I Like Being Generous
About the Guest
Giving should be a delight for believers. Generous giver, Brad Formsma, talks about a gift-giving opportunity that gave him enormous satisfaction. He encourages others to just look around them to find the next person God's leading them to bless.
Brad FormsmaBrad Formsma is the creator of ilikegiving.com, a website viewed in more than 165 countries, which inspires people to live generously through its short films as well as a platform for all to share their experiences in giving. Brad and his wife, Laura, have three children and live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Brad Formsma, talks about a gift-giving opportunity that gave him enormous satisfaction.
I Like Being Generous
Bob: Are you a cheerful, joyful giver? If not, Brad Formsma says there is a paradigm shift that may need to occur in your thinking.
Brad: It is all His—and we get to be involved. We get to give into His kingdom—we get to do for other people. Yet, I think we’ve got it a little bit backwards—where we’ve kind of pushed the duty and the obligation side of giving. That’s not what He’s talking about when He’s talking about, “I love a cheerful giver.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Be honest. Are you a grudging giver or a cheerful giver? We’re going to talk about generosity today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.
Dennis: Bob, I’ve got a question for all three of us, here in the studio.
Dennis: We’ve got a guest, Brad Formsma, who joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Brad—welcome back.
Brad: Thank you.
Dennis: Brad works with Generous Giving, which is an organization out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, that wants to encourage people to give, give more, and give more often. He and his wife Laura have three children. They started a campaign called “I Like Giving”, back in 2010, to inspire people to live generously.
Here’s my question. I have a verse I want to read after we answer this question: “What is a gift that you have given that really stands out as one that brought you enormous satisfaction in giving?” It can be big or small; but since I’ve had a chance to be thinking about it while you guys haven’t, I’m going to go first.
I was coming out of church—this has to be 30 years ago. Barbara and I had six children. We didn’t have a lot of money. We’d heard a pitch, at the youth group that our kids were in, that some of the kids were going to go on a summer mission trip. I was walking out to the car; and a young man—a boy—came up to me and said, “Mr. Rainey, would you be willing to buy this Saran Wrap™?”—or wrapping paper, or something like that.
It was like—you know—I looked at him and said: “No. I don’t want any of the paper. I just want to give.” I pulled out my checkbook, and I think it was 30 bucks. I walked on a few steps, out to my car, and was fiddling with my keys to get all our kids in the car. This mom approaches me. She comes over, and her son is kind of trailing behind her—the young man that I’d said I would help him get to this thing.
She said: “I want to thank you for your gift. I’m a single-parent mom. I didn’t think there was any way my son could be able to go on this trip. Your gift has really helped set him in the right direction. I just want to thank you.”
I could have given $500, $1,000—it wasn’t the amount. It was that—for once—this is my big idea that I got out of this—for once, I feel like, at that point, I had really heard from God and done something that pleased Him—that He wanted me to do. That was my assignment for the moment. That’s a good feeling! That’s a satisfying feeling.
Alright, you guys. Can you think of a favorite gift you’ve given?
Bob: You got yours, Brad?
Brad: I do. It makes me think of the time I was reading the passage about widows and orphans. I thought, “I just don’t know a widow.”
Weeks later, I was at the place, getting my hair cut. The lady is washing my hair. I’ve known her for a number of years; and I said, “How would I meet a widow?” She said, “Well, I cut a lot of their hair.” I said, “Well, do any of them need anything?” She said, “Oh, my goodness; absolutely.” I said, “Well, you pray about who you want to introduce me to.”
Weeks later, she sends me a text with a lady by the name of Evelyn. At the time, Evelyn is 90. Today, Evelyn is 95. That has turned into one of the most amazing relationships. For three years, I never met her. We would just send money, as a family, to her, every other month. We found out she was a giver. She was giving rides to people. She was at the vet home, volunteering. She’s giving her life away. She was willing to stop doing medicine because she didn’t want to stop giving.
So, three years, after sending her checks in the mail—blindly, of course—no tax deduction and no benefit like that—but just wanting to follow the Lord’s leading on this—we met for lunch. Oh, my word! What a delightful lady. She looked at me and she said: “I just want to thank you. Thank you for being a part of my life. You’re an angel.” I said, “I want to thank you for being available!” Our kids, now, have gotten to know Evelyn. She’s part of our family. She will spend a half-hour writing a brief thank you note because of her arthritis. I save every one of those. What a lady!
Bob: You know, as I was thinking about your question, I went back to—had to be 1986/ ’87/ ’88 —around in there. I don’t know what prompted me to do this, but it was nearing the end of the year. I was just reflecting on the year and thought: “What has God used in my life this year to help me grow? How am I better today? Who has God used in that regard?”
That year, I had read Chuck Colson’s book, Kingdoms in Conflict. It was one of those books that was very helpful in helping me think through the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of man and politics, and, “How does all that work together?” I thought: “You know what? I’m just going to send him a check, with a little note that said, ‘I read your book this year.’”
I didn’t know Chuck Colson. I had read his book. It had an impact in my life; and I thought: “I’m just going to send him a check and say, ‘Thanks for writing the book. God used it. Here, do whatever you want to with this money.’” I think I wrote a check for $75, which again—big deal, back then—
Dennis: Yes; right.
Bob: —and mailed it off. There was an address, in the back, to write to Chuck Colson. I sent him the $75, and that was it. Well, I got a note back—a letter back from Chuck Colson, saying: “Thank you for the check. I appreciate your kind words.”
He said: “I wanted you to know that I have given the money to Prison Fellowship, the ministry that I helped to found. I just turned the check over to them—to help prisoners.”
First of all, getting a note back from Chuck Colson—that was kind of cool; but, then, to see that he had taken it—it didn’t stick to his fingers. He just passed it on to do more ministry with. That kind of began a pattern for me, of every year, stopping and saying, “Okay, what’s God used in my life; and how can I tangibly say, ‘Thank you,’ by investing there?”
Dennis: Bob, you know, I came to you—wanting to interview Brad and talk with him because he’s all about generous living. He’s about encouraging us to think about other people. I just thought: “I need that. Our audience needs that. This culture needs that.”
In fact, I want to read a passage of Scripture that I’ve already read this week, Second Corinthians, Chapter 9, verse 6:
“The point is this—whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Now Brad, you’ve got a comment on that last phrase, “God loves a cheerful giver.”
Brad: I’ve often heard it said that that statement, “God loves a cheerful giver,” is the only time in the New Testament where He tells us specifically what He loves. His nature of giving—I believe it’s baked into every one of us to want to do for other people. We live in a society that spends hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars getting us to buy things that we don’t need—getting us to be obligated—
debt—busy—all these things come into play. They steal the opportunities for us to give and do for other people.
Bob: This whole idea of cheerful giving—I’ve read books—like, I read a book, recently, that said that we spend more money, as a nation, on pet food than we do on world missions. You read that and you go, “Well, that’s wrong!” Then, you start to feel guilty: “Well, I bought a bag of cat food. I don’t want my cat to starve. I guess I need to be doing”—but guilt shouldn’t be our motivation; right?
Brad: Exactly. As a matter of fact, the recent surveys, that I’ve read, talk about, when asked, “Where do you experience the least amount of joy in your giving?”—it’s tied to the local church. It makes me so sad because there’s a reality that it is all His—and we get to be involved. We get to give into His kingdom—we get to do for other people.
Yet, I think, we’ve got it a little bit backwards—where we’ve kind of pushed the duty and the obligation side of giving. That’s not what He’s talking about when He’s talking about, “I love a cheerful giver.”
Dennis: As you were talking, I was thinking, “If we enjoyed it, then we’d be practicing it more often.” I ran across this quote that said that giving by North American church-goers was higher during the Great Depression than it is now. It was 3.3 percent of per capita income given in 1933, in the middle of the Great Depression. Today it’s 2.5 percent of per capita income. It’s clear—we’re not enjoying our giving. We’re giving less, and yet we have more. Is the more choking out the giving—do you think?
Brad: I think, as we talked earlier about debt and busy—
when we get obligated, it really causes a strain on our ability to spontaneously do for other people—when there’s that spirit of worry about: “Am I going to have enough? I’ve got these obligations.” You can have a strong impression from the Lord of where to give; but if there’s so much debt and so much obligation, wrapped up into your personal life—
For me, that’s something I champion a lot—of just saying in our own life and in other people’s lives: “What’s going on, here, in the checkbook? Are we putting ourselves in a position to be used by God to do for other people; or have we, ourselves, gotten so obligated that, even if we had an audible voice, we couldn’t do it?”
Dennis: You’ve created a website called I Like Giving. It’s actually a campaign, where you’re calling families, of all kinds—whether you make a little, a good amount, or a lot—
to just engage your kids in the process of giving and make them a part of it. Is there a story, around that, that your kids have participated in that illustrates this—how it works?
Brad: Yes. Shortly after we launched ILikeGiving.com—and, really, the reason behind starting ILikeGiving.com is this message of, “’It’s better to give than receive’ is for everyone.” So, whether it’s your children, or whether it’s your teenagers, or your college students, parents, grandparents—it’s all of us. I think it’s easy to think, “Giving—I need to be rich;” and yet, it’s for all of us.
The other day, I had a story submitted onto the “I Like Giving” site. The big idea with I Like Giving is create your own story and share it—not in a bragging way—but this idea that we let our light shine before men so that they can see our good deeds—this idea that we can spur each other on. That’s what it’s about.
I had a story that came in called “I Like Laundry.” It was a University of Michigan student. In the busy-ness of college life, she was doing her laundry. It got late in the day, and she had forgotten about a load in the wash machine. The next morning, she woke up and had that panicked feeling like: “Oh no! I’m not in a good place here. My clothes are in a wash machine somewhere, on a campus, where there’s potential for theft.”
She ran down to the laundry facility, only to find the clothes perfectly folded with a note on the top that said, “I hope this makes your day.” Someone had taken the time and money to take it out of the washer, into the dryer, dry it, fold it, and then write the little note. She just submitted “I Like Laundry.” Well, what an inspiring little story!
Dennis: Yes. You don’t have to give money.
Brad: That’s right. She paid two bucks to dry somebody else’s clothes.
Do you think she’ll ever tell anybody about what she experienced on the receiving end? See, I always say: “Many of us haven’t experienced the joy of giving or receiving—ever or in a long time. There’s something very powerful about being able to receive from someone else. There’s something really powerful of doing for someone else, without expecting anything in return.”
Dennis: We always think about giving money, and that’s a limited resource. One of the things we don’t have a lot of is time, but we can do things. On your website, you have ideas for giving. I copied these off; and I thought, “This would make a great exercise for a family to make a list of 15 ways your family can give because you’ve got 14 here.”
I’ll not read all of them; but the first one was, “Help someone with their luggage.” Another one: “Pay for a cup of coffee for the person behind you, or a Coke, maybe in McDonalds®, as you’re going through it.”
“Pay for the deductible for someone else at the body shop.” Notice—you said, “...someone else...” because you may have to pay for it yourself, too. “Leave 100 percent of your dinner bill as a tip.” In other words, pay for it and then pay for it again, as a tip for the wait-person who served you. “Sign up to serve a night at your local soup kitchen.” That’d be a good one for a family.
And then one more—I like this one: “Carry either a $5-, a $10-, a $20- or a $50-bill with you, each month. Then, give it to a complete stranger.” Now, do you know what that would do for me—if I had a wad of ones, or ten fives in my pocket? All of a sudden, my antenna would be up—about thinking about giving. That’s what Second Corinthians 9:7—it says, “Each one must give as he has made up his mind.” We’ve got to be focused on giving.
Brad: That’s right. It is a habit change. Chances are you haven’t been doing this. So, don’t think: “I’m going to do it once,” or, “We’re going to have a one-time family-giving event.” Make a point to say, “For the next month…” or, “…two months, we’re going to be intentional on giving.”
I think, of those ideas for giving we talked about—giving up your first-class seat. Someone sent in a story, “I Like Coach.” They talked about sitting in the area with the Delta agent, and a blind man was there. He got that feeling: “Oh, no. I read that on ILikeGiving.com. I think this is my time.” He went up to the agent and said, “I want to give up my seat.” The agent sat back and said: ‘Who are you? You want to do what?’”
It’s so foreign to so many people—this idea that we’re going to give something up. Yet, he explains in his story—
when he walked past that first-class seat and saw the blind gentleman sitting there,—
Dennis: Oh, my!
Brad: —his feet didn’t hit the ground. What’s interesting is—he tells later on in the story—that they treated him like he was in first-class, way in the back of the bus. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, I want you to know, Brad, I really appreciate your emphasis here and your work with Generous Giving. I think every generation has its Achilles heel. I wonder if our generation, despite us being fairly generous, couldn’t have done more and maybe cut back a little bit on our lifestyles and practiced sacrificial giving—and maybe, giving that goes outside of the tax deduction, where you don’t get the receipt—but it’s just encouraging someone.
I think out of all the stuff that you’ve done, and how you’ve encouraged people to give, that’s one of your best thoughts—is just encouraging people to help in the little matters—like looking someone in the eye, and giving them a compliment:
“Thank you for your work and your service.” I’ve been doing this with TSA agents. It’s really interesting because they don’t get a lot of compliments! [Laughter]
Brad: I often think about a generous person—“I’ve never met a bitter, angry, generous person.” I tend to meet people, who are generous; and they never say, “I tried being generous, and I’m going to go back to being stingy.” They become more generous. There is some barrier out there that is holding people back from going out and trying to do it. I would say: “When you go out and create your own story, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out. Keep pushing.”
It’s so clear that it’s what the Lord would have us do. It’s an amazing way to share what He’s done in our lives through these actions.
I grew up in this whole Reformed environment, where there was such a strong messaging on “You can’t get saved by works.” We kept hearing, “Well, then, don’t do anything for anybody else.” That’s kind of what comes through, in a way; but yet, there’s such a significant component to us doing for others.
Dennis: Well, here’s the assignment for all our listeners. FamilyLife Today is all about bringing timeless principles home to individual homes and helping folks apply them. I want you and your family to sit down, or you and your husband, or if you’re a single person, you just pull out and write yourself an email and say, “Over the next month,”—you fill in the blank—“I want to exercise blank number of giving opportunities.” “I just want to give.”
It could be some of these things we’re talking about—helping somebody with their luggage, a compliment to someone, thanking someone for their service—
or it could be putting a $5-bill or a $10-bill or a $100-bill in somebody’s hand—who needs it.
Instead of making it an event—which I think that’s a good point, Brad, not just, “Well, we did that, so now we’re done for this year,”—but try to turn it into a habit, over the next 30 days: “How many times are you going to do that?” I’m going to do that with Barbara and, at some point in the future, I’ll report back in.
Bob: It would be great, too, if listeners, after they do that, would jot us a note—send us an email—let us know about some of your giving opportunities, how you executed those, and how you saw God at work in the midst of that.
Dennis: Yes; right.
Brad: The way we have our website set up is for people to send in their own “I Like” stories, and then they’re on the website. What they do is encourage other people. You have no idea, when you send in your “I Like Laundry” story, how other people will be impacted. People get inspired through other stories.
Bob: Well, and you’ve collected a bunch of these stories, now, in the book that you’ve put together—
called I Like Giving, which is a book that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Of course, the videos that you created are also up on your website. So, folks come to FamilyLifeToday.com—they can order a copy of your book and read some of these stories to the family at the breakfast table or at the dinner table. Or they can watch some of these videos, together as a family, and get inspired, together, to be givers.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for information about Brad Formsma’s book, I Like Giving, or for a link to the I Like Giving website, where you’ll find the videos that we’ve talked about today. Again, our website: FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can order the book from us by calling 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
You know, we talk about this subject of giving; and I can’t help but think of the hundreds of couples—hundreds of families, all around the country—
who have said, “FamilyLife Today is important enough to us that we’re going to give to make sure that the mission that FamilyLife is involved—the mission of effectively developing godly marriages and families who can change the world one home at a time.” You guys, who are Legacy Partners, or those of you who donate, from time to time, to this ministry—you’re partners with us in trying to make that happen in this country and all around the world. We appreciate your partnership with us. We are grateful that you like giving and that you have demonstrated that in your support of this ministry.
This month, if you’re able to help with a donation to support FamilyLife Today, we’d like to give back to you. We’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a couple of CDs that feature a conversation we had with Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace, talking about some of the challenges they faced in the early years of their relationship and in the early years of their marriage. I think you’ll find their transparency is both refreshing and helpful.
We’d love to send the CDs to you as a way of saying, “Thank you for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.”
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and you can make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, make a donation over the phone. When you call, you’ll need to let us know that you want the CDs with Mark and Grace Driscoll. If you donate, online, we’ll make arrangements, automatically, to get those CDs sent to you. If you’d prefer to write a check and mail it to us, our mailing address is:
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We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. And I hope you can join us on Monday.
If you’ve ever wondered: “How do I explain the idea of justification to my five-year-old?” or, “Do I need to wait till they get older for them to understand substitutionary atonement?” “What about some of the other challenging theological truths that are found in God’s Word?”—Susan Hunt’s going to be with us on Monday. We’re going to talk about how we can teach big truths to little kids. I hope you can be here for that.
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. Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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