The Five Billion Dollar Question

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?

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3 thoughts on “The Five Billion Dollar Question

  1. You are so right we have been taught to do big things, and if we can’t do big things we just don’t do anything. Why? well what little I can do won’t help anyone. We don’t have to go to Africa to find people in need. I believe if you were to look around Little Rock you could find a place for that fifty bucks to do more good than at walmart. We need to tell our children, most of us will never have “5 billion” but we will all have a chance to help others. The old “Teach a man to fish thing” or the woman and her penny. we all have something sombody needs.

  2. Why is that?Reality is a lot harder to deal with than “what if”….there are so many things I could do “if only”.What stops me from doing what I can with what I have? Thanks, I needed this reminder.

  3. Most convicting words I’ve read in a post all year long. I’ve long since thought about how we have to be faithful in the little things (giving an elderly lady a ride to church) in order for God to entrust us with the big things (any large ministry). Your example nudged me to kick my own thoughts into financial areas as well. I’d do something Godly with 1 million dollars. But give me a thousand and I’ll pay extra on my mortgage. But then, if I had a million, would I really do something noble with <>every penny<>?It’s easy to say your life belongs to Christ, that you die daily, but far harder to live that way.

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