Last week, I read an article in Inc. Magazine about Chuck Feeney. Writer Bill Murphy Jr. described Chuck Feeney as his hero as well as the hero of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and many other wealthy millionaires and billionaires.
Murphy shared that Feeney was once a multi-billionaire who years ago made it his life’s ambition to give away all of his fortune, $8 billion dollars! At age 89 he finally reached his goal.
He recently said, “To those wondering about giving while living: Try it. You’ll like it.” (You can find the article from Inc. Magazine at www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/warren-buffett-bill-gates-call-this-man-their-hero-role-model.html.)
As I read the inspiring article on Chuck Feeney, I thought of the story that is told of novelists Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. These two writers once attended a party together hosted by a billionaire who, unlike Feeney, lived a lavish lifestyle. The story goes that Kurt Vonnegut turned to Heller and said, “Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host made more money in the time we have been at this party than all of the royalties you got from Catch-22?” To which Heller responded, “That may be. But I have one thing that our host will never have. Enough.” (Gil Rendle, Courageous Leadership, Alban Institute, 2019, p. 78)
In reading the story of Chuck Feeney and his challenge to realize the power of “enough” and the joy of giving, I thought of the way the year 2020 has challenged our understanding of resources.
I confess that in 2020 I have at times found myself living with the mindset of “scarcity” rather than “enough.”
Scarcity is found in thinking we will never return to in-person activities and we will never enjoy concerts and church activities with other people. Scarcity is the sense that the best of life is behind us, our country will fall apart, time is running out, and as the writer of Ecclesiastes once stated, “All is vanity.”
Remember when the scarcity mindset occurred over toilet paper? Do you recall how so many products suddenly disappeared from the shelves of our local stores in the Spring because we worried there would not be “enough”?
The idea of “scarcity” causes people to live and think in ways where we feel the need to compete in life rather than cooperate in the grace and goodness of life’s “enough.”
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “Make my joy complete, let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” The Apostle then went on to quote the words of a first century hymn: “Who though he (Jesus) was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited (or grasped). But instead, emptied himself ... humbled himself ....” (Philippians 2: 2, 6-8)
In other words, Paul pointed people to the joy Jesus modeled in his humanity to “give while we live.” This is the joy of letting go of the need to compete, judge, measure, and put down others due to our own insecurities of scarcity.
The joy of giving is found in “emptying ourselves” in humble service that builds up others. This joy is found in the faithful realization that God has given us enough grace, enough resources, and enough love to go around.
I am grateful that Mr. Feeney has reminded us in recent days that joy is found in “giving while we are living.” I wonder what it would look like if we all followed his advice? Can you imagine what your life and our world would look like if we all “tried it and liked it?”
Dr. Cory Smith is the Senior Minister of Auburn United Methodist Church. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, The Candler School of Theology at Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is married to Alicia, and they have one daughter, Sarah Morgan.