Too Good to be True! The Ruthless Pursuit of Gold, Part 1

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August 1896 would change the Yukon forever. On Bonanza Creek, a small branch of the Klondike River, three prospectors stumbled on what would be the largest concentration of gold ever discovered. Soon all prospectors in the Yukon swarmed like bees to the Klondike region. Winter set in quickly however, and the rest of the world would not hear about this discovery until the next summer.

On July 17, 1897, the SS Portland arrived in Seattle with its cargo from the Yukon, spurring thousands of people to swarm to the Klondike. The very next day a steamer called Al-Ki left for the Klondike region, filled with stampeders and 350 tons of supplies (Yes, it is costly to dig for gold!). It was the official beginning of the gold rush.

Many of these "hopefuls" were tired of the economic depression that riddled the United States at that time, and they left their homes in droves to seek wealth and adventure, fame and fortune. Around the Seattle area, business owners had difficulties keeping their employees. Many quit their jobs with the hope of amassing fortunes in the gold fields. This included the Seattle District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as the Tacoma Fire Department. Even the mayor of Seattle, W.D. Wood, joined the ranks of the prospective gold diggers. Just imagine a big city without its mayor! And what about school kids coming to school to find that there is only a caretaker to greet them at the door! I can almost hear their shouts of joy: "Yes! We are finally rid of Mr. C!"

There were approximately 100,000 people who embarked for the Yukon. Of these, only 40,000 actually reached the Klondike region, as the long road was treacherous, and many either became discouraged and turned back, or died along the trail. Of the 40,000 who made it, only 20,000 actually were able to work claims, and only 300 made more than $15,000 (around $340,000 in 2007). Finally, of these 300, only 50 were able to keep their wealth for any length of time! In all realty, only 0.3% of the original prospectors ever struck a sizeable amount of gold, and only 0.05% kept their fortune!

When news seems too good to be true, beware! There is usually a catch somewhere. So many of us, even today, want to believe what seems too good to be true. Emails that promise a fortune are luring people by the thousands. People are often finding themselves duped and losing money as a result. What does Paul say about this? "Such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." (Rom 16:18 NIV)

It is sad that hoaxes are so eagerly welcomed, while the greatest news of all times is received with mistrust and suspicion: "That's what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others' sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all - was put to death and then made alive - to bring us to God." (1 Peter 3:18 The Message)

Friends, once you've accepted Jesus as your savior, you are saved for eternity! There is no catch, no money down, no sequestering of one's life. It's totally free! And it's all yours if you believe! "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NIV)

Many rich people pay unbelievable amounts of money to extend their lives on this planet. They don't realize that eternity could be theirs for free, if only they would believe! The greatest guaranteed news in History is perceived as being less exciting than possibly making a fortune in gold! There were very few who hit the promised jackpot in the Klondike, but everyone who believes in Jesus will live for eternity, free of charge!

"He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." (Titus 3:5 NIV)

This message is not only great, but it's also true! Which one will you believe?

"GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!" (July 17 headline)


"You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us - in one stroke he became poor and we became rich." (2 Cor 8:9 The Message)

Rob Chaffart

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