Forbes, a literary magazine about and for people far richer and smarter than I am, just released its list of Top 15 richest fictional characters. Topping the list is Smaug, the dragon from The Hobbit. Forbes estimates his net worth is around $62 billion—not counting, of course, whatever deal he managed to snag from MGM.
Flintheart Glomgold, Scrooge McDuck’s mortal nemesis according to Disney, ducked into second place with approximately 51.9 billion dollar (ahem) bills. Carlisle Cullen, vampire patriarch from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, has banked around $36.3 billion for third. Naturally, a couple of superheroes made the list: Marvel’s Tony “Iron Man” Stark weighed in at No. 5 with $9.3 billion, while Batman’s alter-ego Bruce Wayne settled for eighth with a relatively paltry $6.9 billion.
When I was little and imagined myself very wealthy, I envisioned I’d spend it like Richie Rich (No. 6, according to Forbes)--on zoos and gold-plated helicopters and pearls so big you could bowl with ‘em. But now that I’m an adult, I wonder … are there more responsible ways to spend ludicrous amounts of money? Once the house is paid off and the GT-40’s in the garage, what’s next? What, we might ask, would Jesus buy?
It’s sobering that some of these fictional characters never really even enjoyed their wealth. I get the feeling that Flintheart only wanted to be rich to make ol’ Scrooge jealous. Smaug just slept on his nest egg.
In my better moments, I’d like to think I’d go the Tony Stark/Bruce Wayne route: I’d not, perhaps, construct a flying suit or buy a Batmobile. But I’d like to think that I’d use a good chunk of that cash helping others. I hope that I’d be mature enough to understand that money is better spent doing good than doing nothing.
The so-called 1-percenters have a bad rep these days, and perhaps rightly so in some ways. But there are real inspirations to be found among the rich. Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life, reportedly flips the concept of tithing on its head—giving 90 percent of his income to charity. Last year, Microsoft founder Bill Gates lost the title of the world’s richest man because he donated $28 billion to his own charitable foundation. Eventually, Gates and wife Melinda hope to give away 95 percent of their fortune.
In 2007, USA Today reported that American give $295 billion to charity every year—twice as much per capita as folks from the next most generous country. Some studies show that Christians give twice as much as non-Christians, though exact figures are hard to come by.
It makes sense, given how blessed most of us have been. And yet, Scot McKnight in a 2010 blog for Beliefnet suggests that it’s the poor, not the rich, who are the most generous. Households that take in $10,000 or less give away 11.2 percent of their income. Those that make $150,000 or more? Just 2.7 percent.
It makes you wonder how much more good we could do in the world, doesn’t it? What would happen if we all became, at least fiscally speaking, a little more heroic?