Does God want us to be prosperous?

January 22, 2007 | 37 comments

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.


  1. Martin

    In one of the Papal encyclicals, QUADRAGESIMO ANNO, Pope Pius XI discusses the reconstruction of the social order and what duties the wealthy have. I think it could be best summarized, “To those in which much has been given, much is expected”. The Church isn’t so much against people having or acquiring wealth … it’s a matter of how people have acquired it and how they use it.

    An excerpt:
    50. Furthermore, a person’s superfluous income, that is, income which he does not need to sustain life fittingly and with dignity, is not left wholly to his own free determination. Rather the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church constantly declare in the most explicit language that the rich are bound by a very grave precept to practice almsgiving, beneficence, and munificence.

  2. Martin

    Oh … I found another excerpt from a papal encyclical. Rerum Novarum On Capital and Labor by Pope Leo XIII:

    22. Therefore, those whom fortune favors are warned that riches do not bring freedom from sorrow and are of no avail for eternal happiness, but rather are obstacles;[9] that the rich should tremble at the threatenings of Jesus Christ — threatenings so unwonted in the mouth of our Lord[10] — and that a most strict account must be given to the Supreme Judge for all we possess. The chief and most excellent rule for the right use of money is one the heathen philosophers hinted at, but which the Church has traced out clearly, and has not only made known to men’s minds, but has impressed upon their lives. It rests on the principle that it is one thing to have a right to the possession of money and another to have a right to use money as one ills. Private ownership, as we have seen, is the natural right of man, and to exercise that right, especially as members of society, is not only lawful, but absolutely necessary. “It is lawful,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “for a man to hold private property; and it is also necessary for the carrying on of human existence.”[11] But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used? — the Church replies without hesitation in he words of the same holy Doctor: “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need. Whence the apostle saith, ‘Command the rich of this world . . to offer with no stint, to apportion largely’.”[12] True, no one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, “for no one ought to live other than becomingly.”[13] But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. “Of that which remaineth, give alms.”[14] It is duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity — a duty not enforced by human law. But the laws and judgments of men must yield place to the laws and judgments of Christ the true God, who in many ways urges on His followers the practice of almsgiving — “It is more blessed to give than to receive”;[15] and who will count a kindness done or refused to the poor as done or refused to Himself — “As long as you did it to one of My least brethren you did it to Me.”[16] To sum up, then, what has been said: Whoever has received from the divine bounty a large share of temporal blessings, whether they be external and material, or gifts of the mind, has received them for the purpose of using them for the perfecting of his own nature, and, at the same time, that he may employ them, as the steward of God’s providence, for the benefit of others. “He that hath a talent,” said St. Gregory the Great, “let him see that he hide it not; he that hath abundance, let him quicken himself to mercy and generosity; he that hath art and skill, let him do his best to share the use and the utility hereof with his neighbor.”[17]

  3. Patrick

    A very interesting question. Scripture tells is that the love of money is evil. Not the money itself, but the love of it. So I don’t think being wealthy per se is bad. It depends how you get wealthy and what you do with it.

    One thing that many people forget is that you can keep your money, invest it wisely and still help others. For example, your deposits in the bank allow the bank to make loans to people who start businesses, which then provide jobs for others. Certainly there is a place for outright charity, but it’s not the only way to help the poor.

    Your friend’s attitude is common among evangelicals. There used to be this whole “name it and claim it” school of thought that God would give us whatever we wanted if we just asked and had enough faith. Jimmy Swaggart was one of the leading proponents. Joel Osteen is of a similar view today. I don’t buy it, and I don’t think the Catholic church does either though I can’t point to specific doctrines.

  4. lyrl

    A line of theology I find interesting is that humans were designed by God in such a way as to express God’s desires for us. People who pray live longer, healthier lives – God must want us to pray. People who forgive easily live longer, healthier lives – God must want us to be forgiving. People who give to charity live longer, healthier, lives – God must want us to be charitable. Etc. (I wish I could link to these studies, but a quick Google search didn’t turn up any, so you’ll just have to take my word that I’ve really read studies correlating these things, although I realize correlation does not necessarily equal causation.)

    But beyond being charitable being good for people, I believe money (much beyond food, shelter, and security) actually makes people unhappy. I’m working my way through The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, and he makes a good case for the exact mechanisms through which beyond-needs wealth (and living in a wealthy society) not just fails to increase happiness, but actually makes people unhappy.

    Not that I live out my ideals – my husband and I are currently giving only 3% of our income to charity, and we certainly have our share of unneccesary material possesions. But living simply and charitably is a goal I work toward, and I believe it improves my life.

    No idea what the official Catholic position is on this (if there is one – there seem to be some areas the Church has not come to an official conclusion in), but that’s my take. Um, what would we do if one of us won $50 million tomorrow? Pay off our current house, buy farmland and build a new house, and argue about what to do with the rest (my husband doesn’t plan on having children, so that might not be an issue – or, it could be something else to argue about). Probably a significant chunk would go to charity, but how significant I don’t think I could predict in advance.

  5. SteveG

    Great quotes Martin! I almost immediately wondered what Rerum Novarum had to say about this and wham! There it is. Thanks!

    I am not sure how extreme your friends particular belief is, but this smack an awful lot of what is known as the ‘health and wealth’ gospel. It’s basically the belief that if we have enough faith then health, wealth and prosperity are ours as the elect of God.

    Not only is it flat out wrong by almost any historical scriptural, or traditional understanding of Christianity, but the flip side of it is downright ugly. The flip side being that those who do not manifest the blessings of this life (health and wealth) are at fault in that they are lacking in faith.

    I saw this up close and personal when I was younger and my family had largely become evangelicals. It has an alluring façade, but it aint pretty underneath for those who don’t have the right kind, or enough faith to claim the blessings of prosperity.

    I was about to write a long post about this, but then recalled an article by Paul Thigpen where he addresses this very well.

    The article is called Jesus Wore Designer Underwear…And other odd notions of the Health and Wealth Gospel. It’s a wonderful article and well worth the long read.

  6. Mike J

    > Does God want us to be financially prosperous? < I’ve seen plenty “prosperity doctrine” in my day. It falls apart for the following reason:
    -The scriptures give no indication that God wants us to be wealthy
    -That Scripture speaks specifically against desiring to be rich: 1 Timothy 6:9 “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”
    -That the rich people in the Bible are often miserable (Solomon, the rich young man).
    -That no apostle was rich.
    -That most saints were not rich, and those who were usually gave away their money.

    Nope. “God wants us to be rich.” is just one more of the errors that arise from the desire to make one’s faith say and teach what one wants to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”)

    > What does the Catholic Church teach about this? … what are the guidelines? < That’s been covered very well by Martin. > 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? < There have been a number of studies of lottery winners. Over 80% of them are ruined by the money. The difference between the >80% and the <20% is whether or not they worked out a careful, thoughtful plan for the money. I don't expect to win a lottery, but if I did:
    -I would work out an investment portfolio that gives a dependable rate of return. (Let’s say that I can only get a dependable 5% per anum. That’s $2.5 million a year. Now I pay about 40% tax on it. That leaves me with $1.5 million per year.)
    -I would pay off my house and car. I would establish the amount needed to live for a year. (Let’s say it was $50,000.) I would subtract that amount from $1.5 million. I would give the rest away. To whom?
    -Probably a chunk to the O church. The rest, I’d like to simply look for people in dire circumstances (lost job, lost breadwinner, medical disaster, etc.) and help them in so far as money can do so.

    • Jon

      It is convenient that you mention all of the places that WHEN MISINTERPRETED tell us not to become wealthy, but you include none of the many that tell us that God wants us to be prosperous. I will not get into that at this point, but I ask you this. Which statement is more charitable in your mind:

      1. I only want enough for me. or
      2. I want enough to bless anyone at any time without worrying about the consequences.

      Which do you think is more beneficial to more people:
      1. Going through life living on only what you need and giving the rest away. or
      2. Going through life giving the 10% tithe that we are to give and the additional offerings that we are led to give through listening to the Holy Spirit in us, but saving and investing over time so that your tithe is continually getting larger and you are able to also provide more generous offerings.

      Personally, I have given no less than 10% my whole life. At times I did not eat because it would have tapped into my tithe, and at times I gave more. Almost 20 years ago, I was able to increase that minimum to 20%, and still give offerings above and beyond when moved to by the Holy Spirit. Because of those investments I am able to give many multiples of what the average salary in this country is. Because of those investments, I have started 26 businesses and sold 19 of them (still thriving) and run 7 of them. Those 26 businesses today employ over 2100 employees and generate payroll of over $150 Million annually.

      Now I ask you, should I have kept only what I needed and given the rest away? I would have given less over my life than I give away in a year today.

  7. Anonymous

    Winning the lottery is one of my favorite fantasies. Spending it presents no challenges either.

    First, I would settle enough on each of my siblings to enable them to live as comfortably as I.

    Then, I would found a no-kill pet retirement shelter to take in pets from the terminally ill and the elderly who have to go into rest homes that won’t allow them to bring pets. (I got this idea while living in Massachusetts. One day the Globe interviewed a man who was dying of AIDS. He had outlived his partner and their friends and yet, was chiefly worried about his cat, since he had so little time left. That broke my heart.)

    Then, lots of scholarships at my university. We have a mostly non-trad student body– working adults and a high percentage of minority students who are the first in their families to go to college and it is usually tough o them financially. And it would be cool to enable the working adults to be able to afford to cut back their hours and devote more time to getting that certification or degree they are seeking.

    Finally, lots and lots of help for the working poor. Not that I would refuse to help the poor poor but the working poor fall through every crack there is. My stepmother works for a state welfare agency and turns away really desperate people virtually every day– usually widows because there are no programs to help them. The stories she has told me over the years make my blood boil.

    Could I please win another 50 million?

  8. Anonymous

    Oops, Anonymous is really Colleen.

  9. lyrl

    …you can keep your money, invest it wisely and still help others. For example, your deposits in the bank allow the bank to make loans to people who start businesses, which then provide jobs for others. Certainly there is a place for outright charity, but it’s not the only way to help the poor.

    To me, this sounds like trickle-down economics. I believe the widening gap between rich and poor in America is evidence it doesn’t work.

  10. Mike J


    > this sounds like trickle-down economics. < More or less, that’s what it is. > I believe the widening gap between rich and poor in America is evidence it doesn’t work. < How silly. The gap, while a favorite harping point for many, is meaningless. All it means is that the numerical difference between the richest person in the country and the “poverty line” is increasing. But that is a meaningless number. The meaningful data are those that describe the number of “poor” and the conditions of those poor. Unemployment numbers also figure in there.

  11. Christine

    Well, trickle-down aside (because I don’t want to get into that, as it’s another issue altogether), I do like to play that lottery fantasy, too. (Also, Martin did a much better job of explaining things on the theological scale.)

    When we fantasize, after paying off our debts, we pay off our families’ debts. Then we pay off our parish’s debts. (This past weekend, we were happy to hear that a parishioner died and left our parish a considerable sum of money, which was applied to our debt. It was HUGE, and Hubby and I both said the same thing. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that when we die?)

    Once the parish debts are paid off (and, going with our current parish, we buy stained glass windows and statues galore), we put aside large chunks for the children so that they can go to any college they so choose. Invest a bunch so we can live off the interest.

    Oh, and we get new cars and a farmhouse with some acrage. I’m thinking of a house with tons of room for the children we’d start adopting. And somewhere near ten acres so that there’s room for playing and the dogs. We’d definitely get a Lab and a German Shepherd. (Be sure to tell Hubby I put HIS dog first there, okay?)

    And for cars, well… we’d be adopting, so we’ll need something big to cart all the kids in. I’m thinking of a Suburban. yeah…

    And Hubby needs something to be zippy in. Seriously. I think I’d just have to buy him a BMW. I know. Sounds materialistic. But it’s my fantasy.

    Oh, and I get a Viper for my own “zip-around-without-the-kids” times. Which is probably just Moms’ Night Out once a month.


  12. Christine

    Hey, did I mention that we’d donate large chunks to other charities? We do have some favorites. Mostly Catholic sorts, but also organizations like St. Jude’s Hospitals (no embryonic stem cells) and the like.

    But the adoptions would be one of the first things we’d do after paying off all kinds of things.

  13. Anonymous

    Well … you have been given copious references above. The “Gospel of Wealth” is not a Catholic concept. I can’t quote you chapter and verse, but I know my Bible, so allow me to point out that Jesus never promised or even encouraged prosperity. He actually promised that we would have trouble in this life. He commanded us to take up our cross and follow him. He asked several people specifically to give up their wealth for his sake — the rich young man, the disciples sent out two by two without even an extra cloak. How do the evangys reconcile Christ’s direct words with their “Gospel of Wealth?” I never figured that one out.

  14. Entropy

    Good questions. I agree with previous commentors, it’s the *love* of the money. If you have a ton of it but you don’t care if you lose it because you’re not attached to it, then it’s probably ok. The problem is, rarely is anyone not attached to it once they get it! God knows that; that’s why He has warned us!
    I love the lottery fantasy too (who doesn’t?!). Fancy cars and jewelry aren’t really my thing but I would want a good running van to haul the kids around in! We’d buy land and build a house and pay off our families debts and give give give. That’s the best part about having money anyway. Although I think it’d be easier to give away because it was easy come so therefore easy go…but what if you had worked your way up to making a good sum every year? We don’t bring home all that much but it has increased a little over the last 5 years. We’ve noticed that our expenses have increased with them (more kids!) but also what we get used to spending. Our comfort level has increased. We used to not be able to go out to eat ever and now we can every once in a while–does that keep happening the more you make and so you don’t ever have more to give away? Or as much as you might?

  15. SteveK

    1) Prosperity Gospel = garbage

    2) What would I do with $50 million?

    I’d have the time of my life giving most of it away. Of course, I’d pay off the mortgage and set some aside for my family/children. After that I’d spend the rest of my life slowly giving it away to those in need.

    Why give it away slowly and not all at once? Because it would practically ensure that me, my family and those closest to me will live the rest of our lives “doing for others” instead of doing for ourselves. If I wrote a huge check and got it over with quickly I’m afraid I would slide back into a “me, me, me” lifestyle that would stall or reverse the transformation process.

  16. Kasia

    SteveK said just about exactly what I was going to (including the bit about the PG being garbage). 🙂

    I have a good friend who’s very into the “prosperity message” – she and I have strong but respectful disagreements about it. As to the Church’s teaching, all I can add is that on the first day of RCIA, the priest got up and told us that there is no such thing as the Prosperity Gospel; that it’s not consistent with Scripture; and that if we became Christian (or, more specifically, Catholic) that we should prepare ourselves to carry our crosses.

    I’ve also heard that the PG is based off Old Testament precepts, and that that’s one reason Jesus’ teaching was so hard for people at the time. When the rich young man goes away sad, and Jesus tells his followers that it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the disciples are stunned and say ‘Who then can be saved?’ Because (according to my source, who is an ordained deacon and an apologist) according to the Old Covenant, prosperity was a sign of God’s favor, so a wealthy man was considered most likely to go to heaven. Dunno…makes a certain amount of sense though.

  17. lyrl

    In response to the bit about Prosperity being based on Old Testament – the subject of “does God want you to be wealthy” came up at Bible study at my synagogue a couple of weeks ago. The Rabbi’s firm belief was that if God has blessed you, that means you’re supposed to bless other people, and that hoarding all the blessings to yourself is wrong. The is Reform Judaism, so I can’t speak positively for the Conservative and Orthodox branches, but I’ve read a fair amount about Jewish beliefs and have never come across anything like the Pentecostal Prosperity stuff.

  18. Anonymous

    I’ll leave the first question alone, as it’s been answered very well.

    I would probably take an entire year off from grad school and use that time to pass out the money. I would pay off family debts, give each of my siblings, parents, and grandparents a million to do as they wished and cut the line there. I don’t want uncles, cousins, second cousins I’ve met once in my life coming up for this. 1 million in the bank will provide a retirement, plus college for however many kids I end up with, and more. That leaves, say, 40 million.

    I don’t believe that you can throw money at problems to solve them. If I gave 40 million to my parish, I’m sure much would be wasted, and not by anyone’s fault. What can one parish do with so much money? Even after the parish debt is paid, and such, its such an excess amount. I would look to the less fortunate. We, Catholics, have missions in Africa that wouldn’t know what to do with a few thousand dollars! I couldn’t throw a million at them. It would probably hurt them in the long run, but I certainly would throw as much as they could realistically use.

    That’s where I think it counts. How much can your target organization really use? Sure AIDS research could use all of it, but there’s no lack of funding there already.

    I would love to hire someone to help me donate the 40 Mil, globally, in small quantities. If I gave 10k to each mission/orphanage/etc globally, I could seriously help FOUR THOUSAND such places.

    For reference, that could be 10,000$USD to EVERY SINGLE church/school/mission in the entire continent of Africa, with some monies left over, yes that’s an actual researched figure.

    Money belongs where it can do the most good.

  19. Anna

    If we won $50 million the first thing my husband and I would do would be to pay off of our debts. Then we would figure out how much we would need to live on for the rest of our lives and put that aside. My husband would then found a Museum. He has discovered that Toronto doesn’t have a museum of local history and he would like to do something about that. The Museum would also have a large section devoted to the railroad.

    We would pay off of the debts of the rest of my family members and establish the education fund my Mom wants for her decendents. We would buy a house and a minivan (no gas guzzling SUVs for me). And then we would research charities to decide what to do with the rest. Of cours the amount we put aside to live on would include a very generous contribution to the collection plate every week.


  20. Colleen

    One thing I have wondered about is how good an idea it would be to give the local church a huge chunk of the cash. Could that lead others to stop giving– either because they felt the church didn’t need it or felt that their efforts were paltry? I would be inclined to find a different way –perhaps give the usual based on my salary but pay off any church debts, guarantee the budget and set up an endowment.

    I just wish I really had the problem!

  21. Ersza

    We all have our place in the body of christ. Some are meant to be wealthy, and some are not. I think most of us wish and hope that we are called to wealth, but the responsibility is incredible, and the temptations great.

    Yes, I would feel funny wearing expensive jewelry or driving an unnecessarily expensive car. Although I am not wealthy, I never fantasize about winning the lottery anymore. I didn’t realize it until I read your question. I thought about it, and I think the reason is that I am living the life God has called me to, and although I sometimes can’t have what I want because of financial restraints, to be honest, I have most of what I want. I am so lucky. The things I yearn for are things that money can’t buy, like health and happiness for loved ones, and end to violence and war in the world, to be blessed with a child again, to increase the perfection of my soul…

    I’ve always thought I’d be interested in philanthropy if I were wealthy. Something to help young mothers, especially unwed. But, like I said, I’m thankful to be living a middle class lifestyle in the richest country in the world.

  22. Milehimama

    In addition to the comments on the “health and wealth” Gospel, which is almost all of Trinity Broadcasting Networks programming, I would like to add this:
    God does want us to prosper. But, we define “prosperous” with dollar signs. He defines it by Fruits of the Spirit.

    What I would do with 50 million? First, buy a car large enough for 9 people. And a home of our own, with some mountainous type land for boy wandering. Yes, I have “Timmy and Lassie” dreams of boys having decent fun in the woods and coming home to a mom who’s well rested and beautifully dressed, since she didn’t spend all day keeping Boy out of trouble! 😉

    My dream is to start a housing community for single women who have children but are trying to turn their lives around (whether from poverty, drugs, alcohol, whatever.) There would be a quality daycare on site, they would never have to worry about who was caring for their children or have to choose between leaving their kid in the car or losing their job. Also, it would be a reform program, and a requirement for them to learn a trade or job skill, and also basic home management – mothering, homemaking, cooking, budgeting, etc. I also want to do something in real estate providing houses with 3 or more bedrooms to big families with small incomes – at least SAFE, clean not run down rental homes.

    And maybe buy a stand mixer instead of my handheld one! 🙂

    Mama Says

  23. Kiwi Nomad 2006

    Thinking that Jesus wants you to be prosperous seems to be tied in with controlling a lot of your own lives. I wonder how people with this “Jesus wants me to be rich” kind of world-view cope when they are faced with unforeseeable tragedy in their lives, where things simply do not go as they would wish. Does it destroy their faith?

  24. Renee

    I think we relate wealth with stuff. In the legal field, the professional associations always remind lawyers that we should practice law because we like it, not to support a lifestyle. If you work to support your lifestyle, you’ll become a slave to working.

    God wants us to do well, including financially. But we shouldn’t see money as the ultimate goal, when we do work. Money is definitely the incentive, because we can support ourselves and help others.

    I’ve knew older lawyers in their early 60’s, who couldn’t afford to retire and work for the pro-bono because of their lifestyle. Even if I didn’t win the lottery, it is our goal to pay off our debts ASAP and not recreate them even if it means living quite poorly, because once we have no mortgage we don’t have to worry about being a slave to working.

  25. Tracy

    It is not that God wants us to be rich or to be poor, he wants us to be holy. How many people can be holy and be wealthy? Jesus said Himself it is very, very difficult. There are temptations in being poor as well, envy, greed and despair can effect rich and poor alike.

    As far as 50 million? I would pay off our debt (house included) and save 6 mo. living expenses and give the rest away. I am no where near holy enough to take on the responsibilty that wealthy. I am not doing so hot where we are now for that matter 😉

    I think the ‘prosperity gospel’ is so sad and it is enslaving millions of Americans.

  26. Anna

    I would rather win 50,000 rather than 50 Million. 50 thousand would enable us to pay off of our debts (mostly student loans) but otherwise wouldn’t change our lifestyle. Although we might use some of it to take a nice vacation as well.


  27. Jennifer F.

    OK, I finally have a free second to give my answer:

    – I would pay off all our debts, house, family’s debts and houses, etc.

    – Get a car big enough for a large family.

    – I would give my diocese enough money to build another beautiful church. I think that modern society underestimates the value of having a place of worship be visually breathtaking. When I was an atheist my fondest (perhaps my only positive) memories of being in a church were when I’d step into one of the grand cathedrals of Mexico. I just wanted to sit in there all day. I remember sitting in a huge, 17th-century candle-lit cathedral in Mexico City and thinking, “There’s really something going on here.” I felt something very powerful there. For that reason, I have a special place in my heart for grand, beautiful churches. (Carl Oslon touches on that in this post).

    – I would set aside enough money that we could live a modest lifestyle without my husband needing his regular job.

    – Make a large donation to our parish and the diocese.

    – My husband and I would then take the rest of the money and start our own foundation, putting the rest of the money in trust for the foundation’s use. His new full-time job would be researching which charities need the money most and would use it most efficiently, and perhaps starting our own charities in areas where there’s need. Per some of the other comments, I don’t think it would be a great idea to drop a couple million on a charity that has no plan for what they’d do with that amount of money. That’s why it would be great to just have your full-time job be carefully analyzing what the best use of the money would be to make sure that the most people are helped.

    Anyway, that’s my little fantasy. 🙂

    Also, I loved Tracy’s comment. She really put words to what I was thinking: “It is not that God wants us to be rich or to be poor, he wants us to be holy. How many people can be holy and be wealthy? Jesus said Himself it is very, very difficult…I am no where near holy enough to take on the responsibility that wealthy.”

    Great point. It’s not that nobody could ever be rich and be holy, just that it’s very difficult, and almost definitely not something *I* could do. Luckily I’m not faced with that challenge. 🙂

  28. GLouise

    Great questions.

    I am probably someone who falls into the category of being an “evangelical Christian.” And those who believe in the “health and wealth” gospel make me very sad and angry. Because that isn’t the gospel at all. I think those who preach this message will have much to say to the Lord one day, because they are preaching a false gospel.

    That health and wealth “gospel” does not hold up outside of America either.

    What about the persecuted church in China? They are certainly not prosperous in an earthly sense, but imagine the riches they are storing up in heaven!

  29. Jennifer F.

    Oh! I just remembered a big part of my answer to the $50 million question, and one that I’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts on:

    I would keep enough money to pay for my children’s educations, and perhaps a little nest egg that would become about $30,000 when they were in their 20’s (e.g. enough for a down payment on a house), but we would *not* leave our kids millions.

    My husband and I have known quite a few kids who were “trust fund babies”, who didn’t ever need to work because of their huge trust funds, and not a single one of them was made happy or fulfilled by their money. In fact, it almost always seemed to make them miserable.

    This was one of the things we disagreed with our friends about. They would definitely leave millions to their kids and thought it was a great idea. I feel pretty strongly that it’s just asking for trouble, especially when you get to the third generation of wealthy kids.


  30. tithe and offering defender

    God sees us as already rich. we are his sons. giving with our tithe and offerings do not guarantee riches, but happiness and joy. that is the blessing we will receive.

  31. melanie b

    Mother Teresa told a story about a rich Hindu woman who wanted to help with her work. The woman had a weakness for elegant saris. She wore one that cost 800 rupees, it cost 100 times the one that Mother wore.

    Mother counseled her that the next time she bought a sari she should get one for 500 rupees and use the rest of the money to buy saris for the poor. Eventually the woman worked her way down to wearing 100 rupee saris; but Mother Teresa asked her not to buy cheaper ones.

    I thought that was curious. The lesson for the woman wasn’t that she should give up buying nice clothes and look shabby. She did look nice, still wearing a very expensive sari; but she was much happier sharing her excess wealth with those less fortunate.

  32. melanie b

    Mother Teresa told a story about a rich Hindu woman who wanted to help with her work. The woman had a weakness for elegant saris. She wore one that cost 800 rupees, it cost 100 times the one that Mother wore.

    Mother counseled her that the next time she bought a sari she should get one for 500 rupees and use the rest of the money to buy saris for the poor. Eventually the woman worked her way down to wearing 100 rupee saris; but Mother Teresa asked her not to buy cheaper ones.

    I thought that was curious. The lesson for the woman wasn’t that she should give up buying nice clothes and look shabby. She did look nice, still wearing a very expensive sari; but she was much happier sharing her excess wealth with those less fortunate.

  33. melanie b

    Mother Teresa told a story about a rich Hindu woman who wanted to help with her work. The woman had a weakness for elegant saris. She wore one that cost 800 rupees, it cost 100 times the one that Mother wore.

    Mother counseled her that the next time she bought a sari she should get one for 500 rupees and use the rest of the money to buy saris for the poor. Eventually the woman worked her way down to wearing 100 rupee saris; but Mother Teresa asked her not to buy cheaper ones.

    I thought that was curious. The lesson for the woman wasn’t that she should give up buying nice clothes and look shabby. She did look nice, still wearing a very expensive sari; but she was much happier sharing her excess wealth with those less fortunate.

  34. melanie b

    I’m so sorry about the multiple postings. How obnoxious.

    It looked like the post wasn’t going through. It kept asking me for the word verification again as if I’d entered it wrong. Next time, I’ll wait longer to see if it does go through.

  35. Augustine

    OK, this is late and probably won’t get put up, but honestly, this is my answer.

    Two years ago, I would have said I would give 10% to the Church, 10% to other charities and use the remainder to set up a Venture Capital Fund to help promising young businesses raise the capital to become stable young business that bring about great new jobs and services to the world.

    A year ago, I would have said I would give 10% to the Church, 10% to other charities, take 50% and divide it into trust funds for my siblings (I have 10) and their families, take about 20% and use it to help friends through work and Church deal with their issues and use the remaining 10% (properly invested) to support myself while I became a teacher (in a Catholic School).

    Now (and you may not believe me), I would take about $100K to eliminate my student loans and other outstanding indebtedness. I would take about $1 million to give to my siblings to help them eliminate their indebtedness. I would use whatever was necessary to pay off every student loan of every person I know.

    Whatever was left I would give to various parts of the Church, different orders, vocation offices (especially to Dioceses like Lincoln Nebraska and Arlington Virginia). Money to the Sisters of Charity, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, my parish now and the one I used to attend, a couple of good, solid Catholic schools, etc.

    When all was said and done, the $50 million would be gone and I wouldn’t have much to show for it.

    Of course, in the last two years, I have learned that I really don’t need much!

  36. R.C.

    Somewhat humorously, and somewhat seriously…here’s the Christian Math Geek’s “safe” approach to high income:

    (a.) Get statistics about how your income compares to the income of everybody else within a 50, 500, and 5000 mile radius;

    (b.) For each radius, calculate the percentile of income you’re in; i.e., what percentage of the folks in each radius have lower incomes than you. If you’re 99th percentile, your income is higher than nearly anyone else’s; if you’re in the 20th percentile, your income is less than that of all but the lowest fifth of the folks in that radius;

    (c.) Take the three “radius percentiles,” add them together, and divide by three. (I.e., take the average.) Now you’ve got your “average income percentile”;

    (d.) Take your “average income percentile” and divide it by two. Whatever the resulting number is, find a way to give away that percentage of your income, annually, to the church, to charities, humanitarian aid organizations, relief organizations, et cetera.

    Example: You’re Joe Blow, living in a town where most people are better off than you, but in a state where most people are about the same, and in the United States, which is better off than most areas outside its borders. Your 50-mile percentile is 20% (most people are better off than you, locally), your 500-mile percentile is 40% (you’re about normal for your state), and as an American, you’ve an income that surpasses that of 60% of the folks within 5,000 miles of you.

    So you add 20+40+60, and divide by 3, producing an average percentile of 40.

    Then you divide that by two, getting 20%.

    There you have it. You’re safe (whatever that means) if you’re giving away 20% of your income to charitable organizations, the church, et cetera.

    On the other hand, if you’re Bill Gates, then your “radius” percentiles are going to be 99%, 99%, and 99%. Your average is 99%, and the percent of your income you should be donating is an easy 50%.

    And if you’re living in the Sudan on practically nothing, then, 0.5% is your moral obligation, so to speak.

    There. Now every math geek in the world can figure out whether he/she is a greedy sod or a generous soul. Enjoy!

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