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MLK and Generosity
January 28, 2019
Americans recently observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and as always, his legacy of peaceful, yet strong leadership resonated more than ever. Known for using the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance to achieve racial equality, he always maintained fidelity to his belief that we are all God’s children, with equal inherent rights. This spiritual conviction led him to also address the problems of poverty, voting rights, and economic justice.
But, did you know that one of King’s legacies was also one of generosity? In fact, he donated his prize money from winning the Nobel Peace Prize, valued at $54,600.
Money in Its Proper Place
King fought against the concept of using money for personal gain. In July 1953, he gave a sermon called “The False God of Money,” where he warned about the dangers of placing money as our highest ideal. “Money in its proper place is a worthwhile and necessary instrument for a well-rounded life, but when it is projected to the status of a god it becomes a power that corrupts and an instrument of exploitation,” King said.
He goes on to point out the consequences that can develop when money is our sole focus. “First, it causes men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life. There is the danger in such a system that men will become so involved in the money getting process that they will unconsciously forget to pursue those great eternal values which make life worth living. Another tragic attitude…is that of selfishness. The individual who really worships money will seek to get it at any cost. A third tragedy…is that it causes men to surrender their ideals. When men worship money, they will compromise [their] honor and principles, keep silent when they should speak out, and engage in sharp practices that are morally degrading and socially pernicious.”
Leaving a Legacy
It’s clear that Dr. King contrasts the fleeting pleasures of money with the lasting values of selflessness and a commitment to furthering a mission greater than oneself.
This mindset is also how our company views money. Ronald Blue Trust has long advocated that our clients think not just about accumulating money to pass on to heirs, but also how they can make wise financial decisions, use their financial resources to support Kingdom work through charitable gifting, invest in experiences, and create a lasting legacy.
Ronald Blue Trust’s bedrock verse is 1 Timothy 6:17-19, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (NASB)
Dr. King knew this to be true. He could have kept all of his earnings and chosen to buy a bigger house or purchase an expensive car; however, his focus was on a mission much bigger than himself. With Dr. King’s legacy in mind, we are thankful for the reminder that, when we realize that our resources all belong to God, life can become richer in meaning.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by
The Lockman Foundation
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