“Counterfeit Gods” by Timothy Keller – Chapter 3: Money Changes Everything

Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

Opening Prayer

Focus Do you know of someone who has given their life to the accumulation of wealth?  How has that pursuit impacted their life?


The Yellowstone Club, also Yellowstone Ski Resort, is an invitation-only residential clubski resort, and golf resort located in the state of MontanaUSA. This Rocky Mountain ski and golf club is located in eastern Madison County, just west of Big Sky, Montana, and northwest of Yellowstone National Park….

During its peak season, almost 600 people are employed at the club….

Cyclist Greg LeMond, an early investor and homeowner/member, sued the club in 2006, saying Blixseth and his former wife Edra Denise (Crocker) Blixseth had borrowed $375 million from Credit Suisse Group and took $209 million for themselves as a dividend, jilting him and other investors. The suit was settled in 2008 for $39.5 million. Ms. Blixseth eventually agreed to pay Mr. LeMond and others a $21.5 million settlement; she’s paid only $8 million of that amount and Mr. LeMond and others are now among her creditors in her personal bankruptcy….

The Times said that as of June 2009, Yellowstone Club had about 250 members. It said membership cost a minimum of $250,000 to join, plus the cost of a $5 million to $35 million mountainside home, plus annual dues of about $20,000, according to members…

On November 10, 2008, in the midst of the economic downturn, Yellowstone filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It emerged from protection July 19, 2009.[1]

Andrew Carnegie (25 November 1835 – 11 August 1919) was a Scottish-American industrialist, businessman, entrepreneur and a major philanthropist.

Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland and migrated to the United States as a child with his parents. His first job in the United States was as a factory worker in a bobbin factory. Later, he became a bill logger for the owner of the company. Soon after he became a messenger boy. Eventually he progressed up the ranks of a telegraph company. He built Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company, which was later merged with Elbert H. Gary’s Federal Steel Company and several smaller companies to create U.S. Steel. With the fortune he made from business, he later turned to philanthropy and interests in education, founding the Carnegie Corporation of New York,Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceCarnegie Institution of WashingtonCarnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh….

By the standards of 19th century tycoons, Carnegie was not a particularly ruthless man but a humanitarian with enough acquisitiveness to go in the ruthless pursuit of money; on the other hand, the contrast between his life and the lives of many of his own workers and of the poor, in general, was stark. “Maybe with the giving away of his money,” commented biographer Joseph Wall, “he would justify what he had done to get that money.”[2]


  1. On pp. 49-50 Timothy Keller writes about loosening of social mores regarding greed?  Have you noticed similar changes around you?  Do you think that the same thing is happening in Canada?
  2. On pp. 50-53, the author describes how we become blind to our own greed.  How does that happen?  Are we blind to our own greed?
  3. On p. 56 he defines greed.  What is greed?
  4. As explained the First Commandment, Martin Luther wrote, “…the correct interpretation of this commandment is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart trusts completely.”[3] How do we human beings trust in money?  Is money idolatry only a problem for wealthy people?
  5. How are deep idols (power, approval, comfort or control) different from surface idols (like money) (pp. 64-65)?  Why is it important to differentiate between deep and surface idols?
  6. What did Jesus do for Zacchaeus?  How did Zacchaeus respond?
  7. What had Jesus done for us?


  1. Which deep idol tends to exert the strongest pull on you?  What aspect of the Good News of Jesus Christ needs to fill your heart to supplant your deep idol?


Closing Prayer

[1] “Yellowstone Club,” Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (Internet; found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_Club; downloaded 4 Nov 2010).

[2] “Andrew Carnegie,” Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (Internet; found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Carnegie; downloaded 4 Nov 2010).

[3] The Book of Concord, The Large Catechism, The First Commandment, §10.


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