Why do rich people give their money away?


If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor …

Yes – Jesus did say that.

And that’s what the Giving Pledge folks joining Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet are doing.

But isn’t there more to being perfect that just giving lots of money to the poor?

In case you haven’t heard of the Giving Pledge – here’s the info from their web site Home Page –


I think this home page tells a lot.

It starts with the simple statement at the top of the page –

The Giving Pledge is a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

Well – it still starts with the statement below, but the chart is gone.  I was going to update it with a larger image – but I can’t.  The home page is now filled with pictures of the givers.  They can even be sorted by giving year – enabling us to see who gave first and who are the late comers to the party.  You’ll understand more about that comment below.

Philanthropy could include what we would generally call charity.  Could include.
We see the definition below at dictionary.com

  1. altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.
  2. the activity of donating to such persons or purposes in this way:
    to devote one’s later years to philanthropy.
  3. a particular act, form, or instance of this activity:
    The art museum was their favorite philanthropy
  4. an organization devoted to helping needy persons or to other socially useful purposes.

A number of the examples given above have nothing at all to do with charity.  Art Museums and “institutions of learning” especially could have very little to do with people who are in dire need of assistance.  Their needs are much more basic that looking at “fine art” and getting a college education from a prestigious / expensive university.

To be sure – I’m not saying they don’t do anything good.

What I am saying is that if this thing makes you feel like they’re somehow living out Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” – and they’re keeping Christmas like no person ever did.  
It’s time to wake up.

Although Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol – about “Christmas” – his religious views were far from what Jesus said in the Bible.

The following comes from The University of Santa Cruz’ Dickens Project

In all his writings, Charles Dickens—a Christian of the broadest kind—is outspoken in his dislike of evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism, but, especially in his fiction, he is very reluctant to make professions of a specific faith beyond the most general sort of Christianity. Nothing more surely aroused his suspicions about a person’s religious faith than a public profession of it, and this aversion formed a fundamental feature of his dislike of evangelicals and dissenters.

It was in these years too that Dickens first felt the need to impart some religious instruction to his children and, significantly, undertook to do this himself by writing a simplified version of the gospels designed for reading aloud (not published until 1934, when it was dubbed The Life of Our Lord). Given the intended audience, it is hardly fair to infer the specifics of Dickens’s faith from this slight work, which is in any case theologically rather inconsistent. But it is often taken as expressing a Unitarian outlook, and certainly what Dickens stresses is Christ as model, teacher, and healer—the comforter of the distressed rather than the saviour of mankind through the crucifixion and atonement.

In case you’re not familiar with what Unitarians believe – here’s something from Wikipedia on the topic

Unitarianism is historically a Christian theological movement named for the affirmation that God is one entity, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism, which defines God as three persons in one being.[1] Traditional Unitarians maintain that Jesus of Nazareth is in some sense the “son” of God (as all humans are children of the Creator), but that he is not the one God himself.[2] They may believe that he was inspired by God in his moral teachings and can thus be considered a savior,[3] but all Unitarians perceive Christ as human rather than a Deity.

No wonder Christ was never mentioned in this A Christmas Carol book about Christmas!
And no wonder a man – any man, not necessarily Scrooge – could keep Christmas better than anyone.  
Apparently Jesus wasn’t good enough to even compare to Scrooge.

So what?

You may be wondering – what’s this got to do with the Giving Pledge?

Well – I think quite a bit.

These people – however much good they want to do – appear to be making it more about them than anything else.

Look at the rest of that home page.
It has all their names on it.
And if you actually go to the page (here) you can hover the cursor over one of the name blocks – and see a picture of the person(s) named.
Click on the block – and you can read about that person.  For instance –

Paul Allen – co-founder of Microsoft, along with Bill Gates –
“By dedicating resources that can help some of the world’s most creative thinkers accelerate discovery, I hope to serve as a catalyst for progress — in large part by encouraging closer collaboration and challenging conventional thinking. When smart people work together with vision and determination, there is little we can’t accomplish.”

And if you want to learn more about them and what they’re doing – the FAQ and media links will get you more than enough information about how great these people and their activities are.

Let’s compare what we have so far with the quote from Jesus at the top –

If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

So far – so good.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor.   These folks have pledged to give away more than half of their fortunes – so they seem to be at least on the right track.

Well – at least their on the same track Scrooge was on.

To be sure – no matter the means by which the money was obtained – meaning no matter how ruthless they had to be to get that much money – these people are giving it away now.  And their is this thing in Christianity about forgiveness.

But let’s keep looking.

The thing about that quote from Jesus – it can be misleading.  It’s often used to give a message that isn’t what Jesus actually said, and certainly not what He meant.

Mt 19:16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life ?”
Mt 19:17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
Mt 19:18 “Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, “ ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’’”
Mt 19:20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Mt 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Mt 19:22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Mt 19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Mt 19:25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Mt 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Mt 19:27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Mt 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

Some would look at this and say there’s no way for a rich person to get into Heaven – because there’s no way a camel can go through the eye of a needle.  But that’s putting God in a box,  Of course a rich person can go to Heaven.  And I’m sure that some how – in some way that I can’t begin to imagine – God can also put a camel through the eye of a needle.  He is, after all, God.  Part of the reason for this thinking that rich people can’t go to Heaven – I believe – comes from a misquoting of this verse about money –

10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

It’s not that “money is the root of all evil”.
It’s that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

There’s a big difference there.

Others would look at it and say there’s nothing wrong with having money as long as you do some “nice” things with it.

Still others would look at it and say there’s no problem with money as long as you give it away.  (Or at least more than half of it.)

There’s one other thing to consider as well. Jesus talked about money frequently.  One of the things he said was about treasures in Heaven versus here on earth –

Treasures in Heaven

Mt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Mt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Between these two things, we see something important,  The relationship each of these people have with both God and money must be examined.

While they were getting all that money – did they have a good relationship with God?  Or was the money / the job / the power / whatever the driving force behind them?  As I said – there’s forgiveness if it wasn’t God.  However – looking at the example of the rich young man – we see that the relationship with God must take precedence over whatever the previous relationship was with the money / the job / the power / whatever.
If God wasn’t number one in their lives before, while they were amassing all that money – something needs to change.
If God isn’t number one in their lives as part of the Giving Pledge – they are not fulfilling what Jesus told the rich young man.

If the main thing about giving the money away is to preserve or even create a good legacy for themselves – then God isn’t number one.  The web site appearance tends to show that in fact – they are still number one – not God.  The description says nothing about God – but they do talk about how great these people were in life.  The names and images are all about them as well.

I researched at least the two people whose names are on this Pledge group – Gates and Buffet.

Here’s what I found –

Bill Gates –

“The moral systems of religion, I think, are super important. We’ve raised our kids in a religious way; they’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that’s kind of a religious belief. I mean, it’s at least a moral belief,” Gates says in an interview with Rolling Stone in the March 27 issue of the magazine.

When asked if he believed in God, he responded, “I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.”

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-religious-life-of-bill-gates-116296/#VfymXdCqchvTKdlO.99

Kind of a religious belief.  At least a moral belief. Don’t know what decision in life would be made differently because of a belief in God.
Wow.  It’s like it seems like he thought it would be a good idea to put God in there someplace – but the attempt failed miserably.

It reminds me of what C. S. Lewis wrote –

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – C.S. Lewis

You can’t believe in the Christian God and say what Bill Gates said.

 Warren Buffet

Buffett has quickly and efficiently handled inquiries into his religious beliefs, simply stating that he’s agnostic, even though he was raised Presbyterian. He has said:

The nice thing about an agnostic is you don’t think anybody is wrong.

As one of the world’s most successful investors and financiers, this isn’t a surprising take on religion. Good investors must understand very clearly if they don’t know something and face up to that. Leaps of faith and speculation often results in disaster.

Read more at http://hollowverse.com/warren-buffett/

No need to say anything about Buffet.  
He doesn’t believe in God. Period.

The Bottom Line (pun intended)

If you want to be perfect – don’t do what these guys do.

If you want to be perfect – do what Jesus said.

The Greatest Commandment

Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

And remember what Jesus told the rich young man –

If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

Which translates to – whatever is preventing you from following me – get rid of it in a fashion that follows the greatest commandments – and then spend the rest of forever with me.

Sounds like Words to live by. Forever.



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