Tonight I got to watch the movie, “The Razor’s Edge,” based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham. It tells the story of two young men who graduate from college in Illinois, then volunteer to drive an ambulance in France during World War I. The horrific experience they have causes one to cancel his wedding and plans to be a stockbroker when he returns to the U.S.
Instead, he moves to Paris and works at menial jobs, trying to understand the meaning of life. His quest leads him to India, then high into the Himalayas. He visits a monastery, where the chief monk instructs him to go to a lean-to high in the mountains. There he will find his answer. He sits under the lean-to for a long time, until he runs out of firewood and begins burning his books to keep warm. And then the answer comes to him: the meaning of life is to live.
While he is searching for himself, his friend who has returned to America marries his fiance, and has a successful life as a stockbroker. That is, until 1929, when the stockmarket crashes, his father shoots himself, and he ends up penniless and in a year-long depression.
At this point in the school year, it is my hope that students at Southwestern realize that the purpose of life is more than just to live. That meaning goes beyond just making money, too. I would hope that you realize that we are here to serve God. Unfortunately, I have heard some of my own students tell me that their intention is to just make as much money as they can. To quote Shakespeare: “That way madness lies….”
The financial insanity that started three years ago and has led to millions being out of work in the United States should be a wake up call for our graduates. Yes, the idea is to get a job when you get out of school. But in case you haven’t caught on yet, school isn’t just about training you so you can get a job. It’s about preparing you to live your life as an adult–as a Christian adult in a challenging world.
Money isn’t the answer to all your problems. In fact, as the Bible says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” We conveniently tend to put the Great American Dream (a car in every driveway and a chicken in every pot) with the Great Commission. You don’t have to buy into the Western lifestyle to be a Christian. In fact, it is my belief that consumerism is the biggest challenge confronting Christianity in our society today.
Education is intended to teach you to think–about your work, yes, but also about your relationship with God and about your place in the world. It is my hope that when people ask you what you learned at Southwestern, it goes beyond your ability to get a job. In fact, a graduate with a well-balanced view of the world may be the best advertisement this school could ever have.