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The Responsibility of Wealth

May 9, 2009 | by Rosally Saltsman

When all is said and done, all you're left with is the money you've given away.

JK Rowling is among the wealthiest and most famous women in the world and has been honored by the Queen of England. She will be forever remembered and honored in English literature for authoring the Harry Potter series, but her true greatness lies in what she does with the rewards of her success. She uses it to help others. JK Rowling has just donated 70,000 pounds (over $120,000) to a girl whose hands and feet were amputated due to a bad case of meningitis. The money is going toward fitting her with prostheses.

Fame, fortune, celebrity and power can be wonderful… but not as ends in themselves. They are merely resources, tools to achieving a greater end. Our job in this world is to help those less fortunate than ourselves. This is how we connect to others, how we connect to God, and how we achieve true greatness.

Many people possess great skills and talents, yet will never achieve renown outside their circle of family, friends and colleagues. People are given wealth and power because they are meant to use them, not necessarily because they are more deserving of them. Those who do achieve a wider measure of success have an equally larger measure of responsibility. How much do the rich and famous glory in self-gratification, and how many use their good fortunes to help others? The world waits to see what such people do with their resources and success -- and takes their cue from them.

Can't take it with you

Most of us don't have 70,000 pounds to donate at will. However, all of us enjoy some fruits of our labor. And fruit according to Jewish law is meant to be tithed. And for that matter, so is our money, our time and our energy. Success and talents are gifts that we are meant to use in serving God by serving others. The more we have, the greater our obligation to give. Which isn't to say that we shouldn't enjoy ourselves or live according to whatever lifestyle we can afford. But at the same time, we aren't given success, money, power, talent or fame so that we can go shopping.

The charity we've contributed remain ours forever.

The Jewish view of money is that what you're left with, when all is said and done, is that which you've given away. Because you can't take anything else with you. The cars, yachts, mansions and artwork don't truly belong to us, because we can lose them at any moment, and we ultimately leave them behind. But the charity we've contributed, the loans we've given, the presents we've bestowed, and the donations we've made remain ours forever.

Giving to others also make us appreciate exactly how much we do have. Ironically, it's giving -- not acquiring -- that makes us wealthier. Although fame and fortune (or even being young and upwardly mobile) comes with its own price tag, charity should always be seen as part of the spending plan.

Even financially speaking, it's a good investment. If your boss sees that you invest your salary back into the company, he's more likely to give you a raise. By the same token, if God sees you using your assets to help others in His company, He's more likely to raise your salary.

Don't we feel happy when we read that someone who has everything they could possibly want uses it to make others happy -- instead of on some extravagant spending spree? And doesn't that then inspire us to want to do the same?

I feel good knowing that while I'm enjoying reading Harry Potter books, the money I pay for them is helping others enjoy a better life, too.


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