This weekend my husband and I caught up with some good friends who are born-again Christians. The wife and I know each other from back when we were both fixtures at the clubs in our city’s entertainment district, so it was interesting to compare stories of how and why we changed our lives, and to hear their perspectives as Protestant Christians who go to an interdenominational church.
Lots of interesting stuff came of these conversations and I’ll probably do a couple more posts about the variety of topics we discussed, but there was one subject that we had some disconnect on that I wanted to run by you readers: does God want us to be prosperous?
Some background on that question: my husband have been pondering the question “how much is too much?” lately, asking ourselves what level of wealth we’d need to attain before we decided we had enough and started giving all additional income away to charity. If we had $500, 000 in an IRA? $1 million? What’s the number? [BTW, I should note that this is totally hypothetical — I’m not saying we are anywhere near this or that we think we might realistically face this situation. How we should spend our millions is not a problem we struggle with right now. :)]
As part of this discussion with our friends we posed a hypothetical question: if you won a massive lottery of $50 million tomorrow, how much would you keep? What would you buy? How much would you give to charity?
Our friends said that they would definitely give at least a 10% tithe, buy a nice house (around $300K — not a mansion), a fully-loaded luxury SUV, some jewelry, nice clothes, put a ton in savings for future generations, etc. When we asked if they’d feel guilty about driving a luxury SUV and wearing nice jewelry and setting their kids up to be “trust fund babies” they said no, that God wants our cups to runneth over, that we wants us to be prosperous.
That doesn’t sound right to me. I could very well be wrong (I don’t know what the Church teaches about this) but it just doesn’t resonate as true that God wants us to be financially prosperous. I could believe that he wants us to be prosperous in love or faith or something like that, or that he’s indifferent to wealth as long as you tithe and aren’t a slave to money, but it’s hard to believe that he wants everyone to be financially prosperous. If nothing else, it would mean that St. Francis of Assisi and many others like him were way off from God’s desire for their lives.
(Now, to be honest, if I win $50 million tomorrow I cannot promise that you won’t see me driving up to Mass in a fully-loaded Acura MDX…but I’d feel conflicted about it.) 🙂
Either way, the friendly debate we had about the subject made me really examine my relationship to money and my financial goals, and it made me realize that I could use more clarity about this area of my life. So I’m interested to hear what my readers have to say on this one. I have two sets of questions:
- Does God want us to be financially prosperous? What does the Catholic Church teach about this? I know that God didn’t hand down an inflation-adjusted number for the maximum net worth one family should have, but what are the guidelines?
- What would you do if you got $50 million tomorrow? (For simplicity, pretend that there are no taxes.) How much would you keep? How much would you set aside for your children to inherit? What would you buy? How much would you give away?
I’m out of time for posting right now but will give my answer to #2 in the comments later.
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