We were riding home from school, my two kids and me, when 14-year-old Matthew suddenly deviated from talking about Ferraris and Lamborghinis and asked,
“Dad, what would you do if you had five billion dollars?”
Before I could even stop and think, I heard the words come out of my mouth:
“I’d feed a lot of hungry people. I’d make sure that a lot of poor people got medical care. Africa would look a whole lot different.”
“Really?” Matthew said. “I mean … five billion dollars. Wouldn’t you keep some of it for yourself?”
“I have everything I need. I don’t have so much money that I think I can do everything for myself and not need God. And I figure, if you have that kind of money and don’t do some good with it in the world, what’s the point in having it?”
He seemed to consider it.
“You wouldn’t even get that sky-blue 2000 Thunderbird?” (He knows I lust after the metal when it comes to that kind of car. Or a pre-1997 British racing-green Miata. Or a really expertly-assembled classic hand-made Lotus Seven.)
“Okay, I might get the T-bird.”
Matt seemed relieved. Dad was human after all.
I wasn’t relieved.
Why would I have to keep any of it for myself?
Isn’t that what Ananias and Sapphira did? (Then lied about it?)
I don’t know why that answer came out, to the five-billion-dollar question. Maybe because I’ve been thinking more and more about kenosis while fasting from soft drinks during Lent. I haven’t been doing very much about kenosis in my life, other than drinking water, and as a result, I’ve been feeling … empty, rather than full. Parasitical, rather than generous. Greedy, instead of blessed.
The whole idea of five billion dollars is just so huge that all I could think about was having to deal with financial advisers and people begging for money and taxes and nuisance. When the amount is unrealistic, you can be generous.
But what about when the amount is five hundred bucks? I could scrape that together and do a lot of good with it for someone who wouldn’t make that much in a year. That might dig a well in a third-world village that doesn’t have one. What about fifty? It might buy medicine for someone who doesn’t have it. Or five? Several cups of cold water – and maybe even some food.
Yet I can burn through fifty pretty fast, hardly thinking about it where it’s going, what it’s buying and whether it’s glorifying God … or me.
Why is that?