The Danger of Loving Money
By Shannon Woodland
The 700 Club
CBN.com -“It wasn’t unlike me to work 10 to 12 hour days, five to seven days a week. I could safely say money became my god.”
William Sirls was in his early 20’s when he decided to do whatever it took to make a lot of money. And have the things that came with it.
“I was the guy that had everything - had the big house, the big job, the big car.”
Even though he was married and starting a family, his pursuit of the dollar came first. He quickly moved up the corporate ladder.
“In time, I went from being Joe Stockbroker to Mr. Senior Vice President, with several offices under my control. And with that came lots of money.”
His wife grew tired of taking a back seat while William built his financial empire.
“I remember her telling me several times, ‘You're going to regret, you know, the day will come, these kids are small. You need to spend time with them.’ And I kept going and going and going.”
William’s drive to make money had turned into an obsession.
“It’s a big cycle. You get not necessarily addicted to making money. It’s just the things that come with it, and the drive to make more. It's like a competition. It's, you know, ‘keep up with the Joneses’ on steroids.”
He dismissed the idea that his pursuit of money was ruining his marriage. Then in 2000, the stock market crashed – and William lost millions. His reaction was consistent with how he did things.
“I would say it was almost more like a gambling addiction. And when gamblers lose they have a tendency to think that, you know, brighter days are coming and they start chasing. And when I started losing I was constantly looking for this rebound.”
William immediately turned his energies to rebuilding his empire. Soon after his wife left and they divorced.
“Rightfully so, she had had enough. And we parted ways.”
William’s plan to make back the millions he’d lost started out legitimately. But William wasn’t making money like he did in the 1990’s, so he compromised.
“I started borrowing money under false pretenses to reinvest that money. It would be very easy for me to say, ‘Hey, I'm going to borrow some money, pay 'x' interest, make 'x' back in the stock market and then repay everybody and go off, you know, until the things return back to normal.’”
They didn’t. Still William continued investing family’s and friends’ money, hoping the market would turn around, but in truth, there would be no payoff.
“I just got so deep into it and in order to not hurt one person, I went on and hurt somebody else. And it just absolutely spun out of control to a point where it got to the point of no return.”
William lost millions of investment dollars.
“When you take a combination of pride, stupidity and ego, you know, those three things don't normally set well together. I was very dishonest with a lot of people very, very close to me.”
He realized it was only a matter of time before authorities would catch up with him.
“I just say it got to the point where I had had enough and I just couldn't do it any more, regardless of what the consequences. I had to stop the train, get off, face the music and, you know, while doing that face the consequences.”
On September 20, 2006, William turned himself in. He served 52 months in federal prison for wire fraud and money laundering. It gave him time to think about his life and future.
“The bomb for me was that William Sirls isn’t the center of everything.”
In prison, William met Christians and had questions about Jesus Christ. In time, he started attending a Bible study where he learned about faith.
“I kept reading the Bible, reading the Bible, spending more time with Christians, and my faith continued to grow.”
“To me faith is that absolute sense of certainty that God is who He is. He's going to do what He says He's going to do, and we all have access to that through His Son who died for all us; even guys in prison.”
Eventually William gave his life to Jesus Christ. He then started the journey of making things right with those he hurt, and accepting God’s forgiveness.
“And once you accept that forgiveness, that's the only forgiveness we'll ever need.”
“But for me to carry that on for years was right in these people’s faces. It’s something I hope… I want to do everything I can to earn that respect back. I’m still in touch with a lot of these people I’ve received a lot of forgiveness, but at the same time I’m going to work hard to make everything right.”
After serving three years he made amends with his ex-wife and reconciled with his daughters.
“My relationship with my daughters is better than it's ever been. I told them everything. And that was probably the single most difficult conversation I'll ever have in my life.”
Today William is a successful author, and is in the process of paying back the money he took. While he admits he’s not perfect, he puts his entire faith in God.
“I still consider myself to be a work in progress. And I still struggle with a lot of things from my previous life. Right now the first thing I do every morning is pray and read my Bible. Automatic.”
“My relationship with Jesus is more of a – He's walking right beside me and when I get into these situations I almost step back and let Him step in front of me and say, ‘What would You do here?’"
“And, don't get me wrong, there are situations where I skip over Him and make mistakes all the time. But He's right with me. And having Him by my side is a huge advantage to where I was before.”
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