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Moral obligation to give: Is God’s hand involved?

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Does God make people rich so they can give it away?

The richest man in history thought so: “God gave me my money. I believe the power to make money is a gift from God … to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind. Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience.

The author is oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, the first billionaire in American history. Once adjusted for inflation and other factors, his vast wealth makes him the world’s richest person ever—even richer than Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. (If you are curious, you can read more about his life and wealth here.)

He tithed starting with his first paycheck. He spent the later decades of his life giving away his fortune to support education, medicine, and research. Along with his bewildering wealth, Rockefeller is also known for defining modern philanthropy. I benefited indirectly from his largess when I was on the faculty of the University of Chicago—one of several institutions he supported financially. I used to eat lunch in a school cafeteria that had an enormous portrait of him.

Rockefeller is not the only wealthy person to see a role of God in the production and use of great fortune. Oprah Winfrey (who was a guest at the dinners for billionaires organized by Gates and Warren Buffett that I talked about this week) said in a Redbook interview, “My prayer to God every morning on my knees is that the power that is in the universe should use my life as a vessel, or a vehicle, for its work.”

If you have a fortune, is it your moral obligation to give it away?

Please, “Comment” below.

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