My Wealth and My Neighbor

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For many years, philanthropist and art patron Agnes Gund lived with Roy Lichtenstein’s famous painting “Masterpiece” over the mantle in her Manhattan apartment. She made news in 2017 when she sold it for $165 million to hedge fund manager, Stephen Cohen.

Why part with such a valuable piece of artwork? Gund used $100 million of the proceeds as seed funding for the Art for Justice Fund which provides resources for artists in prison.

In a recent New York Times interview, Gund discussed her plans to sell even more art pieces from her collection. When asked what she would do with more cash, Gund said, “Well, give it away!”

Agnes Gund understands that wealth, whether great or small, requires responsibility towards our neighbor.

In the Old Testament book of Ruth, Boaz demonstrated this same understanding. He could have dodged the costs related to caring for his relative, Naomi, and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Instead, Boaz stepped up and told Ruth to glean from his fields. Eventually, he married her and took Naomi into his home. 

God’s purposes and wealth are complementary, not contrary. The psalm writer points out, “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1, NIV). If everything belongs to God in the first place, then anything and everything can be used for God’s purposes.

For Boaz, this meant leaving the leftover wheat crop in the field for Ruth to pick up. For you, it might mean donating a bag of groceries to a food pantry. Or serving a meal at a homeless shelter. Or writing a check to a family experiencing hard times. Or lending your tools for a neighborhood service project. 

When it comes to generous giving, it’s not “either-or” but “both-and.” It’s not just “my family” but “my family and my neighbor.”

Whatever the case and whatever your means, Jesus never divides wealth into “His” and “yours.” His lordship is complete so the obedience you render to Him includes applying your wealth however and to whomever Jesus directs.

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