Getting or Giving

Giving is better than taking your possessions with you to the grave.


Doris Buffett was the older sister of Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world. Warren announced in 2006 that he wanted to donate most of his $77 billion fortune before he died. Doris volunteered to sift through all of the requests and to make recommendations to her brother.

Doris was interested in helping people who really needed it, such as paying for dentures, wheelchairs, automobile repairs, etc. She did give money to some big organizations that do things like aid victims of domestic violence, improve the lives of the mentally ill, educate prisoners, etc. Doris also gave away $200 billion dollars of her own wealth. She said, “The plan is for my last check to bounce.”

She didn’t want to just give to things like the symphony, opera, and ballet. She wanted to give to ordinary people. She would also advise recipients how they could make extra money, use what they had more effectively, etc.

She said she wanted her epitaph on her grave to read, “She made a difference.” When questioned about it, she explained, “Unless you do, why were you here?”

Giving is a life or death matter. Consider two bodies of water in the Holy Land. One is the Sea of Galilee. The other is the Dead Sea. Both of them receive their water from the same source. But each body of water produces drastically different results.

The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by luscious green grass and trees and has many fish living within it. Its water is very pure. It also is used to fertilize the fields around it to produce fruit. The Sea of Galilee doesn’t keep the water it receives but has an outlet to send the water forward. The Sea of Galilee produces life!

The Dead Sea has nothing living in it or around it. It is so salty that you can literally float in it. I’ve done that! It has no outlet. It keeps the water for itself and therefore becomes impure. It produces death.

Getting without giving can turn life into death. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35) I’ve had many funerals during my 60 years of ministry. In the funeral procession, the minister’s car is always placed just behind the hearse carrying the body to the gravesite. I’ve never seen a U-Haul hooked up to the back of the hearse because somebody wanted to “carry it with them.” Read Psalm 49:14-17.

We need to be careful about which groups we give to so we can be certain that our gift is used for its intended purposes. I’m reminded that the people who emphasize that “you can’t take it with you” might be trying to “take it with them!”

Billy Graham started an organization called ECFA – Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. They have stringent requirements for membership, but it helps to ensure donors that their gifts will be used in accordance with the purpose of the organization. Joining ECFA was the first thing we did when the John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries was established. I advise all nonprofit ministries and religious groups to join it.

Doris Buffett died this year. Let’s learn her legacy lesson on giving!

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