Linear Time and Progress…. The R.G. LeTourneau Story

As God was mentoring and teaching the Hebrews his economic system, he taught them to think differently than the fatalistic, cyclical thinking of the pagans around them. A concept he instilled in them is that time moves in a linear progressive fashion. In the ancient, mystical pagan world, this was a revolutionary idea that was unique to the Hebrews. The ancient peoples developed their cultures closely tied to nature and its rhythms. The sun rises and sets. The moon repeats its pattern each month. The seasons repeat over and over again. People are born, live and die. All things were thought of as trapped in endless uncontrollable cycles.

Harold Eberle notes how God intervened in this cyclical thinking, “Moses write a linear account of their history. Starting with creation he wrote about the first day, the second day, etc. The generations were recorded, fathers and sons and the accomplishments of both. At this time few others had such a sense of the linear unfolding of time. The Hebrews were the first to have a written record of their origins laid out in a chronological succession of events. Additionally…God gave the ideas of good things coming in their future: A promised Land they would own, a Messiah coming, a coming Kingdom that would continue to grow until if filled the whole earth (Dan. 2:35). All this pushed the Hebrews to think of the world as moving in a positive, God ordained direction.”

Now many years later, Christians take this concept for granted and advance as God leads them. One great example of this was R.G. LeTourneau. Having already achieved success in the earth-moving business, He explained to his pastor that he felt he could serve God better as a bona-fide pastor or missionary overseas. His pastor wisely responded, “God needs businessmen, too.”

Sensing the call to become “God’s businessman,” LeTourneau decided to use his God-given gift of innovation in the marketplace. He achieved 299 patents for his earth-moving and materials handling equipment. These inventions included the bulldozer, scrapers, portable cranes, rollers, dump wagons, bridge spans, logging equipment, mobile sea platforms for oil exploration, the electric wheel, and many others. Historians say approximately 70% of the earth-moving equipment used by the Allies to win World War II was manufactured by his company.

In addition to making disciples of Jesus through his business, using his spiritual gift of creativity, and adding tremendous value to the U.S. economy even in the midst of the Great Depression, LeTourneau habitually and cheerfully gave away 90 percent of his income toward the advancement of the gospel. He cared for his workers and the poor and needy…another aspect of the Biblical worldview we will examine in future blogs.

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