Story of the Day for Thursday July 12, 2012
All That is Gold Does Not Glitter
I’ve come down to rescue them . . . and to take them out of that land to a good and spacious land – a land that flows with milk and honey.
When James Marshall discovered a small gold nugget at John Sutter’s mill near San Francisco, the word leaked out. Soon, about 400,000 men stampeded to California to search for their fortune.
The amount of gold and the ease in collecting it became more exaggerated by the day. One miner, on his way to California, was doubtful of the wild reports and said, “If I don’t pick up more than a hatful of gold a day, I shall be perfectly satisfied.”
There was so much money rumored to be made “in the diggings” that it was difficult to hire anyone to work in a store or shop in California. When a ship arrived at San Francisco, the crew would often abandon their duties to search for gold. Five hundred sailing ships were abandoned at San Francisco and left to rot in the harbor. Boat captains were so desperate for crewmen that they had to pay a lowly cook twice the amount of the captain’s salary.
The military was on hand to keep order among the hundreds of thousands of miners who deluged the area. But over half of the military men deserted their posts to join the miners in their search for riches.
The miners discovered that the journey itself to the gold fields was long and hazardous. Once they arrived, they were forced to provide their own shelter. Prices on all food and goods were astronomical. Disease was widespread. And prospecting was hard, hard work.
Although a few made a fortune, most of the miners didn’t find enough gold to survive, and straggled home with nothing to show for their efforts.
I think we all know where this is going, don’t we? I launch into a reproachful warning on the evils of materialism, and we all frown and wonder how some people can be so greedy.
Not so fast.
When God promised to take his people to a land of milk and honey, he, apparently didn’t think it was wrong to offer it, nor a sin for his people to desire it. And God heightened their interest by appealing to the land’s wealth: “a place where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper from the hills.”
True, the gold rush brought out the worst in many greedy miners. But it also brought out the best in those for whom the gold was not the real purpose. It was the dream, the adventure. Though most of the miners returned home with little or nothing, yet the majority glowed about their experience. They viewed it as a challenge, an adventure. They would wax nostalgic in recalling one of the most gratifying times in their lives.