James Marshall left his family’s home in New Jersey as a young man and, like so many others, began a migration west. After contracting malaria while living in Missouri he was advised to go further west, and in 1845 he arrived in California. He worked a number of different jobs and served in the army during the Mexican-American War in 1846. When he got out, a man he had earlier befriended, John Sutter, entered a partnership agreement with Marshall to build a sawmill.
When they discovered that the spillway they had constructed was too narrow to handle the amount of water needed to operate the mill, they began the process of enlarging it. On the morning of January 24, 1848, as Marshall examined the channel, he found large flakes of pure gold, sparking one of the greatest gold rushes in history. But Marshall did not profit from his discovery. The mill project failed. His mines did not produce. A vineyard he bought went bankrupt. In his old age, reduced to abject poverty, Marshall died alone in a small shack.
Wealth is easy for us to trust. If God blesses us and we begin to accumulate financial resources, we must be on guard against them becoming an idol in our hearts. Paul instructed his protégé Timothy to issue a warning to the rich members in his church: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).