I recently saw a film called The Descendants, about a large family of landed aristocratic background in Hawaii. Though the Hawaiian setting is interesting, it is a story that could happen in many cultures – California is not without a landed aristocracy of its own. Matt King, the character played by George Clooney, is the trustee of an extended hapa-haole [partly white] family descended from missionaries and also King Kamehameha I the Great. He is faced with the question of selling a large portion of beautiful land, which belongs to the family trust. He himself has refused to live on his inheritance, living exclusively on his earnings as an attorney. His wife, frustrated, goes in for exciting sports and is brain-injured in a boating accident, and will never recover. [I noted with interest that the role of Todd, the pilot of the boat that got her in the accident, is played by Laird Hamilton, godfather of stand-up paddle and other water sports innovations.] It turns out that she has cuckolded him, [not with the Laird Hamilton character, by the way] and the plot goes on from there. I won’t spoil it for my readers.
But one of the issues that comes up is, is Matt’s insistence on living only on his earnings, and not drawing on his inheritance, one of the things that drove his wife’s misbehavior? Might it have been better if he had taken advantage of his inheritance to give her a larger life?
When I was in my twenties, I was not living on my own earnings [though a period of doing so would not have been a bad idea], but I was choosing to draw a small allowance from my trust, living on it, and pretending that that was my real income; and also engaging in spiritual pride that I could live more simply and on less than many of the Newport Beach people around me. I believe the Lord convicted me that I was cheating Him of the tithe on my true income, and that I was not being a steward of what I really had. Trustfunders are prone to problems, the major ones being not so much greed as acedia [spiritual sloth] and a willingness to believe that their money protects them from all kinds of things, including the need to care about their reputation. That does not mean that the status of being a trustfunder is inherently sinful. I would put it to some of these Christian ethicists; “Can a Christian be a trustfunder? And if he is, what should he do?” I finally figured out that the attempt to try to pass as a businessman-entrepreneur [which is not my gift], is the right-wing equivalent of left-wing guilt. And Matt King may have manifested the same.