Experiencing Financial Freedom
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with successful entrepreneur and CPA, Ron Blue, about finding financial freedom through giving.
Ron Blue talks about finding financial freedom through giving.
Experiencing Financial Freedom
Bob: The Bible says that being rich can be a spiritual challenge, but just how much money makes you rich? And what would have happened if Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof," had had a long talk with financial counselor Ron Blue?
Tevye: [singing] Oh, Lord, you made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, it's no shame to be poor, but it's no great honor, either. So what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune? If I were a rich man …
Ron: That's the issue – what is provision and what is extravagance?
Tevye: All day long I vidi vidi vum, if I were a wealthy man.
Ron: And I’m talking about the car you drive, the house you live in, the clothes you wear, vacations you take – those are lifestyle issues, and that's the test of faith.
Tevye: If I were a vidi vidi vum …
Ron: God doesn't tell me that it's 38.5 percent of my adjusted gross income after deducting et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Tevye: I'll build a big tall house with roofs by the dozen, right in the middle of the town.
Ron: He says I want you to live by faith, and you're going to have to come to me and ask the question of what is provision?
Tevye: There would be one long staircase just going up and one even longer coming down …
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 25th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to talk today about not how rich you are but how generous you are. Stay with us.
Tevye: Chicks and turkeys and geese and ducks for the town to see and hear, squawking just as noisily as they can. And each [makes bird noises] will lend like a trumpet on the ear as if to say "Here lives a wealthy man" – oy.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You know, if you came across a book called "Generous Living," you would figure that the author would have to be a generous person, and yet as we've already heard this week, the author tells us he's not that generous, he just wrote a book on the subject, huh?
Dennis: Well, hey, if you write a book on it, you've got to be generous.
Bob: It's got to teach you …
Dennis: It's got to solve it once and for all. He never has a problem with it again.
Dennis: He's conquered greed.
And the author is Ron Blue. The book, as we said, was "Generous Living." Ron, welcome back to the broadcast.
Ron: It's great to be here again.
Dennis: I want to ask you a real tough question. Now, you were the founder of Ronald Blue and Company, which was a company that helped people with their investments and helped them give more money away. You currently are the president of Christian Financial Professionals Network, a network of financial planners and CPAs who advise people what to do with their money, is that correct? Did I describe that right?
Dennis: And you have written a great number of books on money and giving, and yesterday you mentioned a man who gave 70 percent of his income away, and yet he still confessed he was giving out of his abundance, and that wasn't really sacrificial. I wanted to ask you a question that I'll give you the permission to turn me down on, if you want to, all right? So our listener doesn't feel uncomfortable that I'm putting you on the spot here on Christian radio, but I happen to believe that one of the problems with giving today is we don't have enough models.
Ron: I agree.
Dennis: We don't have couples standing up and saying, "You know what? Here's what we do."
Ron: I agree with that.
Bob: Well, and you figure you're not supposed to because that could be self-serving or bragging or, you know, doesn't the Bible say that you're not supposed to do in public, you know …
Dennis: And if that's the case, then you should never talk about that you ever pray, you shouldn't ever talk about leading somebody to Christ, and you certainly shouldn't talk about the joy of giving money away or the joy of investing or contributing to some ministry at your church or otherwise.
So my question for you is – would you care to share with our listeners what percent of your income you give away?
Ron: Yes, and, first of all, I think there are different levels of giving. I think that there is the "should give" level, which is 1 Corinthians 16:2, "Give as God has prospered you." That's New Testament giving, I believe. So you can ask the question, "How much is God prospering you? It should be reflected in your giving. Or your giving should reflect God's blessing.
And Judy and I set a tithe amount, if you will, of 15 percent.
Dennis: That's where you start.
Ron: That's where we start. The second level of giving is "could give." In other words, I've got money in my bank account or my savings account or my retirement account that I could give. So when a need comes up – the 15 percent, that's the regular proportionate giving that we do week to week, month to month.
Bob: That's like paying the bills, I mean, I don't mean to put it in that phrase, but it's – you've obligated yourself by conscience for that amount.
Ron: We've said, "We're going to give to our church, we're going to support Campus Crusade staff, we're going to give to Joni Eareckson's ministry, we're going to do those things, and we pre-commit to that, and we pre-commit 15 percent, so that's given at the beginning.
But the "could give" is like the tsunami came along, or Katrina – that's not in that 15 percent, and we used to look around and say, "You know what? We're going to give. And when the tsunami hit at the end of 2004, right at the beginning of 2005 – in fact, it was Christmas week of 2004, because Judy and I said, "Well, how much are we going to give? We've already pre-committed the 15 percent. It's not going to come out of that." And I said, "I think we should give at least as much as what we spent on Christmas this year." I mean, that was just one of those things. I think it was God and the Holy Spirit speaking and saying, "You know what? You just spent that on yourself, can't you give that?" Which we did. And that's the second level of giving.
The third level of giving is the "would give" level. And the "would give" level is really the only time you get into faith, where you say – the first two are not by faith. They're just by decision. I made the decision we're going to give 15 percent. I made the decision we're going to give out of our savings or whatever. Now we're saying – and we're developing a plan – and we're saying can we get to 50 percent by increasing our giving 5 percent a year? Going from 15 to 20 to 25 and so forth and so on.
And so we've got a plan, and you might find it interesting that I have a financial planner.
Dennis: I do find that interesting.
Ron: Yes, well, I can't hold myself accountable nor can I communicate that effectively with Judy about our finances.
Dennis: So it's really to save your marriage.
Ron: That's right. Plus, 80 percent of women will experience widowhood, and so the likelihood is that she will be managing money.
Bob: So you are stair-stepping your way to more aggressive giving.
Ron: Yes, we'd like to get to 50 percent.
Dennis: And I heard about a businessman who had done this all of his days. As I recall, he was from Detroit, Michigan, and he started doing this when he was a young man at the beginning of their marriage, and he started at 10 percent, and he increased his giving each year, I think, by 1 or 2 percent. And he is now up to above 75 percent. In fact, his son, who has watched him make the gifts said of his father, "My dad gives away 75 percent but he gives away much more than that." Now, that's a gift to the next generation to train them, to model for them, how to give generously.
Earlier this week, Bob, you asked me did I believe our children, as adults now, were generous? And I reflect back on that – yeah, I think they are. I believe we could have done a better job of modeling giving in some more public fashion. I'm not talking about standing on the stage in front of a lot of people, I'm talking about modeling giving in front of them.
We did a lot of giving they never knew anything about. And, as a result, they didn't get a chance to observe it, and if I had it to do all over again, I'd been a little more intentional about showing them what we were doing and then talking about why we were doing it.
We have a generation of families today, Ron, that really need to look at this, because you were sharing with me before we came on air that the Christian community is giving less today than it was 10 years ago.
Ron: Absolutely. Ten years ago the average evangelical gave about 6 to 7 percent of their income, and today it's 3 or 4 percent of their income. Now, giving has not gone down. As a matter of fact, giving has gone up in dollar terms, because the wealth has increased so dramatically in the last 10 years.
Dennis: So what that means is we're making more money …
Ron: … and giving less as a percent.
Bob: So a guy who was earning $40,000 10 years ago might be earning double that today, might be earning …
Ron: Right, he might be earning $100,000 today.
Bob: But he's not kept his giving up with his income, is he?
Ron: That's right. I think there are three important questions, Bob, that everybody has to ask themselves or every couple has to ask themselves and answer, number one, who owns it – because you've got to deal with that issue first. And if God owns it, then my paradigm, my mindset, my decision-making changes if I'm managing somebody's resources as opposed to spending my resources.
The second question that everybody has to ask, and in America it's really relevant is how much is enough? Either in accumulation or lifestyle, and I've found that the biggest barrier to generosity is because of lifestyle. Now, I'm talking about the car you drive, the house you live in, the clothes you wear, colleges that you send your children to, and so forth. That's lifestyle issues – second home, first home, vacations you take, those are lifestyle issues.
What I found in 2 Timothy was that there are three principles. First of all, a man is worse than an infidel that doesn't provide for his family. So I have to provide for my family.
Dennis: Yeah, but what does that mean?
Ron: That's the issue – is what is provision and what is extravagance? And that's the test of faith. Without faith, it's impossible to please Him. So God doesn't tell me that it's 38.5 percent of my adjusted gross income after deducting et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Or I would live at 38.7 percent. He says, "I want you to live by faith, and you're going to have to come to Me and ask the question of what is provision?"
The second is …
Dennis: I want to stop you there for a second, because there are a lot of us who would really like the box.
Ron: Absolutely, we would.
Dennis: We would love the box, get in that box, and you know what? I am fully obedient, and there would be no tension at that point.
Bob: Just take the automatic deduction, and I'll live on the rest, and than I'm living in obedience.
Dennis: But God has called us to live, as you said, by faith. And I think this is an aspect of the Christian walk, of walking with Christ, where the reason he hasn't given us the box is because we'd get a nice easy chair and sit in the middle of the box, and our faith would deteriorate.
Ron: That's why I don't think anybody should give 10 percent, because 10 percent becomes God's part and 90 percent becomes my part, and the reality is He owns it all. I tell people, "I think you should give proportionately." But if you're going to give 10 percent that should be the starting point. that should not be where you stop, and there's a lot of churches that preach tithing, the 10 percent, with good reason. They'd like to get people to the 10 percent, and they should get there, but that's not God's part. He owns 100 percent.
Bob: Okay, back to 2 Timothy – it teaches provision is required.
Ron: And that is by faith – I have to add that's that tension of faith. The second is contentment. Paul says in Philippians, "I've learned to be content, and in 2 Timothy he talks about contentment. So I think you adopt a lifestyle where you're providing for your family, and I have a contentment. This is okay – before the Lord, it's okay. The third thing he says, "I've given …
Bob: Wait, I want to stop you on the issue contentment, because there are a couple of things I think listeners need to know. You sat on an airplane one time next to a woman who had a lot of money but didn't have contentment. There is not necessarily a direct relationship between how much money you have and how contented you are.
Ron: As a matter of fact, there is none.
Bob: Paul said I've learned how to be content whether I'm in plenty or I'm in want, so contentment is not tied to the size of your bank account, plus or minus, right?
Ron: And everybody out there is just like me, and that is I have to, every day, come before the Lord, and confess my discontent, okay, kind of cleanse myself, if you will, and say, "Lord, I am content. I just need to thank You, praise You, for what You've done." But contentment will never be a result of having more.
Bob: And the reason this is so important is because the culture keeps screaming at you that stuff will make you content.
Ron: Well, sure, advertising – billions of dollars are spent on advertising to tell me all the things that I didn't know I needed. Every time I go to the shopping center, I find out there's a whole bunch of things I didn't know I needed.
Bob: And so every day I am persuaded, seduced, being lured, in to the idea that contentment will come with stuff, with gain, and that's the reason that I have to keep coming back to the Scriptures and reminding myself that God said contentment is found in Him not in your bank account.
Dennis: And the passage you quote, 1 Timothy, chapter 6, it says, "But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied with contentment," and that's a passage of Scripture. In 1 Timothy 6 it's talking about money, and it says, verse 10, "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some, by longing for it, have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many a pang, but flee from these things you man of God and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness." Later on in 2 Timothy 2:22, it talks about pursuing those things with those who have a pure heart.
Bob: Mm-hm, the community of faith.
Dennis: The community of faith, which is accountability, and contentment today is in such, I think, scarcity, because, a, we don't have a biblical perspective of money; secondly, we aren't fleeing from the love of money and the accumulation of things; third, we aren't pursuing righteousness, love, faith, with people who embrace the same things, Ron. And so, as a result, we're getting seduced by the culture.
Ron: And that's why, when I wrote this book, "Generous Living," I came to the conclusion, after 20-some years of working with people, that generosity is more a decision than a feeling. In other words, the way to experience financial freedom is to let go. And so God wants me to give not because He needs the money, for crying out loud. He wants me to give to free me, and the only way I can depart from this culture of selfishness and greed and envy and jealousy is to learn how to give. And in every case – and that's why I say I don't feel like I'm a generous person because I don't feel generous. I am generous by obedience because I know that I am going to experience financial freedom when I give. And whenever I give, it's good for me because the only way I'm going to find contentment is to be able to be free from the love of money.
Dennis: I was leaving church – this has been 20 years ago – and it's funny how you can remember something like this, but it's the very thing you're talking about – how there is satisfaction when you do what God wants you to do. There was this little boy selling trash bags to raise money for camp, and he was raising money so he could be able to go and spend some days at some camp with his buddies, and I said to him, I said, "You know what? I really don't need any trash bags, but here is some money." I don't remember how much it was. My regret today it was not more. I am sure it should have been more. But I gave him some money and about 20 minutes later we were still hanging around church there. The mother of that young boy came up to me and said, "Mr. Rainey, I just want you to know something. I'm a single parent. Our son couldn't afford to go to this camp, and your gift really has encouraged him to be able to make that possible." And it wasn't enough for him to go. I don't want to lead anyone to believe that at all, but it's interesting how many times I've given and forgotten about it, but I've never forgotten that one because it was a gift given in God's time to meet a need, and if you've never known that satisfaction, it's just a delight.
Ron: And it's a decision that you make. I keep coming back to that because it is. I don't want people to think they're going to have a feeling. Sometimes what I'll do is, going through the toll booth, hand them an extra 50 cents or a buck and say "That takes care of the guy behind me." Can you imagine what he experiences when they go through then?
Bob: He pulls up with the money, and they say, "That guy paid."
Ron: It's been paid for, that guy ahead of you paid for it.
Bob: See, I used to do the reverse. I'd drive through and say "The guy behind me is getting it."
Dennis: You did not.
Bob: No, I never did that.
Dennis: No, you didn't do that.
Bob: You've talked about contentment, we've talked about provision for your family. You said there's a third principle.
Ron: There sure is, and I think it's in verse 17 of chapter 6 that says God has given you richly all things to enjoy. And my test for somebody or question that I would ask in test for myself is am I content and am I enjoying what God's given me? Because an awful lot of people have a lot and don't enjoy it.
Dennis: Isn't that the truth?
Dennis: What would you encourage someone to do who is listening to us and say, "You know, I'm not generous. I simply haven't exercised that muscle. I'm not even sure it's a part of my anatomy to be a generous giver." Where would you encourage them to start?
Ron: Well, I would start by doing a regular, systematic giving every week – writing out the check. And I still practice giving on a weekly basis so that I have the discipline every week of putting a check in the collection plate. It tells me, you know what? Everything I have came from God, and it's just a weekly reminder that it all came from Him.
Dennis: That's another biblical principle.
Ron: It is.
Bob: And, you know, my wife nudged us in this direction not long ago, because we used to do our church giving on a monthly basis. It just kind of fit into how you paid the bills, right? And she said, "I think we ought to write" – it's the same amount, but we write it in four checks and do it on a weekly basis, and it's just, as you said, a good discipline to be in. It gets your mind oriented toward this week's giving and, again, your kids see it happening every week rather than – they didn't know whether it was monthly or just as the spirit moved or spontaneously. Well, now they see Mom and Dad every week putting some money in the plate.
Ron: Plus what it reminds me of when I write that check, I realize where else I've spent money in the past week and how much, maybe more, I've spent on a piece of furniture or vacation or something. I write that check, and it's just a reminder of how much I'm re-committing to the Lord. It all came from Him, but I think weekly giving is a good thing, and I think for parents of young children, for the children to see Dad and Mom giving on a regular basis, that's, as Howie Hendricks says, you know, "More is caught than taught." And I'm sure you've said that many times.
Bob: C.S. Lewis said that the best way to acquire virtue is to pretend like you already have it. So if you want to become generous just start pretending that you are, and see that happen. And you know, Ron, we hear from folks here who will write to us and say, "We love your ministry. We wish we could give more, but here's our current situation." And their heart is toward giving, but their financial situation doesn't allow them to do much. And I’m curious what counsel you'd have for them, and maybe we can tackle that tomorrow.
Let me let our listeners know how they can get a copy of your book. It's called "Generous Living," and we have it in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you get into these kinds of subjects and more in the book, and all of us could benefit from thinking more biblically about money and stuff, and that's what you try to help us do in this book. Again, the title is "Generous Living."
Go to our website, FamilyLife.com. Click on the "Go" button that's in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to a page where you can get more information about Ron's book and other resources that we have here at FamilyLife. In fact, there's another book I know you've recommended to a lot of people by Randy Alcorn called "The Treasure Principle." We have that in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, and if you click the red "Go" button that will take you right to a screen where you can get more information about these resources and others. Any of our listeners who are interested in getting a copy of Ron's book and Randy's book together, we can send at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation here with Ron Blue, and you can listen to it again or pass it along to someone who might benefit from hearing today's program.
The website, again, FamilyLife.com, or call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information about these resources. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can let you know how you can have these books and other resource sent out to you.
You know, we have been, this spring, Dennis, the beneficiaries of some generous folks who came to us earlier this year wanting to help the ministry of FamilyLife Today. They wanted to give a donation of $375,000 to help our ministry, and we were very encouraged by that, but they put a condition on that donation. They said that they wanted it to be a matching gift. In other words, they wanted us to encourage radio listeners to join with them and give as well.
So they agreed that they would match, dollar for dollar, every donation we received during the month of may up to a total, a new total, of $375,000, and we have heard from other generous folks all month long who have been calling to make donations of $25 or $50 or $100 to help support the ministry and to help us take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity. And we are in the closing days of May, and I know we're getting very close to taking full advantage of that matching gift opportunity, but I don't think all the money has come in yet, and so we're hoping listeners today, tomorrow, over the next few days, would consider calling or writing to make a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Again, when you do, your donation is going to be doubled. It's going to be matched dollar for dollar. You can donate online, if you'd like, at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, and if there's any way you can do that over the next few days, we would certainly appreciate it, and we do appreciate your prayers and appreciate you listening to FamilyLife Today as well.
Tomorrow we're going to be back to talk more with Ron Blue about money and stuff and generosity and how we can think more biblically about those kinds of subjects. I hope you can be back with us as well.
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, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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