Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

J. P. Morgan Didn't have a Clue

We enjoyed our trip to New York City right up to the last minute. As we were checking out, our bellman noticed the Bibles we were carrying. Greg let us know that three Guttenberg Bibles were on display at the Pierpont Morgan Library. We checked our bags at the hotel and took a cab cross-town to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Johannes Guttenberg is the father of the movable printing press. Only 48 of the Bibles he produced in the 1400’s are currently in existence. Three very good copies are in the Pierpont Morgan Museum, two printed on paper and one on vellum. Printing Bibles was his life’s work. You can learn more about the Morgan here:

I was in awe of the three Guttenbergs on exhibit, the first ever mass-produced vs. copied by hand by scribes. I switch Bibles each year. I generally use paperback Bibles, because I write, highlight, underline, make notes and just make a mess of mine. That's a picture of my Bible up there with the page open to one of the Psalms I have a tooled leather cover with handles that I use to hide all the mess, since I don’t write all over that.

I held my Bible to my chest and tried not to cry as I contemplated the differences between my Bible and those that were displayed. The Bibles on display were exquisitely rendered with gorgeous type and initial capital letters. Each Bible was unmarked in any way. They were, however, also protected by glass, untouchable, terribly costly in their own time and priceless in ours.

My Bible, a paperback Amplified version, cost under $20, although it is priceless to me. Almost everyone can afford a Bible today. Any church would gladly provide a seeker with a free Bible. The Gideons give them away to motels. How thankful we should all be for the great availability of Bibles in our time. We have any number of direct translations, paraphrases, parallel Bibles with several versions in one, Bibles on CD and every kind of study aid imaginable. Many of us do not take advantage of these materials, but they are there for us to explore the Word of God in all of its richness and complexity.

I moved on to view J. P. Morgan, the financier’s, office. The Pierpont Morgan Library is his former residence. The office was vast and imposing with a soaring ceiling. The walls were covered in red flocked velvet. Treasures lined the walls and chair rails, from ancient Egypt to ancient China and the European Renaissance. It was breathtaking.

What do you imagine, in the midst of such treasure, that J.P. Morgan gazed upon as he sat at his desk working? The painting of Madonna and Child by a Medeival artist and monk? A priceless Chinese horse figure? A Renaissance tresure? J.P. Morgan looked at a very large portrait of himself over the fireplace in front of him.

J.P. Morgan apparently spent time looking at himself. He had many, treasures, but I think he might have valued them more for their monetary value than for their history or for what they represented. Let’s not make that mistake.

It is easy to make old J.P.'s error. The Bible talks about idols that are man made and have eyes that can’t see and ears that can’t hear. Our homes can become idols, our careers, our exercise time or anything else that comes before our time with God.
Let’s take our focus off making ourselves and our possessions our idols and seek us first the kingdom of God. Let’s look instead to the Author and Finisher of our faith.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lords glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord. Corinthians 3:18

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