roused to action with only a week’s notice: The Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry advertised the “Big Bang Brunch”; Sambal Thai & Malay in Irvington came up with “Dim Sum-struction of the Tappan Zee.” Lyndhurst Castle in Tarrytown, normally closed for the season, quickly reopened with $100 tickets boasting a tower view.
You gotta love the American capitalist spirit—the notion that my need and your need can intersect to our mutual profit.
In September of 1999 my impecunious future husband was gifted with two tickets to the last Tiger Stadium game in Detroit. In the seventh inning he and his friend got the idea to leave the ballpark (you could re-enter at will for this one-time event), walk across the street to the pub, and resell their coveted passes at inflated prices.
Exiting the pub, they spotted a sidewalk vendor of commemorative T-shirts packing up his truck and bought as many souvenirs as proceeds from the aforementioned ticket resale would allow. People soon poured out of the slated-for-destruction venue, jonesing for a forever keepsake, and the young capitalist tripled his pub earnings, also infinitely enhancing his initial funds—which had been zero.
Adam Smith, 18th-century Scottish economist, wrote: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
Turning a profit in this world’s kingdom is one thing. Turning a profit for a kingdom that will last is wiser still.
If you want to get religious about this, a debtor widow in the eighth century B.C., who owned nothing but a jar of oil, received advice from the prophet Elisha: “‘Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors—empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.’ So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another vessel.’ And he said to her, ‘There is not another.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest’” (2 Kings 4:1-7).
The New World’s flirtation with socialism was a flop. Pilgrims in the first brutal year put the fruit of their labors into a common warehouse which was to be divided in equal shares. The outcome of the experiment was the epiphany that men will not trouble themselves to work very hard when production is allotted equally to the indolent and the industrious. To avoid famine in 1623, the community abandoned this system, and every man’s family was assigned a parcel of land. Three times the amount of corn was planted under the new method.
Turning a profit in this world’s kingdom is one thing. Turning a profit for a kingdom that will last is wiser still. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30). Comparing worldly entrepreneurs to spiritual, the Apostle Paul observes: “They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
But the concept is the same: assessing needs around you, willingness to risk, and casting your bread upon the waters with the patient attitude that “you will find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1).
This present world of gleaming brick and steel is slated for destruction just as surely as the Tappan Zee and Tiger Stadium. Jesus told his inner circle to invest until he comes again: “Engage in business until I come” (Luke 19:13). And as one great investor in the kingdom said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”