Samuel Plimsoll was a man who carried a heavy burden. Involved in the coal trade in England during the late 19th century, he became aware of terrible dangers faced by merchant seamen on English shipping vessels. Every year, hundreds of seamen lost their lives because ships were dangerously overloaded by ruthless, dishonest and corrupt ship owners who were pursuing greed to profit by placing others at risk. Ships left the ports of England overloaded almost to the deck line, only to encounter problems at sea and sink. Ship owners stood to make even greater profits from insurance than the cost of the freight of a loaded vessel.
In 1873 alone, 411 ships sank, taking hundreds of men to watery graves. To make matters worse, a man who had signed up to serve as a seaman could not back out of his contract no matter how unsafe he considered the ship and its load to be. The law favorably supported the ship owners and made it a crime a seaman to refuse to serve, no matter how unsafe the vessel was. During the early 1870s, over one third of the prisoners in southwest England were a sailor who had refused to sail on what became known as “coffin ships.”
The problem troubled Plimsoll and became his mission to resolve the situation. His idea was to pass a law that required every vessel to mark a load line, indicating when it was overloaded. So Plimsoll put his plan into action and ran for Parliament in 1868 and was elected. Immediately he went to work with a forceful crusade to save the lives of British sailors. He made impassioned speeches in the House of Commons and exposed the corruption in a book that shocked the nation by exposing the merchant ship owner’s actions. Slowly he won public support and embarrassed the government into taking action. The Unseaworthy Vessels Bill was passed by Parliament in 1875, and in 1876, Plimsoll wrote a bill which required a load line be placed on every vessel. But, under pressure from the vested interests and lobbyists, Parliament compromised. It allowed the ship’s owner to place the line wherever they desired.
For another fourteen years Plimsoll fought until laws were passed requiring the load line be set at a level that would ensure the safety of the vessel. In time, his load line became the international standard. Today, in every port in the world you will see the results of Plimsoll’s passion and integrity which led him to be called “the Sailors Friend.” Today every ship is marked by the Plimsoll line, indicating the maximum depth to which a ship can safely and legally be loaded.
Every life should have a Plimsoll mark to safe guard every soul in navigating life. The Bible is filled with biblical insights for load limits. We cannot safely reach our destination unless we search the scriptures and understand God’s load line for our vessel of life in which we live, believe, think and take action.
In the 1999 July/August publication of The Fast Company (page.110), the conversation in boardrooms, at cocktail parties and at the kitchen table was how much is enough? The dot.com craze in 1999 led to massive greed, compromise and corruption. The IPO road was filled with questions on how much should I be compensated, how much work time versus family time, how much public glory can satisfy my ego and how much opportunity do I have along with many other questions. How much stuff is enough for me?
These are serious probing questions, especially for a follower of Jesus Christ who desires to live by eternal values in the kingdom of God. How do we set load limits in an ever increasing society built on the chronic disease of compulsive consumerism? This author got caught up in the dot.com greed with one IPO which was issued and was greedy enough to see the market rise within one date for a profit of $58,000. Three times during the day my broker called me and told me to sell immediately. I refused because I was blinded by greed and covetousness and lost every penny of the gain plus even the initial investment. I must confess I was filled with greed and covetousness to the point I would not submit to others advice and believed I could depend on the market rising rapidly. Little did I how I had exceeded my load limit and the devil had deceived me and my ‘ship of confidence’ was overloaded with the cares of life.
Did this experience stop me from continuing down the path of greed and covetousness? No. I invested heavily in the real estate boom during the first decade of the twenty-first century (about ten years ago) only to experience the same outcome. God allowed my greed and covetous heart to experience the pain of agony that brought me low to a point where He could speak into my life and love me into understanding the material things of this world are not worth the value man places upon them. Moths ate holes into my wool slacks and jackets; rust has begun to show on my old pickup and continues to eat away at the metal under the door and over the fenders of the bed. I started to trade it off and God spoke to me that I was to continue to drive it and be reminded each day that the sin of covetousness is like a rapidly advancing cancer that can eat through the heart and soul of a man or woman and destroy them physically, emotionally and spiritually – often especially those of the household of faith – who believe in the prosperity message that God will bless no matter what is done, if we will give our money and expect God to act in obedience to our actions by multiplying our ‘gift’ so that we will become rich with this world’s possessions.
Be aware of this: we do not live in the same sphere that God lives in. He is the owner of all the earth and has the right to make the rules and demand obedience to those rules.
Friend, I am a living testimony that what I had was not mine – it all belonged to God and I did not use it wisely. I sought to invest it into material things which can be destroyed within hours not over a few short months or years. Our nation is in serious financial trouble and even Christians are being lured into believing that the election of our current president is going to make everything great again and we will all prosper. I do not have confidence that the stock market, which is at an all time high, will continue to prosper nor do I believe in the ability of a man to turn our country around. He may make it better temporarily; however, the storm is rising from the sea of humanity within the United States with over $20 trillion dollars of debt which must be repaid by someone. We are on the brink of total melt down of our financial system and security.
My fear and concern is that those who claim to be Christians have again relaxed become self-satisfied. Many are placing their confidence in man and are going to continue on the current path of self-destruction by trusting in their own ability to make wise decisions and retire to a life of ease to travel, pick up a small hobby and spoil the grandchildren without making a renewed commitment to live daily in obedience to the Great Commandment and becoming engaged in actively seeking to fulfill the Great Commission in total immediate obedience to the word of God and the whisper of the Holy Spirit within our heart.
As the stock market rises, I have noticed a decline in dependence upon God and trust in His ability to meet every need we may have. He did not promise us we would have large bank accounts, large homes and the latest model of automobile which are only status symbols to the American greed and covetousness while many within our nation and foreign nations are living in poverty. We are debtors to Christ and He commanded us to love Him with all our heart, our soul, our strength and our mind and to love our neighbor as our self.
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, And with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” This is very important because these words of Jesus are recorded in Matthew 22:36-38; Mark 12:29-31 and Luke 10:26-28.
His commandment means we invest into other people’s life by using our time, our ability and our money. Go to Luke chapter 10 and read the account of the Good Samaritan and you will see The Great Commandment in action. This account is Jesus using the principles of The Great Commandment in practical application for daily life. There are principles listed here: compassion (love is demonstrated by a kind and gentle heart), the precious asset of time (he stopped and bound up the man’s wounds plus he cared for him for at least one night), use of physical assets (he placed the man on his own donkey (he did not go to someone and ask them to give him assistance), and monetary assets (he paid for the man’s physical shelter and physical medical needs). He even went further than these principles – he told the innkeeper: ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than what I have paid you, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ He did not even ask what the cost per day would be. He was all in – focused on loving another fellow human who God created and placed within his ability to give generously to meet a need in the life of others.
Now, if you are a true Christian, think about this. God will interrupt your life on almost a daily basis to assist someone else in need. More than likely they will not be a Christian. Take time to allow God to use you to meet that need. Stop thinking you have to give into the offering plate on Sunday morning so you can get a tax deduction for giving to charity. If that is the reason you are giving, your gift of money will not have the reward of assets given without receiving something in return. Giving for tax purposes is giving in vain – you are giving out of a covetousness heart believing that you are giving to be blessed with prosperity because of the contribution statement you receive from the church at the end of the year. Yes, I tithe and I expect nothing in return – it is already God’s and I am only returning it to Him though the ability He has given me to earn an income. But I also take money, often on frequent occasions and hand it to someone in need because I hear the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit within my heart to give.
I went into the grocery store last week and was selecting some meat for sandwiches at the meat counter. As I stood there, I hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit whisper in my spiritual ear to give the lady a tip at the meat counter. She has teeth missing and was probably working for minimum wage. I reached into my billfold and handed her some money which she refused to take because it was ‘store policy that employees could not accept tips and she would be fired.’ I placed the cash on top of the counter, preceded to the checkout counter, paid for the groceries and asked for the manager. Everyone freaks out when someone asks for a manager. They went to his office and asked him to step out to see me and we had a conversation in which I told him the money was laying on the meat counter and I wanted the money to go to that lady regardless of store policy because, as I told him, God whispered for me to give her money. He stated: “So she took very good care of you?” To which I replied, “Yes, and I want that money to go to her.” I did not receive a tax deduction for the money. That was the farthest thought from my mind. I was being obedient to the whisper of the Holy Spirit.
Of the Ten Commandments, the first nine involve actions God commands us to obey. The tenth commandment is “you shalt not covet.” This is not an action. It is about what flows out of the thoughts and intentions of the heart – desires for something someone else has in their possession, their wife, their position in life, influence they have (perhaps even in your church) – all of these are owned by God or given as gifts from God. Righteous and integrity and covetousness and greed all flow from the desires of the heart. All of us wrestle with covetousness. If our heart has even a degree of covetousness and we do not immediately repent, reject and turn to God for help, we will soon find our self slipping slowly into compromise which then swiftly leads downward into corruption.
You can make a difference in someone’s life today, do not wait until tomorrow. As you read this, God is going to speak into your heart to bless someone. Get up and do it now. Cast down greed and covetousness by opening up your heart, your mind, your billfold and your God-given abilities to serve others. Stop thinking about yourself and be immediately obedient to the Holy Spirit and the whisper He is speaking into your spirit as result of reading this writing. May God’s richest blessings flow down upon you as you are immediately obedient today!
HERE ARE TWO ARTICLES PULLED OFF THE INTERNET ON THE PLIMSOLL REGULATIONS
By the mid-1800’s, the overloading of cargo ships had become a major problem. By 1836 public concern about the loss of ships and crews reached the point where Parliament was forced to appoint a committee to investigate the growing number of shipwrecks. In 1850 legislation was passed to create the Marine Department of the Board of Trade: one of its duties was to enforce the laws governing the manning, crew competence and operation of merchant vessels.
Despite calls for regulation, the British government avoided direct interference with ship operators until 1870 when Samuel Plimsoll (1824-1898), a member of Parliament from Derby, headed a campaign to require that vessels bear a load line marking indicating when they were overloaded, hence ensuring the safety of crew and cargo. Plimsoll exposed what he described as “coffin ships” created by overloading. He drafted a bill to improve conditions on merchant vessels. Gladstone‘s government set up a Royal Commission to investigate merchant marine practices and conditions; the report exposed many malpractices committed by unscrupulous owners. A Bill introduced in 1875 was defeated.
Plimsoll’s violent speeches aroused the House of Commons and his book, Our Seamen, shocked the public. It also earned him the hatred of many ship owners who started a series of legal battles against him. Undeterred, Plimsoll fought until finally, in 1876, Parliament was forced to pass the Unseaworthy Ships Bill into law. The Act required a series of ‘lines’ to be painted on the ship to show the maximum loading point. Unfortunately, the Act allowed the shipowners to paint the line where they saw fit and some chose to paint it on the funnel of the ship. It was not until 1890 that Board of Trade officials applied the regulations that Plimsoll had intended.
This Plimsoll line is for the starboard side of a vessel; on the port side, the markings are reversed. The centre of the disk is placed at the middle of the load line. The lines are one inch thick.
Merchant Shipping Act
In the 1868 General Election, Samuel Plimsoll was elected as MP for Derby. He immediately began to campaign for government legislation to protect seamen. To support his case he published Our Seamen (1873), a book that provided documentary evidence about the scale of the problem. This included information that nearly 1,000 sailors a year were being drowned on ships around British shores. As part of his campaign, a copy of Our Seamen was given to every member of the House of Commons.
Samuel Plimsoll was particularly critical of the 1871 Merchant Shipping Act. As a result of this legislation seamen were obliged, subject to imprisonment and fine, to go to sea and complete a voyage once they had signed a contract. This made it difficult for sailors to leave a ship once they realized it was unseaworthy. In March 1873, The Times joined Plimsoll’s campaign by printing a story about fifteen seamen who had been imprisoned for three months after they refused to go on board the ship Peru. When the ship finally left Cardiff with a new crew, it sunk in the Bay of Biscay and three men were drowned.
Ship-owners had powerful supporters in the House of Commons and it was argued by them that the government should not pass legislation that restricted the freedom of employers to run their companies. Gradually, other politicians, such as Lord Shaftesbury, became involved in Plimsoll’s campaign. In 1875 Benjamin Disraeli, the Conservative prime minister, changed his mind on the issue and in 1875 gave his support to an Unseaworthy Vessels Bill.
The following year Samuel Plimsoll managed to persuade Parliament to amend the 1871 Merchant Shipping Act. This provided for the marking of a line on a ship’s sides which would disappear below the water line if the ship was overloaded. A further amendment in 1877 imposed a limit on the weight of cargo which vessels were permitted to carry and created rules governing the engagement of seamen and their accommodation on board ship.
Plimsoll Line (nautical) properly the International Load Line, a mark on the hull of a merchant ship to show the waterline under specified conditions. The line shows the maximum capacity load the ship may carry. The depth to which a boat can be safely loaded.
Samuel Plimsoll, a British MP in the mid 1800’s was outraged by the number of sailor’s deaths caused by overloaded and unseaworthy vessels. In 1873 he published “Our Seamen” which cataloged disaster after disaster and showed that nearly 1000 sailors a year were drowned in British waters. This document led to the eventual passing of the Unseaworthy Vessels Bill in 1875 and a year later the amendment of the 1871 Merchant Shipping Act to include provision for a marking on the sides of ships which would disappear below the water line when the ship was overloaded.
Is there a personal level of overload or seaworthiness?
We all have unbound personal capacity in and through Christ. Like it or not, our natural capacity is limited. In God, all things are possible. What can I predictably accomplish? Where are resource constraints? Am I a constraint? Efficiency – Do things right. Effectiveness – Do right things. Workloads for black belts, change agents, progressive leaders have the undesirable tendency toward overload, and with overload come mistakes, failure, and burnout. What to do to keep from sinking?
“Whatever you are, be a good one.”
— Abraham Lincoln
“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.”
“No matter what the level of your ability, you have more potential than you can ever develop in a lifetime.”
— James T. McKay
“In order to do more, I’ve got to be more. People frequently ask me, ‘How can I do more?’ The answer isn’t complicated: You have to develop personal capacity before you can have personal accomplishments. So many times we want to do more before we become more, but that’s backwards.”
— John C. Maxwell