The Gospel verse used by the President during his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48) is certainly very powerful. While the President was using the verse to promote his agenda of higher taxes, the verse can mean far more than he intended.
Indeed those who have great gifts and therefore are able to make large amounts of money should give a good portion of it to those who have had bad fortune. It is good for their spirits and aids society by providing a critical safety net against bad fortune. For example, if your neighbor’s house is wiped out by a tornado, things can be brought back to “normal” much more quickly if everyone who is untouched helps with the cleanup and helps provide shelter and assistance to those who were affected until they get back on their feet. The next time it could also very well be your house.
I believe – but don’t pretend to know – that the author of that verse was not meaning that taxes should be higher. The argument that raising taxes is needed to give money to the poor falls flat when one considers that most of the money the government collects goes to the rich and the middle class, not the poor. Money taken through taxes is also not really given, but confiscated, depriving the giver of the critical spiritual gift that money given freely provides.
Instead I believe it speaks to the need to use the gifts that are given to us. Some individual with mediocre levels of intelligence go on to create large companies that provide needed goods and services for millions of people. In fact, Thomas Stanley’s book, The Millionaire Next Door, found that intelligence or academic grades was not a strong trait shared by those he found became wealthy. Most of those who became successful had only average grades in school and described themselves of being of average intelligence. Traits that were cited more often were integrity and a supportive spouse.
Likewise, some who start out life in wealthy families spend their lives going from party to party, never really doing anything that benefits anyone else. They may squander their money on clothes and cars, never using the fortunate station in life they were given as a platform from which to do anything great. There are many who start out with little, but spend their lives doing things that are meaningful even if it is only working a useful job. Many other contribute faithfully to their church and charities despite not have a great amount of wealth to give.
So I believe the meaning of the verse is that one should make all that one can with one’s life. Spend your time doing things that are useful. If you get the chance to go to college, choose a major that can at least allow you to be self-supporting and maybe one that will allow you to do things for society. If you have great wealth, use it to do great things. If you are healthy, don’t destroy your health with drugs and alcohol. Also, use your healthy body to support yourself and your family, and help out others who need it.
Finally, following the theme of this blog, if you are middle class you will see more than a million dollars flow through your hands during your working life. Don’t spend all of it before you get it and end up paying out half of that million dollars or more in interest. Show prudence and patience, making each dollar multiply many times over such that by the time you leave this life you have created something that wasn’t there before. A family college fund for you grandchildren and those who come after them. A charitable trust. A scholarship fund for a college. A well in a foreign country. Or maybe just the payment of all of your debts and a tip for the undertaker.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.