Giving Away 600 Billion Dollars

Recently, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have gone on a mission to convince wealthy people to give away 50% of everything they own. If they’re successful, it’ll mean approximately $600,000,000,000 going to charities worldwide.

Most of the article talks about the fascinating history of the proposed pledge:

The idea of aiming for a 50% slice of net worth was pragmatically pulled from the sky, being less than the principals would have liked to ask for but perhaps as much, at least initially, as they can get. The pledges, meanwhile, were never envisioned as legal contracts but rather moral obligations to be both memorialized in writing and taken very seriously. They are in fact to be posted on a new website,, whose construction Melinda Gates oversaw. The 99% pledge that Buffett is making is likely to be the No. 1 document on the website, if he is not beaten out by his Seattle friends. […]

The definition of success in this venture may take years to figure out, but each of the principals has reflections about the matter. Buffett knows that everyone rich has thought about what to do with his or her money: “They may not have reached a decision about that, but they have for sure thought about it. The pledge that we’re asking them to make will put them to thinking about the whole issue again.” He warns, most of all, against the rich delaying the decision of what to do with their money: “If they wait until they’re making a final will in their nineties, the chance of their brainpower and willpower being better than they are today is nil.”

As a Christian, this reminds me of two stories. One is the story of the rich young ruler. In it, Jesus tells a young man to sell everything he owns and to “follow him.” Of course, the man goes away sad because he can’t dream of relinquishing so much.

The other is the story of the widow with two mites. After watching rich men donating huge amounts of money, Jesus sees a widow give her last two coins and declares that she gave more than any of the rich men.

Neither story is a perfect analog to what Gates and Buffett are after, but I do think the challenge falls somewhere in between them. The idea is for these billionaires to give in a way that they would never have imagined on their own, and in doing so make a real difference in people’s lives. They’re not being tasked to give it all away, like the rich young ruler was, but to give more than a token amount, like the men at the Temple did.

Clearly, the Biblical stories are motivated by faith, which the Fortune article doesn’t discuss; but I wonder if if some will find the motivation to participate in the pledge in their faith. After all, what they’re being asked to do is give in a way that runs contrary to the ideas that helped them gain their wealth.

What do you think of this challenge? Do you think that 50% is too high or low of a number? If they actually reach their goal, do you think it will have any effect on your personal giving?

3 Responses to “Giving Away 600 Billion Dollars”

  • Janice Cook says:

    The new testament makes clear the old. The Bible teaches it is all God’s not just the tithe. I am not my own, I was bought with a price, the blood of Jesus. I am a steward of what has been placed in my hand or my care. The question is what am I going to do with it. If every idle word is going to be judged then what about my money and other things? Let us seek God first and seek wisdom so we might be pleasing to the Father with our stuff and with our words. It truly is all about the heart not the size of our bank account. We can be poor and full of greed and let money rule us. Or we can be rich and have mastered money were we rule it and our own hearts. Money is not the test but what are we doing with it. We will be judged by what we have, not by what we don’t have. Are we treating our money like it is ours or is it God’s money. The question is what is God telling you to do with your stuff that really is his stuff.

  • Rich people who don’t have faith, giving away their money reminds me of a passage from Ecclesiastes 2:26, “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God…” It’s echoed in Proverbs 13;22, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” We all die – you can’t take it with you. I ultimately pray that these people find God and become Christians.

  • God is a spirit, and so is every thing that belong to him,
    the money of the world is not the money that God claim to be
    his own, God’s treasures are stored up in heaven, he do not need
    man made money to give to his children, surely he can make his own.
    Every thing that God has to give is everlasting, so there is no need
    to spend money for survivle or anything else,Jesus said, give Cesar to
    Cesar, and God’s to God, “God’s money is devine.