When it comes to giving, are you a tightwad or an open hand? On today's broadcast, Randy Alcorn, author of The Treasure Principle, helps us gain a biblical perspective on money.
When it comes to giving, are you a tightwad or an open hand? On today's broadcast, Randy Alcorn, author of The Treasure Principle, helps us gain a biblical perspective on money.
Bob: Do you remember the story in the Bible about the widow who dropped her two copper coins in the kettle out in front of the temple?
And do you remember how excited Jesus got about that relatively small donation?
Randy: It's not the two coins Jesus is valuing.
Bob: Here is Randy Alcorn.
Randy: I mean, the temple can do without the two coins, you could argue, it's her heart.
Giving is an expression of the heart, and Jesus says in the passage in Matthew 6, "Where your treasure is there your heart will be also." What we do with the money God has entrusted to us and, really, it's His money not ours, is an indicator of the heart; of where our heart is.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 3rd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. When it comes to giving, where is your heart? For that matter, where is your checkbook? Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.
Dennis: I was really pleased, Bob, to get that phone call of the listener who called in after yesterday's broadcast and offered to give you their big screen TV. They were really feeling like we beat that one pretty badly yesterday. He said, "You know, Bob was crying on the broadcast about not having his big screen TV, so I just want him to have my big screen TV."
Bob: Actually, since we don't have cable, you know, you only get about two channels. The big screen would just be a lot of fuzz at our house.
Dennis: Randy, you need to understand something – by the way, Randy Alcorn, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: You need to understand something – Bob has given up cable …
Dennis: … and there has been mutiny at his house. His children have nearly roasted him for doing this and, Bob, of course, being the man of conviction and courage that he is, blames me.
Bob: It's all Dennis's fault.
Dennis: It's my fault that he gave up cable, so his kids – none of his kids will talk to me. I used to have great relationships with his kids.
Bob: Well, my wife kept – every time she'd write the check for the cable bill, she'd just put a little frownie face right next to the check in the checkbook.
Dennis: Oh, so now we're talking about where the real pressure came from.
Bob: It was one of those decisions that says, "Do we really want to spend this much money every month for something that we didn't use that much, anyway, and when we did it wasn't really benefiting us spiritually, you know? But football season, it just feels a little different. Ohhhhhhhf!
Dennis: You know, I do understand.
Bob: By the way, by the time the e-mail got to me, it didn't say I was getting the big screen TV, I was just getting a remote.
Dennis: Are you accusing me of taking the big screen TV?
Bob: I don't know what happened to the TV. All I got was the remote by the time it got to me.
Dennis: Actually, we're kidding about that big screen TV, but we have a guest on FamilyLife Today, Randy Alcorn, who is helping us gain a biblical eternal perspective of money and of possessions. And importantly, he is here to help us become heaven-class givers.
Bob: And you made the disclaimer yesterday, and let me make it today.
Dennis: Thank you.
Bob: Anytime somebody hears a Christian radio program talking about giving, some people will just go, "Oh, I know why they're talking about giving," you know?
Bob: Okay, yeah, we'd like you to send us some money, okay?
But that's not why we're talking about giving. We'd like you to send money to everybody else you hear on this station and send some to the station, too. You know, we'd just like your heart to be enlarged for this subject of giving, and we'll let the Lord worry about which ones of you He impresses to send it to us, okay? How's that?
Dennis: That's a good disclaimer.
Randy: And sometimes, guys, I think what is happening is that people who are in a position of authority to speak to this subject don't speak to it precisely for this reason. It feels like "I've got vested interests in this thing, I'm a pastor. If I preach on giving, people are going to think I want more money, I want a salary raise when, in fact, the best reason for a pastor to speak on the subject of giving is that it's a huge subject of Scripture, and we are to preach the whole counsel of God.
So I would encourage people – go to your pastors and encourage them to give, encourage them to read books on stewardship and books on giving and to teach their congregations. Seminaries, Bible colleges, don't teach in this area, and it's something that is critical in God's Word, but it's so neglected that then when we finally do talk about it, it comes across as kind of apologetic or maybe it comes across where people start thinking, "Well, we're just doing this to get money."
Bob: I think he's got some passion on this subject. Do you think it comes from the couple of books he's written dealing with it?
Dennis: I think it does. He's written a book called "The Treasure Principle," that is a great book on this. Maybe his best-known work on this subject is "Money, Possessions, and Eternity." In fact, Randy has been a pastor of a church in Boring, Oregon – Boring, Oregon, with Stu Weber. Actually, it's near Grisham, Oregon. There really is a town called Boring, Oregon, at Good Shepherd Community Church. He lives there now with Nancy, and they have two grown, married daughters.
I wanted to add one more disclaimer just because of the sensitivity of this subject. I am passionate about wanting our listeners to be givers not for my personal gain. I do not take a penny nor have I ever taken a penny from FamilyLife Today or FamilyLife. I raise my own support to work here, all of my royalties go into the ministry and further this work. I don't take a penny of any of it.
Bob: You're saying all your book royalties, any money, any honorariums for speaking, you don't hang onto any of that money.
Dennis: I don't take a penny of that. I raise my own support as do other staff members with Campus Crusade for Christ, and so when I challenge folks to give, not a penny, not a cent, comes to me. It all goes to reaching people with God's blueprints for marriage and family.
One of the things that you talked about in your book, "The Treasure Principle," that I want you to comment on – you said that Jesus taught about money and that about 15 percent of the New Testament and Jesus's teachings referred to how we handled money. Now, Randy, what do you think Jesus is getting to by focusing on money so much?
Randy: Well, I think that He sees that money and how we handle money and possessions is inseparable from our spiritual lives. When you look at Zacheus and you look at his conversion, what's the first thing that happens? What is it that tips Jesus off that this man is saved? That this man is converted? And that's that he wants to give away half of his money to the poor and pay back four times over those that he's cheated.
And you see the same thing with the poor widow. When she gives her last two coins, it's a statement of where her heart is with God, and Jesus lauds her for it, and He says, "Look at this woman. She has given everything that she has." He realizes that her giving – it's not the two coins Jesus is valuing. I mean, the temple can do without the two coins, you could argue. It's her heart, and giving is an expression of the heart, and Jesus says in the passage in Matthew 6, "Where your treasure is there your heart will be also."
What we do with our treasure, what we do with the money God has entrusted to us, and, really, it's His money not ours, is an indicator of where our heart is. So if I really want to have a heart for Microsoft, I buy up shares of Microsoft. If I really want to have a heart for missions, I give to missions. Where my money goes, my heart will follow, and therefore Jesus can't help but address this subject because it's simply wrapped up in who we are as his followers, who we are as people. We can't get away from how we view and how we handle money and possessions. It's like a litmus test of our spiritual life.
Bob: So if somebody is a lukewarm giver, and I'm not trying to define that around any percentage. I'm just saying giving is not something that they get real excited about or real passionate about and maybe they do it because they know they're supposed to, but it's kind of a lukewarm deal. Would you say they may be lukewarm in their spiritual lives in every area related to their spiritual lives?
Randy: I think it's fair to say that if we are not cheerful givers, something is wrong. If we are not generous givers, something is wrong. You can't help when you read a passage like 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 but conclude that giving is something that is simply built into the Christian life and should characterize the Christian life.
And if you read that, and you walk away saying, "Well, okay, that's maybe for other people but not for me," then you're missing out on something huge, and this is one of the things that I appeal to people on this subject of giving, is that, for instance, this book, "The Treasure Principle," is not about giving because of guilt, it's not about giving out of responsibility and duty, even though responsibility and duty are real when it comes to giving, and I don't minimize that. And sometimes God convicts our hearts, and we can have feelings of guilt, which we should respond to.
The accuser of the brethren, Satan will make us feel guilty about things we shouldn't feel guilty about; things that are covered by the blood of Christ.
Randy: But Christian will – the Holy Spirit convicts us, and He will convict us in an area and, certainly, you can be convicted in the area of giving but, really, the theme of this book is what we have so much missed out on on this subject of giving, and that is the joy of giving, and I think the reason that we hold onto things instead of give them is because we really do believe that we will have more pleasure, we will have more joy, if we have this instead of give this, and this is where I think we're dead wrong.
Dennis: You know, when this comes out in my life, it's before April 15th, and I open a file, I have this filing system that I'm sure a CPA would just be aghast at, but I nonetheless have a file that I use to stuff all the receipts, all my checks, anything and everything that has anything to do with income tax preparation.
And, Randy, I experience this every time I go through my checks, and I will look back over the past year. There is really something to be said for looking at a year's worth of spending in one sitting, because I look at that every year, and I am brought face-to-face with how little I give.
Now, I still give, and I don't feel like I'm being disobedient, okay? But I look over the checks and, by contrast of that which I have accumulated and spent, and that pile that I have given, and it has been used as a time of reflection to make adjustments and to increase the sacrifice in terms of giving. But the flesh wants to accumulate. It loves the pile of checks.
Bob: You talk about that pile of receipts you look at, you're probably not calculating into that what you talked about at the beginning of the program – the book royalties that you give back to the ministry, the honoraria that you give back to the ministry – that's not showing up in your pile of what you've given.
Dennis: No, but what's showing up is my check stubs.
Dennis: And that's what I'm talking about, Bob, and I'm just telling you the contrast of looking at that once a year, for me, has been a very healthy exercise, spiritually speaking.
Randy: That's right. A steward is a money manager, and we are not owners, and Scripture – and I developed a number of passages of Scripture from the book that says over and over again, "God is the owner. God owns everything. The silver and the gold are mine. The land is mine, you are but aliens and tenants," Scripture says, and God reminds us of this because if we start thinking like owners, then we think, "Well, I can do whatever I feel like."
But a money manager is somebody else. A money manager is managing someone else's assets. They don't belong to him. He has been entrusted with them, and that's where, when you sit down, and you say, "Okay, not only where is my money going but, more fundamentally, where is God's money going?" Then you start saying, "God, I better ask you if you approve of the decisions I'm making in this area, since it's Your money," and that's where prayer comes in about financial things – where we ask the Lord, "What do you want me to do?"
And I really think that most of us do not regularly go before the Lord and ask Him what decisions we should make financially.
Bob: Back to the illustration you used of the money manager – a money manager, at least the ones that I've ever known, sit down with the investor, first thing, and they say, "What are your investment objectives? What do you want this money to do? Do you want it to grow, do you want it to yield income, do you" – long term, short term, and then they build the strategy based on that.
You're saying if we're God's money managers, we need to start off with the question – what's God's investment objective? What does He want His Kingdom to do, and then we need to be looking around, as the money manager, and saying, "God, I found out about a cool investment opportunity" …
Dennis: Like He didn't know.
Bob: "I mean, the return here is going to be through the roof. I'm thinking about putting some of your money there," and God says, "Go for it," and you invest the money, right?
Randy: That's absolutely right, and one of the things that we did in our ministry a while back is – and we've actually done this several times, where large royalty checks have come in, and we've sat down and kind of divvied up who is going to give how much. And so maybe my assistant, Kathy, is going to decide where $10,000 of this is going to go, and Bonnie and Jan are each going to decide where $10,000 is going to go, and I've done this with our daughters before when we wrote the book, "The Ishbane Conspiracy," and an advance check comes in, and we say, "Okay, each of us is going to designate where $10,000 or $15,000 of this goes." Where do you want to put it?
Well, they've got to do some homework and, well, "What do you think, Dad? What do you recommend?" and they have certain things that are interested already. They've gone on short-term mission trips, and one of them knows about ministry over here and there and is really interested in what's going on in the Arab world, and so she comes back and says, "Well, let's give this much to Arab World Ministries, and let's give this much to Operation World," and the other one goes, "Well, let's give this to some work that's going on in Alaska," and the thing is, what I see happening with them is they're doing this research, and they're doing this giving, they are taking ownership of this.
Dennis: And they are experiencing the joy you're talking about.
Randy: The joy, absolute joy. And then when a letter came in thanking us profusely for, in one case, for a gift that just made an incredible difference. It was as a result of a decision one of my daughters had made, so she gets the letter, and she knows that it's a result of her decision that she put into this.
Now, of course, the ultimate giving is through giving of money that you have earned or that you own or whatever, so it's not just giving away other people's money, but there is something about a family where, you know, what a family has is owned by the different members of a family, and so when it comes to giving in our family, I always felt that I wanted the girls to be involved. Not in every single individual decision but often sitting down and saying, "What would be a good place for this?" And we traveled for a couple of months and went to different mission fields with our girls when they were young, and they got a sense for what God is doing in this world. It is pure joy.
Bob: You're basically a hedonist when it comes to giving, aren't you?
Randy: That's right, and I think those who are familiar with John Piper's theology, with Christian hedonism, can appreciate that, and there is great truth in that. We are doing, giving, ultimately, what brings the most pleasure not only to the heart of God, not only to the people who are recipients of the gift, but to us as givers.
Bob: Dennis, one of the things Mary Ann and I have done, and I wish I could say we did it more often than we do, but at least at the end of every year, we'll sit down sometime around Christmas, between Christmas and New Year's, and we'll say, "Let's look back on the last year and where have we benefited spiritually? What has the Lord used in our lives over this past year to move us more into the image of Christ?" And we'll kind of just take that spiritual inventory.
And then as we look at those things, we say if that's the case then we need to do some giving in that area because these folks have been faithful. God's used them in our lives, and we make giving decisions at the end of the year, but I've found that's not only good for us from a giving perspective, it's good to reflect back on a year and say how has God been at work in my life and who has He used to do it, and then how can I bless that organization? How can I help that ministry?
Dennis: How can I buy shares?
Dennis: How can I buy shares in what God's doing on planet earth, and Randy's given us a great exhortation to send it on ahead. I mean, invest it in something that is imperishable that you're looking forward to rather than investing it in something that is perishable that you're walking away from. If we literally are moving from the world, which is passing away to eternity, where we'll be with Christ forever and ever, which place do you want to invest?
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: And yet the world is seductive. I mean, it beckons. But here is what I don't want our listeners to miss – whether you're single, married, or parents, each of us have a responsibility to, I believe, share in what God's doing to experience that joy that Randy is talking about. And if you have not read his book, "The Treasure Principle," you can read it in less than an hour, but I promise you it will take you, probably, more than an hour to read it, because you're going to want to chew – you're going to want to chew on what you read in this book because it's going to change the way you think about giving and the way you view material possessions.
And, Randy, if I read your book correctly, that's exactly what you want to happen in the life of a person who reads this book.
Randy: That's right. I want us to be able to ask and answer the question, "Why has God entrusted so much to us?" Of any society in all of human history, by far, He has entrusted us with the most. Even people who are poverty level in this culture, even people who are middle class who think of rich people as being Bill Gates or something, have more wealth entrusted to them than the vast majority of people in all of history.
And so we have to ask ourselves why? Why has God done that? And I think it's like Esther when Mordecai said to her, "God has raised you up for just such a time as this." And I think God has raised us up to be givers in just such a time as this – unparalleled needs in the world, unparalleled opportunities to reach people with the Gospel and make a difference in people's family lives, unparalleled opportunities to do all of these things, and what has He done? He's entrusted us with a huge amount of wealth.
But sometimes we don't put it together that maybe that's the whole reason He's entrusted us with all this wealth. In fact, what He says in 2 Corinthians 9 is this – "He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
And now to answer the question why has God provided us so much materially? It says, "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion." We don't have to wonder. God has not given us all of this simply to increase our standard of living but to increase our standard of giving.
Bob: There are undoubtedly some folks who are thinking, "I'm not going to get that book Dennis is talking about. It's just going to make me feel guilty." But there are undoubtedly some other people who are thinking, "I want to get that book because what you guys are talking about is exciting." There's a part of this, Dennis, that really is …
Bob: It just gets you excited when you think about how can I get more involved in Kingdom work, how can I take, whether it's time or talent or treasure, whatever, and put it to work for what God's doing, because in the end that's all that's going to be around.
Dennis: That's right.
Bob: And we've got copies of Randy's book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if you'd like to get a copy, you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and on the right side of the home page, you'll see a box that says, "Today's Broadcast." If you click where it says "Learn More," it will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about the book "The Treasure Principle." We'd encourage you to either order online or call us to request a copy.
Again, the book is called "The Treasure Principle." You'll find it at our website, FamilyLife.com, or just call 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy of the book, and when you do get in touch with us, we'll let you know how you can have a copy sent to you.
You know, in the same way that generosity ought to be characteristic of those of us who are followers of Christ, forgiveness ought to be a characteristic of a Christ-follower as well. In fact, Jesus said at one point that if you fail to forgive others, God is not going to forgive you. But if you chose to forgive others, God will forgive you.
Now, that can be a confusing passage, and it needs some explanation. We actually had a conversation not long ago with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who is the host of the daily radio program, "Revive our Hearts," and the author of a number of books for women. She has written a book on forgiveness, and our conversation with Nancy is available on a CD that deals with the subject of forgiveness. We are making that available this month when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.
You can simply go online at FamilyLife.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation, and request a copy of this CD. If you're donating online, there will be a keycode box you see on the donation form. Type the word "forgive" into that box, and we'll know to send you a copy of this CD from Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone, and just mention that you'd like the CD on forgiveness. We're happy to send it to you. It's really a thank you gift. It's our way of saying thanks for helping to support this ministry and being a partner with us in what God is doing through the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
And we hope you can be back with us tomorrow on FamilyLife Today when Randy Alcorn will be here again, and we continue to talk about how we can cultivate a heart of generosity.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.
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