By now we have all heard about the great billionaire giveaway. Warren Buffett, who has already committed to give away 99 percent of his $47 billion fortune, and his friend and fellow billionaire Bill Gates, have begun to call the Forbes 400 richest list to ask each of them to also commit to donate more than 50 percent of their wealth. To date, at least 40 billionaires have signed the pledge.
I applaud this admirable, albeit not always successful, initiative. Warren Buffett, in a recent Financial Times article, shared tidbits of some of the less fruitful conversations. “Sometimes they’re just trying to get you off the phone. A few people had dynastic ideas about wealth because they had inherited their wealth themselves. And then there were others who said they had a plane to catch.”
Before we are too quick to criticize those who rebuffed Mr. Buffett’s request, we might do well to ponder how we would respond if Messrs’ Gates or Buffett asked us to do the same. I can assure you that in a world where more than one billion of the earth’s current inhabitants subsist on less than a dollar a day, God considers all who read this to be of wealth and abundance. Would we act in the same manner as the widow and her two mites or would we be less than polite in our response?
It is useful for each of us to thoughtfully ponder how we view our own wealth and material goods. Society would have us believe that we “own” our wealth; that we are entitled to spend our assets however we see fit, that it is only out of the goodness of our hearts that we even think of sharing with those less fortunate. However, the Bible offers a different ethical dynamic and expectation.
The Old Testament is filled with episodes of God showering bounty on His people, much like He continues to do to the Gates and the Buffetts of the world, as well as to you and me. But God makes it clear that these blessings are intended for the whole community, not for just an individual. It was unimaginable that a single person would hoard his goods and enjoy them in isolation from other members of the community. The Bible is clear in its message that our material blessings are meant to be shared. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.
Each of us is endowed with a multitude of gifts. Along with them comes these rather ominous words from Jesus, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48). The bottom line question for each of us is, “How can we best use our wealth as an act of worship to God and actions of service to others?”
We at Lutheran Social Services are blessed to work daily with role models who understand that their good fortune is intended for the whole community. I think especially of our good friends Mildred and Lawrence Lieder who regularly remind my colleague David Kahle and me, “This isn’t our money we are donating to LSS, this is God’s money. Don’t thank us, thank God!”
When Warren Buffett, LSS, your congregation, or neighbor in need calls, it is my prayer that you will be generous in your response. Not because you have to but because you want to – as an act of worship and service to our Lord and Savior.