certain rich man, a Roman citizen and a Stoic, became greatly interested in
Jesus' teaching, having been introduced by Angamon. After many intimate
conferences this wealthy citizen asked Jesus what he would do with wealth if
he had it, and Jesus answered him: "I would bestow material wealth for the
enhancement of material life, even as I would minister knowledge, wisdom,
and spiritual service for the enrichment of the intellectual life, the
ennoblement of the social life, and the advancement of the spiritual life. I
would administer material wealth as a wise and effective trustee of the
resources of one generation for the benefit and ennoblement of the next and
the rich man was not fully satisfied with Jesus' answer. He made bold to ask
again: "But what do you think a man in my position should do with his
wealth? Should I keep it, or should I give it away?" And when Jesus
perceived that he really desired to know more of the truth about his loyalty
to God and his duty to men, he further answered: "My good friend, I discern
that you are a sincere seeker after wisdom and an honest lover of truth;
therefore am I minded to lay before you my view of the solution of your
problems having to do with the responsibilities of wealth. I do this because
you have asked for my counsel, and in giving you this advice, I am not
concerned with the wealth of any other rich man; I am offering advice only
to you and for your personal guidance. If you honestly desire to regard your
wealth as a trust, if you really wish to become a wise and efficient steward
of your accumulated wealth, then would I counsel you to make the following
analysis of the sources of your riches: Ask yourself, and do your best to
find the honest answer, whence came this wealth? And as a help in the study
of the sources of your great fortune, I would suggest that you bear in mind
the following ten different methods of amassing material wealth:
Inherited wealth--riches derived from parents and other ancestors.
"2. Discovered wealth--riches derived from the uncultivated resources of
"3. Trade wealth--riches obtained as a fair profit in the exchange and
barter of material goods.
Unfair wealth--riches derived from the unfair exploitation or the
enslavement of one's fellows.
Interest wealth--income derived from the fair and just earning possibilities
of invested capital.
Genius wealth--riches accruing from the rewards of the creative and
inventive endowments of the human mind.
Accidental wealth--riches derived from the generosity of one's fellows or
taking origin in the circumstances of life.
Stolen wealth--riches secured by unfairness, dishonesty, theft, or fraud.
Trust funds--wealth lodged in your hands by your fellows for some specific
use, now or in the future.
Earned wealth--riches derived directly from your own personal labor, the
fair and just reward of your own daily efforts of mind and body.
so, my friend, if you would be a faithful and just steward of your large
fortune, before God and in service to men, you must approximately divide
your wealth into these ten grand divisions, and then proceed to administer
each portion in accordance with the wise and honest interpretation of the
laws of justice, equity, fairness, and true efficiency; albeit, the God of
heaven would not condemn you if sometimes you erred, in doubtful situations,
on the side of merciful and unselfish regard for the distress of the
suffering victims of the unfortunate circumstances of mortal life. When in
honest doubt about the equity and justice of material situations, let your
decisions favor those who are in need, favor those who suffer the misfortune
of undeserved hardships."
discussing these matters for several hours and in response to the rich man's
request for further and more detailed instruction, Jesus went on to amplify
his advice, in substance saying: "While I offer further suggestions
concerning your attitude toward wealth, I would admonish you to receive my
counsel as given only to you and for your personal guidance. I speak only
for myself and to you as an inquiring friend. I adjure you not to become a
dictator as to how other rich men shall regard their wealth. I would advise
As steward of inherited wealth you should consider its sources. You are
under moral obligation to represent the past generation in the honest
transmittal of legitimate wealth to succeeding generations after subtracting
a fair toll for the benefit of the present generation. But you are not
obligated to perpetuate any dishonesty or injustice involved in the unfair
accumulation of wealth by your ancestors. Any portion of your inherited
wealth which turns out to have been derived through fraud or unfairness, you
may disburse in accordance with your convictions of justice, generosity, and
restitution. The remainder of your legitimate inherited wealth you may use
in equity and transmit in security as the trustee of one generation for
another. Wise discrimination and sound judgment should dictate your
decisions regarding the bequest of riches to your successors.
Everyone who enjoys wealth as a result of discovery should remember that one
individual can live on earth but a short season and should, therefore, make
adequate provision for the sharing of these discoveries in helpful ways by
the largest possible number of his fellow men. While the discoverer should
not be denied all reward for efforts of discovery, neither should he
selfishly presume to lay claim to all of the advantages and blessings to be
derived from the uncovering of nature's hoarded resources.
As long as men choose to conduct the world's business by trade and barter,
they are entitled to a fair and legitimate profit. Every tradesman deserves
wages for his services; the merchant is entitled to his hire. The fairness
of trade and the honest treatment accorded one's fellows in the organized
business of the world create many different sorts of profit wealth, and all
these sources of wealth must be judged by the highest principles of justice,
honesty, and fairness. The honest trader should not hesitate to take the
same profit which he would gladly accord his fellow trader in a similar
transaction. While this sort of wealth is not identical with individually
earned income when business dealings are conducted on a large scale, at the
same time, such honestly accumulated wealth endows its possessor with a
considerable equity as regards a voice in its subsequent distribution.
No mortal who knows God and seeks to do the divine will can stoop to engage
in the oppressions of wealth. No noble man will strive to accumulate riches
and amass wealth-power by the enslavement or unfair exploitation of his
brothers in the flesh. Riches are a moral curse and a spiritual stigma when
they are derived from the sweat of oppressed mortal man. All such wealth
should be restored to those who have thus been robbed or to their children
and their children's children. An enduring civilization cannot be built upon
the practice of defrauding the laborer of his hire.
Honest wealth is entitled to interest. As long as men borrow and lend, that
which is fair interest may be collected provided the capital lent was
legitimate wealth. First cleanse your capital before you lay claim to the
interest. Do not become so small and grasping that you would stoop to the
practice of usury. Never permit yourself to be so selfish as to employ
money-power to gain unfair advantage over your struggling fellows. Yield not
to the temptation to take usury from your brother in financial distress.
If you chance to secure wealth by flights of genius, if your riches are
derived from the rewards of inventive endowment, do not lay claim to an
unfair portion of such rewards. The genius owes something to both his
ancestors and his progeny; likewise is he under obligation to the race,
nation, and circumstances of his inventive discoveries; he should also
remember that it was as man among men that he labored and wrought out his
inventions. It would be equally unjust to deprive the genius of all his
increment of wealth. And it will ever be impossible for men to establish
rules and regulations applicable equally to all these problems of the
equitable distribution of wealth. You must first recognize man as your
brother, and if you honestly desire to do by him as you would have him do by
you, the commonplace dictates of justice, honesty, and fairness will guide
you in the just and impartial settlement of every recurring problem of
economic rewards and social justice.
Except for the just and legitimate fees earned in administration, no man
should lay personal claim to that wealth which time and chance may cause to
fall into his hands. Accidental riches should be regarded somewhat in the
light of a trust to be expended for the benefit of one's social or economic
group. The possessors of such wealth should be accorded the major voice in
the determination of the wise and effective distribution of such unearned
resources. Civilized man will not always look upon all that he controls as
his personal and private possession.
If any portion of your fortune has been knowingly derived from fraud; if
aught of your wealth has been accumulated by dishonest practices or unfair
methods; if your riches are the product of unjust dealings with your
fellows, make haste to restore all these ill-gotten gains to the rightful
owners. Make full amends and thus cleanse your fortune of all dishonest
The trusteeship of the wealth of one person for the benefit of others is a
solemn and sacred responsibility. Do not hazard or jeopardize such a trust.
Take for yourself of any trust only that which all honest men would allow.
That part of your fortune which represents the earnings of your own mental
and physical efforts--if your work has been done in fairness and equity-- is
truly your own. No man can gainsay your right to hold and use such wealth as
you may see fit provided your exercise of this right does not work harm upon
Jesus had finished counseling him, this wealthy Roman arose from his couch
and, in saying farewell for the night, delivered himself of this promise:
"My good friend, I perceive you are a man of great wisdom and goodness, and
tomorrow I will begin the administration of all my wealth in accordance with
Index of Kingdom Emissaries