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Elon Musk hosts Saturday Night Live: Is it “immoral” to be wealthy?

Mark Legg is a freelance writer and content intern at Denison Forum. He graduated from Dallas Baptist University with a degree in philosophy and biblical studies. He eventually wants to pursue his PhD and become a professor in philosophy.

In this Tuesday, July 21, 2009 photo, Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses at Tesla headquarters in San Carlos, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
In this Tuesday, July 21, 2009 photo, Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses at Tesla headquarters in San Carlos, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

On Saturday, Elon Musk joined the long list of celebrities who have hosted Saturday Night Live for its whopping forty-six seasons. Saturday’s show did fairly well in audience ratings as the third-highest rated show this season. Despite these positive reviews, several opinion pieces are disparaging Musk and the show. Even in the weeks leading up to his appearance, SNL received backlash for having him host.  

For instance, in an opinion piece on CNN, one writer charged that Elon should have spent more airtime apologizing for his mistakes rather than making light of them. Elon Musk’s “mistakes” mostly involve his tweets, including one where he made light of “gender pronouns” and tactlessly tweeted in March 2020 that the COVID scare was “dumb.”  

He is infamous for his memes and his sensational connection to internet culture. Once, he tweeted: “If life is a video game, the graphics are great, but the plot is confusing & the tutorial is way too long.” Another time he tweeted that “the color orange is named after the fruit.” His other tweets are less harmless: Several of them have gotten him in trouble with the SEC. One tweet supposedly led to a $14 billion drop in Tesla’s evaluation.  

On SNL, he made self-deprecating jokes throughout the skits, often referencing these tweets and other public relations blunders. Though some of the jokes certainly seemed forced, it may have been more due to his characteristic awkwardness and stiffness. Indeed, he mentioned in his monologue that he is the first SNL host with Asperger’s Syndrome.  

In his opening, he said, “Look, I know I say or post strange things but that’s just how my brain works. To anyone I have offended, I just want to say I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars on a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?” 

If Elon Musk is not a “chill, normal dude,” who is he? 

Who is Elon Musk? 

Elon Musk, like all humans, is complicated. He was born in South Africa to Maye and Errol Musk in 1971. His parents soon divorced when he was eight years old. Musk eventually chose to live with his father, a very successful engineer. He reflected later on that his father “made life miserable” for his childhood.  

As a child, he would often become entranced in thought, staring off into the distance. Doctors and his parents thought he might be deaf. As a child, he was an avid reader. Eventually, he ran out of books at his neighborhood and school library, so he read encyclopedias. He then committed those encyclopedias to his photographic memory. He was bullied and had few friends because of his awkwardness, strange bouts of deafness, and bookishness. To everyone around him, his genius and entrepreneurial spirit were apparent from early on.  

Now, Musk is forty-nine. He is the cofounder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. SpaceX sent the first commercial spaceship to supply the international space station, and Musk’s eyes are set on colonizing Mars. Tesla is leading the electric car industry. In fact, Tesla is by far the world’s most valuable carmaker.  

Musk is known for his obsessive dedication, preferring to step onto the front lines to problem solve. He said 2018 was “excruciating,” and he admitted to working up to 120-hour weeks, mostly on the floors of Tesla factories.  

In his work growing his companies and his aspirations to save the world, he is committed and no-nonsense. Under the surface, the burden of responsibility must weigh heavily on Musk. But he also loves memes, Twitter, and internet culture. He shot his old Tesla into space, and it currently orbits the Sun. (You can track it here.) He also legally named his most recent child “X Æ A-XII.”  

Is inequality in wealth bad? Two parables

In response to the news that he’d topped Jeff Bezos this year as the richest man alive, Musk tweeted: “How strange,” and, later, “Well, back to work…”.  

His worth fluctuates based on Tesla stock prices, but Musk is currently the second-wealthiest person, with an estimated net worth of $166 billion. Hypothetically, if Musk cashed out his net worth, he could hand out around five hundred dollars to every person in the US. 

Recently, Senator Bernie Sanders leveled a charge against Musk and Bezos, tweeting: “We are in a moment in American history where two guys — Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos — own more wealth than the bottom 40% of people in this country. That level of greed and inequality is not only immoral. It is unsustainable.” 

Looking past Senator Sanders’ economic convictions, let’s discuss his moral claim. There are two biblical responses. 

First, the Bible teaches that wealth and inequality are not inherently evil. Everything given to us is from above. Even if we worked for it, God gave us the limbs to accomplish that work. We should ascribe all glory to him. All of creation is God’s, and all wealth is ultimately his. Therefore, as Christians, we think of ourselves as stewards.  

When asked to comment on the most unique Christian teaching about money, author and CEO of Crown Financial Ministries Chuck Bentley responded, “That it is not ours. God owns everything, and we are temporary stewards of anything he entrusts to us.”  

In the parable of the servant and manager, a master entrusts his estate to a steward, who proceeds to take advantage of his master’s wealth. When the master returned, the servant was harshly judged. Jesus explains the meaning of this parable in Luke 12:48: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.”  

Stewardship of strength, power, and wealth to help the weak, underprivileged, and poor are commanded by Jesus. Strength, power, and wealth are not immoral in and of themselves.  

However, Sen. Sanders is right when he says greed is wrong. Jesus strongly condemns greed in another parable. In the story of the rich fool, he tells the story of a man who builds wealth for himself to provide luxury and security for himself. The rich fool doesn’t build treasure in heaven nor ascribe glory to God but foolishly depends on the wealth he stores in his new and bigger barns. His greed is evident (Luke 12).  

Generosity and personal responsibility 

True to Jesus’ fashion of teaching, no one gets away with pointing fingers and judging. 

In Luke 21, Jesus is teaching against self-righteousness in the temple when he notices an impoverished widow drop two pennies in the offering. He says, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:3–4).  

The actions of one inspiring widow two thousand years ago should convict every reader.  

In God’s kingdom economy, the amount is not what matters. Rather, it is the diligence and sacrifice of the followers of Jesus that build up treasure in the kingdom of heaven.  

The weight of responsibility on Musk’s shoulders must weigh heavily. Though he wants to save humanity through space exploration and renewable energy, some have argued that his philanthropy has been meager when compared to his level of wealth.  

When we follow Jesus, we are pledging to use our finances wisely and self-sacrificially. Whether we are worth $16,000 or $160 billion, Jesus still calls us to live generously.  

How are you stewarding God’s gifts?

Mark Legg is a freelance writer and content intern at Denison Forum. He graduated from Dallas Baptist University with a degree in philosophy and biblical studies. He eventually wants to pursue his PhD and become a professor in philosophy.