Whoever wins the Powerball, I hope he or she is like Gerry Lenfest.

At the time of this writing, the Powerball jackpot is estimated at $1.5 billion, it’s the biggest Powerball ever, with no known winner. Yet, that is. It’s only a matter of time before someone picks the winning numbers.

I hear people talking about it wherever I go. Some have already purchased tickets, and some are still considering it. Whether or not they have tickets, it seems as though everybody is asking the same question.

What would I do with $1.5 billion?

H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest would know what to do with it. He’d give it away. That’s not just theory; Lenfest has already done it with his own fortune.

Lenfest is the owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, three news outlets based in Pennsylvania. He’s turning it all over to a nonprofit institute in hopes that it will create a new business model. He’s not giving anything to his three grown children, because they have already handsomely profited from his previous business deals.

Lenfest’s wealth began to grow in 1974, when he borrowed $2.3 million in order to buy Suburban Cable, a small company with 7600 subscribers. The company grew into the largest cable system in the Philadelphia area, and Lenfest and his wife, Marguerite, made $1.2 billion by selling it to Comcast Corporation in 2000.

They gave away most of that and other wealth they had accumulated over the years to arts organizations, schools, hospitals, museums and conservation groups including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation, and Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. They also contributed to Lenfest's alma maters: Mercersburg Academy, Washington and Lee University and Columbia University as well as Wilson College, Marguerite's alma mater. An additional $150 million went to a foundation named for the Lenfests with the stipulation that it give away all of it within 20 years of the last one's death.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Lenfest said, "Money is a responsibility when you have that kind of wealth. I've tried to do right by it."

He certainly has.

I have no idea what Lenfest’s religious background is, but when I read the account of his philanthropic endeavors, one word comes to my mind: stewardship.

Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about stewardship.

In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits.187 The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men. (CCC, 2402)

The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge.

I think that’s exactly what Gerry Lenfest has done with his money.

I hope, I pray, that the Powerball winner will be able to do the same. I hope, I pray, if I ever come into wealth, that I’ll be able to do the same as well.

One of my favorite Scripture passages regarding wealth and stewardship comes from St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy.

Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life. (1 Tim 6:17-19)

Wealthy or not, we’re all called to live with a certain indifference toward material goods. We must have an ordered attachment to them so that, just as we can enjoy them, we could just as easily give them away and do without them. It is better to be rich in good works than to be rich in money.

Gerry Lenfest has proven that can be done, and I’m grateful for his example.