- - Sunday, April 27, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Although I’ve written extensively in the past on the subject of money, there are always new facets to consider as time goes on. One of the most important things that arose lately is the role of wealth in family relationships. In my experience, the ability to contribute financially to one’s family and to be a source of support in times of need is one of the most important and beneficial uses of wealth.


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My latest musings on the subject came about in a very interesting way. I was recently speaking to a friend of mine whose son had been recently admitted to a top private school. He has always been an exemplary father, attending his son’s sports activities, disciplining his son, and instilling confidence in his child’s young spirit. He’s been there for his son through thick and thin. And as a result, his son has grown up to be quite an impressive young man — a straight-A student, champion athlete, and a leader among his peers.

But my friend has always struggled financially. And when the opportunity for his child to attend a private school arose, he found it quite difficult to come up with a means to pay the tuition. As a friend I want to help him, but I’m not so sure exactly how to do so. I could marshal support among my peers and raise a scholarship fund. And perhaps that would help in the short term.


But I can’t help feeling that, at the end of the day, one of the things a father should bestow upon a son is a sense of what it means to be a provider. I’m not knocking families in which the mother is a breadwinner, a perfectly fine arrangement, but the core essence of manhood is an ability to provide materially for one’s family. This is one of the traditional values I was raised with, along with, of course, treating one’s fellow human beings with compassion and justice, and being humble before one’s Creator.

There is a certain amount of pride in being able to support one’s family. It elevates the individual within the family order, and creates a feeling of respect and admiration. I find in my own family that the ability to provide avenues for opportunity and communion — whether helping a sibling with a business venture, or paying for travel and hosting family gatherings — has brought our large family much closer together. Furthermore, members of the family tend to admire those who have done well financially and aspire to be like them. In that way achieving financial success has a great impact upon family aspirations and achievement. It sets the precedent for others to expect to do well and adopt the moral and ethical habits that attaining wealth often requires.

But it is not merely the ability to contribute financially that enables the wealthy person to be a leader in one’s family. Wealth enables one to acquire better education, to take better care of one’s health, and generally to build social relationships with other accomplished and successful people. The ability to call up a business contact and open the doors of opportunity to a younger family member is one of the ways in which wealth is transferred to subsequent generations.

There are so many problems that can be solved by having money. You can get better medical care if you are sick. You can employ people to help with tasks that are time-consuming and routine, thus freeing your time up to focus on the really important things in life. Wealth makes it possible to travel and expand one’s horizons, and to acquire possessions that make life more enjoyable.

So if having money has so many benefits, why is the desire to become wealthy viewed with such scorn among some people in this country? There seems to be a growing sensibility among some that the wealthy are inherently greedy and don’t care about their fellow human beings. Worse yet, some claim that people with money are conspiring to deny the opportunity to others. From my perspective, this is totally wrongheaded. It assumes that the blessings one person receives automatically diminish the prospects for others. This is a scarcity mentality based upon fear and greed. This attitude is not just found among the poor, however. Some wealthy people also think this way.

I believe God wants us to prosper, not just survive. He wants us to enjoy the bounties of the earth upon which we have been placed. If not, why would He have given us talents, desires and ambitions? These are innate motivations within all of life to grow and live a better life. Every living organism seeks to maximize its chances for survival and propagation.

Money in this society is often a scorecard for how one has conducted one’s life, and signifies the impact one has had on the society at large. Having money demonstrates a concern for enhancing one’s own life and the lives of one’s loved ones. Seen in this context, being wealthy is not only a right, but possibly also a duty.

Armstrong Williams is sole owner/manager of Howard Stirk Holdings and executive editor of American Current See Online Magazine.