You can see that Getty's shrewdness comes from a deep wound from childhood, and he finds his comfort in possessions and things, which "don't change" and won't betray him. As the saying goes, "hurt people hurt people." He also literally has so much money that the amount becomes meaningless ("like the air you breathe"), but he ultimately dies of a stroke in his parlor one night. His masterpieces, mansion, and legacy ultimately amount to very little in the end.
The story line, family dynamics, character development, and action scenes in the film were great. Viewed through the eyes of a Christian, though, it read like an obvious modern-day parable:
"Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”" (Lk 12: 13-21)
There is a certain tired predictability about riches and worldly fame. In the eyes of the world, it is everything. But in God's economy, and in the lives of the saints, it is the antithesis of a pinnacle of achievement. In fact, it's weight and influence work against a person who holds fast to it, as Paul warns in 1 Timothy 6:10: "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil," and in Philippians 3:8-10:
"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."
It's almost like two inverses--those rich in the world, and those rich in the eyes of God. J.P. Getty was in the top .001% of society in terms of wealth. But it meant nothing on the spiritual stock exchange. I can only liken it to buying a lie--a compelling, alluring lie. What wealth and riches promises is a lure that tends to hook in the lip of the one who takes the bait. In the film's beginning monologue, the grandson narrates:
"To be a Getty is an extraordinary thing. My grandfather wasn’t just the richest man in the world, he was the richest man in the history of the world.
We look like you, but we’re not like you. It’s like we’re from another planet where the force of gravity is so strong it bends the light. It bends people too."
The holy saints, however, are those who refuse and avoid the bait. They see it as a trap and impediment to the true mission, the true reality of human existence: to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven. It is the reason we were made. It is the reason why we exist, and in forgetting it amidst the trifles of the world, we forget our raison d'etre.
We were made to be saints. We were made to be extraordinary in ordinariness, rich in poverty, faithful in a faithless world. On the trading floor, we exchange our life in this world for life in the next.
Faith is not pure speculation, though, nor is it reckless. When you know God, the God of the crucified Christ, and forsake all others to trust Him, you abandon yourself to all that is antithetical to success in the world. To be a "one-percenter" in the spiritual economy, you trade status and possessions for the very Personhood of God, to share in His very divinity.
The mark of a disciple is abandonment, not achievement; generosity, not shrewdness; joy in poverty, not sadness in worldly possessions. What you are given free of cost (Is 55:1) ends up costing you everything (Lk 14:33). The pearl of great price overlooked by so many in the world becomes the only thing worth possessing. All the money in the world amounts to very little in the end for those who are not rich towards God.