Table Talk


If I Was a Rich Man

Most of us at one time or another have put our own voice to the lines of Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, “If I was a Rich man…”

Our fantasies usually begin with some mean of acquiring this sudden wealth — a great invention, an unexpected inheritance, the winning lottery numbers. Then in our dreams we quickly move onto the spending part.

My own fantasy starts with a minimum $20 million. Though I’m not clear about where it’s coming from, I have the spending and giving part all worked out. Over a period of time I would max out charitable giving limitations, carrying forward unused deduction for five years, set up a donor advised fund, and establish my philanthropic advisory board. I would use as system of limited partnerships, stacking charitable lead trusts, and asset replacement insurance strategies to zero out estate and gift taxes while maximizing the amount going to charity.

Through highly efficient and effective giving strategies, I would have a significant impact on the world When it comes to personal consumption, in my fantasy I would not be greedy person, putting aside a piddly million or two and living off the interest. With the plan fully formulated in my mind, my prayer becomes, “LORD, HERE AM I, PREPARED TO RECEIVED THY BLESSINGS. FOR IF I WERE A RICH MAN, OH WHAT A GOOD AND FAITHFUL STEWARD I WOULD BE!”

Jesus told a parable about three guys who were given 10, 5, and 1 talents respectively to manage. One turned his 10 into 20, and the second turned his 5 into 10. The third hid his talent in the ground (much to his master’s displeasure) and returned it without improvement when he was called to account.

The thing about parables is that they can be used to make many different points, and I’ve heard a lot different ideas about the three managers in this story, especially the last one.

In my imagination the lazy steward’s problem was that he didn’t appreciate the significant of what he had been given. He might have said something like this: “If I had ten talents, oh what great manager I would be! And even at five talents I would really be able to do something significant. But with one talent, it’s hardly worth the effort.”

There are probably a lot of people who think they would be more serious about their stewardship if they had a lot more to manage. How important can such a small amount be?

There is a story in the Gospels about Jesus watching people put their offerings into the temple collection. Imagine the nerve of Him, checking out how much people gave. There came this widow woman who put in her two insignificant coins, all that she had. What good were those two coins? Why, the value of both wouldn’t even cover the cost of processing and receipting the gift! But Jesus said that she had given more that all the rest.

The parable and real story together clearly illustrate that stewardship with small resources is every bit as important as when we have much. Our approach to the stewardship of our earning, saving, spending, and giving should be taken just as seriously regardless of the account balance because it’s not amount of money that is important; it’s to Whom it belongs.

Walt Walker

Franklin, TN

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