Monday, October 3, 2016

Giving . . . Until It Helps

One thing I like about social media – and admittedly there are things I don’t like – is what you can learn that doesn’t make headlines in traditional media. For instance, author J.K. Rowling (you’ve heard of her “Harry Potter” books, right?) is reported to have become the first billionaire to fall from the Forbes World’s Billionaires list – because of charitable giving.

Lots of rich folks have been deleted from the list simply because they no longer possessed a net worth of more than a billion bucks. But apparently, Rowling’s the first to be eliminated because she’s too generous. Seems that rather than being a free spender, she’s become a free giver.

The report said she offered a simple explanation: “You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.”

I don’t know about you, but this seems like the proverbial breath of fresh air. There are other mega-wealthy individuals known for their largesse, notably Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who donate huge percentages of their incomes to causes they support. And just because Rowling’s now been “downgraded” to the ranks of multi-millionaires doesn’t mean she’ll have to fret over becoming a ward of the state any time soon.

But in these days when we hear so much about the needs of the oppressed, the down-and-out and the disenfranchised, it’s refreshing to hear about someone who’s as interested in doing something about it as saying something about it.

I know virtually nothing about Rowling. (I may be one of the few people who’s never read a Harry Potter book, or viewed one of his movies for that matter.) So I don’t know what sorts of charitable causes she favors. But at least she’s acting on her convictions enough to become a member of the “I Used to Be a Billionaire” club.

Chances are, you’re not a billionaire. So it would be easy to offer the excuse, “Well, if I were a billionaire, I’d give a lot of it away, too!” But we’ve all heard of billionaires and millionaires that share a common attitude toward their money: “It’s mine, mine, mine!” It seems how much you have isn’t really the determinant of how generous you are.

Rowling was hardly the first to recognize a responsibility for using one’s resources to help others. Jesus Christ made this statement about 2,000 years ago: From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Luke 12:48).

Elsewhere, in preparing His disciples to go out on their first missionary foray, Jesus told them, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8).

So even if we’re not a Rowling and never will be, the underlying principle is worth considering. For example: How do you feel when the pastor starts talking about money during his sermon, teaching what the Bible says about financial stewardship? Or when you’re watching a PBS drama or seeing a video of “golden oldies” music, and they have the nerve to interrupt your enjoyment of the program by asking you to support the network?

Do you think, “Well, that preacher done stopped preachin’ and started meddlin’”? Do you feel resentful that they would ask for your money? Do you protectively reach for your wallet or purse, as if they were planning to snatch it away from you?

Yes, we all have needs – along with our share of wants. But if we have a car, a decent place to live, a computer and access to the Internet, we’re wealthier than most people around the world. So it’s not a question of whether we can give. The issue is, are we willing to give?

So while pondering the “moral responsibility” to give, perhaps it might be good also to consider the privilege we have of giving to assist those with needs we don’t have. We just might discover the reality of what Jesus asserted: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

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