A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 03, 2012
“If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at some of the people he gives it to”

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at some of the people he gives it to” is a popular saying that has been credited to many people, most frequently—and incorrectly—to American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967). Parker said in 1956:

“I hate almost all rich people, but I think I’d be darling at it. At the moment, however, I like to think of Maurice Baring’s remark: ‘If you would know what the Lord God thinks of money, you have only to look at those to whom he gives it.’”

It’s not known when the English writer Maurice Baring (1874-1945) first said this, but the saying has been cited in print from before both Maurice Baring and Dorothy Parker were born.

Variations of the saying have been popular since at least the early 1700s:

1710: “It was very prettily said, that we may learn the little value of fortune by the persons on whom heaven is pleased to bestow it.”—Richard Steele (1672-1729)
1720: “If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such a scoundrel.”—Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
1727: “We may see the small Value God has for Riches, by the People he gives them to.”—Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

The saying became popularized in modern form in March 1870, when this anecdote was printed in many American newspapers:

“A negro parson in the West, preaching against the love of money, concluded his sermon by saying: ‘And finally, brethren, you can judge what God thinks of money by the class of people he gives it to.’”


Wikiquote: Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker (1893-08-22 – 1967-06-07) was an American writer, poet, and critic. A fixture of 1920s literary society known for her acerbic wit and low opinion of romantic relationships, she became a member of the famous Algonquin Round Table.
(...)
Misattributed
If you want to know what the Lord God thinks of money, just look at those to whom he gives it.
. Man and the Gospel (1865) by Thomas Guthrie “and you may know how little God thinks of money by observing on what bad and contemptible characters he often bestows it.”

Google Books
The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2006
Pg. 477:
Martin Luther
German religious leader, 1483-1546
“So our Lord God commonly gives riches to those gross asses to whom He vouchsafes nothing else.”
Quoted in Tischreden oder Colloquia, ed. Johann Aurifaber (1566)
Pg. 727:
Richard Steele
Irish essayist and playwright, 1672-1729
“It was very prettily said, that we may learn the little value of fortune by the persons on whom heaven is pleased to bestow it.”
The Tattler no. 203, 17 July 1710
Pg. 740:
Jonathan Swift
Irish-born English satirist and clergyman, 1667-1745
“If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such a scoundrel.”
Letter to Miss Vanhomrigh, 12-13 August 1720

Google Books
Miscellanies
The Second Volume

London: Printed for Benjamin Motte
1733
Pg. 286:
We may see the small Value God has for Riches, by the People he gives them to. D. A.
(Originally published in 1727 by Alexander Pope as Thoughts on Various Subjects—ed.)

Google Books
Man and the Gospel
By Thomas Guthrie
New York, NY: Alexander Strahan, Publisher
1865
Pg. 168:
God has no respect for persons; in His eyes wealth is not worth; and you may know how little God thinks of money by observing on what bad and contemptible characters He often bestows it.

25 March 1870, Springfield (MA) Daily Republican, “Gleanings and Gossip,” pg. 1, col. 1:
A negro parson in the West, preaching against the love of money, concluded his sermon by saying: “And finally, brethren, you can judge what God thinks of money by the class of people he gives it to.”
(This paragraph is also in Chronicling America online, in a newspaper printed on March 26, 1870—ed.)

Google Books
26 March 1870, The College Courant (Yale College), pg. 192, col. 2:
The usual old stories and jokes ever attribute to new authors, are beginning their annual round in the papers. They are inevitable we suppose, but it is a little too bad for the Sun, usually so bright in all matters, to attribute one of the sharpest sayings of Dean Swift to an apochryphal darkey preacher: “And finally, brethren, you can judge what God thinks of money by the class of people he gives it to!” Yet this it does in its paper of Monday, March 21st.

Google Books
Reminiscences of Carbondale, Dundaff, and Providence Forty Years Past
By John Reed Durfee
Philadelphia, PA: Miller’s Bible Publishing House
1875
Pg. 91:
“Disregarding his advice, we (Pg. 92—ed.) proceed to wonder who the people are that sport such huge calves and so many buttons behind and before, and say, with poverty’s acrid spirit, the crabbed dean’s consoling words, ‘It is plain to see what the Lord thinks of money by the folks he gives it to!’”

Google Books
22 March 1883, Life magazine, pg. 134, col. 1:
The ex-Senator, by his entire conduct, has justified Swift’s sarcasm that “One knows what the Almighty thinks of money by the kind of people he gives it to.”

Chronicling America
26 January 1884, St. Paul (MN) Daily Globe, pg. 7, col. 5:
Peck’s Sun: The remark of the gentleman out west tells the whole story. Said he: “You can tell what God thinks of money, by the class of men He gives it to.”

Google Books
October and November 1893, St. Andrew’s Cross, pg. 17:
(Address by Samuel A. Haines, speaking about William Travers, a Wall Street banker—ed.)
He replied with his characteristic stutter: “Y-yes, you fellows think m-m-money is everything, d-d-don’t you? Taint so. B-b-brains and heart both count. S-s-say, do you want to know what God thinks of money? Look around New York at some of p-poor folks he gives it to.”

Google Books
A Wreath of Laurel:
Being speeches on dramatic and kindred occasions

By William Winter
New York, NY: The Dunlap Society
1898
Pg. 78:
They recall the remark of an old cynic, Henry Clapp, Jr., who said: “If you want to know what God Almighty thinks of money, look at the men to whom he gives the most of it.”
("Youth and Opportunity,” a speech delivered at the Theatre of Stapleton, Staten Island, June 19, 1891—ed.)

Google Books
A World Treasury of Proverbs from Twenty-Five Languages: African, Arabic, Chinese, [etc.]
By Henry Davidoff
New York, NY: Random House
1946
Pg. 288:
If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people he gives it to.

The Paris Review (Summer 1956)
Dorothy Parker, The Art of Fiction No. 13
Interviewed by Marion Capron

(...)
INTERVIEWER
Do you think economic security an advantage to the writer?

PARKER
Yes. Being in a garret doesn’t do you any good unless you’re some sort of a Keats. The people who lived and wrote well in the twenties were comfortable and easy living. They were able to find stories and novels, and good ones, in conflicts that came out of two million dollars a year, not a garret. As for me, I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money. I hate almost all rich people, but I think I’d be darling at it. At the moment, however, I like to think of Maurice Baring’s remark: “If you would know what the Lord God thinks of money, you have only to look at those to whom he gives it.” I realize that’s not much help when the wolf comes scratching at the door, but it’s a comfort.

Google Books
The Joke-Teller’s Handbook:
or, 1,999 Belly Laughs

By Robert Orben
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
1966
Pg. 117:
Friend, there’s an old saying: If you want to know what God thinks of money— look at the people He gives it to.

Google Books
Educator’s Lifetime Library of Stories, Quotes, Anecdotes, Wit, and Humor
By P. Susan Mamchak and Steven R. Mamchak
West Nyack, NY: Parker Pub. Co.
1979
Pg. 169:
If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people He’s giving it to. — New England Proverb

Google Books
20,000 Quips & Quotes
By Evan Esar
New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books
1995, ©1968
Pg. 529:
If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at some of the people he gives it to.

Google Books
The Quotable Billionaire:
Advice and Reflections from and for the Real, Former, Almost, and Wanna-Be Super-Rich...and Others

Edited by Steven D. Price
New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing
2009
Pg. 11:
If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to. — Dorothy Parker

Google Books
Tweet This Book:
The 1,400 Greatest Quotes of All Time in 140 Characters or Less

Edited by Sayre Van Young and Marin Van Young
Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press: Distributed by Publishers Group West
2011
Pg. 121:
If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
Dorothy Parker

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • Saturday, November 03, 2012 • Permalink