Stingy Hetty

Daily Devotions

Average reading time is about 5 and a half minutes
AN AMAZING FACT: When young Ned Green broke his leg during the late 1800s, his mother, Hetty, did her best to treat it herself, thinking hospitals in New York City were far too expensive. But after a few days Ned’s leg grew worse. Hetty sadly shook her head and realized that only a doctor could save her son.

Knowing how much a private hospital charges for patient care, Hetty loaded her fever-racked son into an old carriage and began searching from one end of Manhattan to the other looking for a free clinic where the poor could be treated for little or no money. After continuing unsuccessful home treatments, she finally found a doctor who had to remove the gangrenous leg. The frustrated physician must have thought, “This poor boy will live out the rest of his life as an invalid because this poor woman couldn’t afford basic medical attention!”

What the good doctor didn’t know was that “Hetty,” Henrietta Howland Green, was far from poor. At the time of her son’s injury she was the world’s richest woman—and probably the world’s stingiest too. When she died a few years later, she was worth well over $100 million. That’s more than $17 billion in today’s money! Also known as the “witch of Wall Street,” Hetty Howland was legendary for her eccentric penny-pinching. Not only was she willing to let her son lose his leg rather than pay some small medical expense, she never turned on the heat in her home nor used hot water.

She wore one old black dress and bought broken cookies in bulk, because they were cheaper. She would travel thousands of miles to collect a debt of a few hundred dollars. I should add, years later, as Hetty watched her son hobble about on crutches, she finally bought him a cork leg. But it still makes you wonder how somebody with so much money could neglect the basic needs of their only son?

The Bible gives us insight into the hearts of many people when Jesus stated, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). There is nothing wrong with obtaining wealth, but when we do not lay up treasures in heaven by honoring God and being generous toward others, we will end up hoarding the things of this world.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: Matthew 6:19

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