Warren Buffett, nicknamed the Oracle of Omaha, is known as the world’s greatest investor. In 1950, at age 20, he had saved $9,400 (about $100k in today’s money). He set out to invest it, applying his long-term, value-based, focussed portfolio philosophy, which his author Robert Hagstrom termed “The Warren Buffett Way.” Buffett increased his net worth to $62 billion, making him the richest person in the world. Nipping at his heels for that enviable title was the young Microsoft mogul, Bill Gates.
The two richest men in the world were friends, with a friendly rivalry about their wealth. They were not competing to see who could have the most money. Instead, paradoxically, their rivalry was a race to give away money to worthy causes. Together the Buffett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were donating hundreds of millions and billions of dollars to a long list of charities, including the global eradication of polio, child vaccination efforts, HIV research, and neglected tropical diseases such as leprosy.
But on July 25, 1996 the rivalry came to an abrupt and unpredictable end.
It was then that Warren Buffett held a press conference in which he committed to give away 99% of his wealth in one day. He handed out six letters. Five of them went to his children and close family, giving them a relatively small amount (supposedly only a few million each), and the sixth letter contained his intention to give everything else to a single cause. I’m sure everyone who had been invited was holding their breath. Who on earth would the richest person in the world give his money to? Buffett announced without any hesitation that his intention was to give 99% of his net worth to… the second richest man in the world, Bill Gates.
Buffett explained that it was always he and his wife Susan’s plan for him to make as much money as he could, and then for her to not spend it, but give it all away.
Buffett had come to realize that no one else in the world was better equipped to faithfully handle that kind of money than his friend Bill. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had already proven that they knew what money was for, and how to use it as a force for good in the world. It was also the only organization that was equipped for the scale of investment Buffett would bequeath.
This particular investment was perfectly congruent with Buffett’s unwavering philosophy: put your money where it will do “the most good” for the long term, and put it with the people who have the same definition of “the most good” as you do.
Of course, Buffett’s wisdom is derivative of commonplace biblical principles. Consider the parable of the minas (Luke 19:11-27). The master returned to find an unproductive servant who had invested his equivalent of three month’s wage in a handkerchief, stashed in the ground.
He must have thought, “I’m sorry, did you say you deposited my money in a handkerchief? You must mean Handkerchief Bank, or the Handkerchief Investment Growth Fund.” The master asked with incredulity “Why did you not put it in the bank where I could have got it back with interest?”
Then he took the one measly mina and had it given to the guy with who had turned his one into ten. The other servants were taken aback, “Master he has ten!”
But the master, in the voice of Jesus, declared: “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
What about you? What are you doing with your gifts, talents, skills, time, money, relationship, and other resources. God entrusted them to you to be invested for the kingdom work. Have you stashed said stewardship in the dirt; or are you redeeming the time, laying up treasure in heaven, and being rich toward God?
1 Peter 4:10-11 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
Whatever you have is just seed money to be plowed into God’s kingdom. What you sow you will reap, and what you hoard will pop up at the Bēma Seat judgment like a rotten skeleton of wasted chances, to accuse you.
On the other hand, whatever you invest in the kingdom will be waiting for you when you get there, along with the commendation that we all crave: “Well done good servant!”
May you make this day count for Christ, for faithfulness echoes in eternity.