By Andy Gustafson
Associate Conference Minister
While on my recent sabbatical, I visited Craigdarrock Castle in Victoria, B.C., an imposing mansion in the “bonanza castle” style popular with the ultra-rich of the late 1800s. It was built by Robert Dunsmuir, a rags-to-riches coal baron. Starting out as an indentured coal miner, he persevered to become British Columbia’s wealthiest citizen.
While lauded by the cream of Canadian society in his day, he was notorious for his treatment of his workers. He resisted all efforts to improve mine safety despite the death toll in his mines. Already paying the lowest wages in the industry, anticipating a strike, he engaged in a lock-out of his miners, which ended in their pay being cut by a third. He gained the reputation as British Columbia’s most ruthless and avaricious employer.
But what did his wealth gain him? He died before his castle was completed. As impressive as Craigdarrock Castle is, what impressed me even more was how much this brought to mind Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21): “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (NRSV)
The late Andy Gustasfon served as the Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship and Financial Development from 2004 to 2014.