A Trip to the Big House

Last week, my wife and I took a couple of vacation days to visit The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. This was our first visit to America’s largest private home, and there’s no denying the fact that we were impressed. How could one not be? After all, it’s a showplace of art and architecture, situated amid 8000 acres of beautifully manicured gardens and stunning mountain vistas. What’s more, the Biltmore was sponsoring an exhibit titled “Dressing Downton,” which featured a collection of clothing from the popular Downton Abbey television series. Sadly, I’m neither “historian” enough nor “fan of Downton” enough to know for sure, but I gather that they heyday of the historic Biltmore would have coincided roughly with the heyday of the mythical Downton. So the juxtaposition of the two made it a little easier to imagine what living in such a palace might have been like.

To be completely honest, the thought of living in such a privileged environment left me vaguely uneasy. I’m sure that George Vanderbilt and his family worked hard to amass their fortune, and the information provided in the tour suggested that they treated their staff and employees well, especially in comparison to other workers of the era. But still…to live a life of such “over the top” luxury doesn’t seem quite right. Why surround one’s self with such opulence when something less grandiose would be more than adequate? Then again, couldn’t the same be said about me? My home is no Biltmore; and yet, in comparison to the vast majority of people in the world, I have so much more than I need.

Psalm 16 says:

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
You make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely, I have a delightful inheritance.

While it’s fun to visit places that reveal “the lifestyles of the rich and famous” (and perhaps even more fun to seek things that embellish my own lifestyle), I pray that I’ll always feel a deep sense of gratitude for how pleasantly the boundary lines have fallen for me and my family. And even more, I pray the the Lord will truly be “my portion and my cup” – the highest good that I could ever desire or attain.

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One thought on “A Trip to the Big House

  1. Alex, it is a mark of modern wealth (and wealth inequality, especially here in the West) that we even have a word in the lexicon like “lifestyle.”

    Thanks for the thoughts. They marry well with the subject of social justice that I’ve been reading about lately. Something for us all to think about.

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