By Angela Abbamonte
My first thought when someone says the name Bill Gates is not Windows or computers. The image that pops into my head is a giant dollar sign.
The computer genius is the poster child for how hard work and brains can translate into billions of dollars, even if you drop out of Harvard University to devote your time to a company many did not believe would work. I have read statistics about how much money Gates makes each minute and the numbers baffle me.
When I heard 40 of the wealthiest families in the United States, including Gates and his wife, are giving away millions of dollars to charities, I thought it was an appropriate move for those who could spare the money.
Gates is known as being one of the most generous, wealthy Americans, and he has expressed his desire to solve many of the world’s medical problems through the giving of his money.
The Giving Pledge, the official name of this initiative, is a challenge for the wealthy to give away half of their fortune in order to better society. Sounds like a great plan. I do not know of anyone who would not think it is a good thing for people with that much money to “share the wealth” in the most literal sense.
As I looked at the names of those who are participating in the pledge, I secretly envied their money and made excuses why I could not do something like this. I am a college student. I have rent and tuition to pay. I work hard and every dollar is already allocated for.
It was then I noticed a theme in my excuses. These are the same excuses that run through my head when it is time to give my tithe to the church. I am a college student. I have rent and tuition to pay. I work hard and every dollar is already allocated for.
I am reminded of the widow’s offering presented in Mark 12:41-44. Jesus was watching the people bring money to the temple treasury, and many wealthy people gave large sums of money.
Then, a poor widow offered a small amount. Jesus used this as a teaching moment for his disciples, gathering them together and saying: “(The rich people) all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”
I do not have the money of Bill Gates, and I commend what he and other affluent people are pledging to do, but as a Christian I should not see giving as something reserved for the wealthy.
Bill and Melinda Gates are giving the majority of their assets to funding vaccines for preventable diseases all over the world. They have been touched by the reality of unnecessary deaths and want to contribute to preventing sickness when possible.
“We have been blessed with good fortune beyond our wildest expectations, and we are profoundly grateful,” they said in a letter to the Giving Pledge. “But just as these gifts are great, so we feel a great responsibility to use them well. That is why we are so pleased to join in making an explicit commitment to the Giving Pledge.”
How much greater have we been blessed as Christians? Not only have we been blessed, we have been commanded to give to the church so that the message of our blessing — eternal life — can be preached and carried to all nations. This privilege is far greater than having our names published in a giving pledge.
I may not have millions of dollars, and I may have to give up the occasional luxuries like a sushi dinner or trip to the movie theater in order to give my tithe to the church, but the gift of the poor widow was viewed by Jesus as far more generous than the gift of the wealthy.