The Story of a Father – thoughts on the death of Bernie Madoff
Helen ManEmbed from Getty Images
Bernie Madoff, the mastermind of one of the largest financial frauds in American history, died in prison at age 82 in April 2021. The news stirred up the anger of thousands of victims once again. Madoff set up and ran the notorious multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme which began around the late 1980s and lasted for more than 20 years. This defrauded thousands of investors all over the world. Madoff was a father of two sons, but completely destroyed his family with the masterpiece of his scam. (Note 1)
Madoff was born in an ordinary Jewish family in Queens, New York. After college, he became a licensed stockbroker and founded his own investment firm. He was witty and innovative, and soon became prominent at Wall Street. In the early 80s, his firm was one of the largest investment companies in the US. He was the chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market from 1990 to 1993. His two sons also held important positions in his company. People saw Madoff as a brilliant self-made billionaire who had always made smart investment decisions. (Note 2)
Madoff was very skillful in cultivating his scheme. He promised his investors exceptionally high returns. He joined a famous country club, which required annual membership fees as high as $300,000, in order to fish for his investors of wealthy families. He set a very high investment threshold that requested a single investment with a minimum of $1 million, which later became $10 million. He refused to accept investors who would inquire about the details of his company’s operation. People believed that it was a symbol of noble status to be accepted as his investors. (Note 3)
In general, a Ponzi scheme would only be able to last for a few years. Madoff managed to run it for more than 20 years, until the global financial crisis in 2008. The fallout started with a European investor requesting a withdrawal of $7 billion to combat the financial crisis. Soon, the scam became fully exposed. Thousands of victims around the world included a large number of wealthy individuals, banks, hedge funds, charities, nonprofit organizations, universities, and hospitals. It was reported that the fraudulent amount was at least $65 billion. In 2009, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. (Note 4)Embed from Getty Images
Madoff’s two sons and his wife declared that they did not know about the fraud and were not charged. But the family was destroyed. His wife, Ruth Madoff, cut off by her sons for standing by her husband, eventually stopped speaking to him. Mark Madoff, the eldest son, hanged himself by a dog leash in 2010 on the second anniversary of the scheme’s exposure. He died at age 46. Andrew Madoff, the younger son, died of cancer in 2014 at the age of 48. (Note 5)
Despite the previous noble status, luxurious lifestyle, and tremendous wealth; Madoff became a lonely prisoner till death. He was indeed a failing father who ruined his family and the lives of his sons.
Because of human’s weakness for never-ending desires and greed, families are destroyed and sad stories similar to Madoff’s keep repeating.
What is the proper view of money and wealth? Let’s learn from the teachings in the Bible.
DON’T BE GREEDY
Money is neutral by nature. It can help us or destroy us. If we are greedy and worship money as god, it would destroy us.
The Bible says: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
“Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.” (Psalm 16:4)
MONEY CANNOT BUY EVERYTHING
The world says that “money makes the world go round” and “beauty is potent but money is omnipotent”. Money may bring us some enjoyment, but it is not omnipotent. Money cannot buy love, health, and peace. Money cannot buy time nor lives that have been lost. Money cannot buy God’s salvation and eternal life. God’s salvation is priceless since it comes right from God who gave His only son, Jesus Christ, to die for us and to resurrect three days after death. Only those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior can be forgiven for their sins and receive eternal life.
The Bible says: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12)
In addition, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? “(Matt 16:26)
DON’T RELY ON MONEY
The world believes that money is the most reliable resource. We often work very hard and by all means to make more and more money.
But the Bible says: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” (Proverbs 23: 4-6)
WHAT CAN WE RELY ON?
The Bible says: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (Timothy 6:17)
Yes, only God is our ultimate provider and true protector; whom we can depend on whenever we are in sickness, pain, or despair.
BE FULFILLED BY OUR HEAVENLY FATHER
The Bible says: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).
The Bible also says: “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.” (Deuteronomy 8:18)
So, remember that it is the Lord who provides us. We must work diligently to glorify God, and live godly with gratitude always.
The Bible says: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10)
We are only God’s stewards for the money and earthly materials. Use the money and resources according to God’s will. Bring offerings willingly to God’s house. Always help the poor, have mercy on the needy, dedicate to God’s work, and invest in eternity.
Trusting God and serving Him faithfully, is truly the safest and the most profitable investment that we can make!
Our Heavenly Father is the only one, who can provide us with a life of abundance in eternity!
(Note 1 to Note 5: Internet search)