There’s More to Money than Spending!December 26, 2013
Randy Alcorn, author of The Treasure Principle, talks about the benefits of being a cheerful giver.
Randy Alcorn, author of The Treasure Principle, talks about the benefits of being a cheerful giver.
There’s More to Money than Spending!
Bob: Can we talk for a minute about your will; specifically, about the money you're leaving to your children? Randy Alcorn has a couple of questions for you.
Randy: I have asked parents, who are leaving large amounts of money to their kids: “What do you hope your kids are going to do with that? Do you hope that they're just going to go out and buy boats, and condos, and houses in the mountains, and brand-new cars; or what do you hope that they're going to do with it?”
Then, they think about it for a moment. They say, "Well, we hope that they’ll give most of it away." My response to that is, “So why don't you give most of it away?”
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition—the day after Christmas—nice to have you along. I think we’ve got some very practical stuff to go over with listeners today.
Dennis: We do. Anytime you talk about money, possessions, and eternity [Laughter]— which is the name of a book that Randy Alcorn wrote—who is going to be our guest today—anytime you talk about that, it really impacts people’s values, and what they’re living for, and who they’re living for.
Bob: Yes; and I think we live in a culture today that is not encouraging us to think, biblically, on these things.
Dennis: The culture isn’t, Bob. In fact, the culture is encouraging us to live for the now. In fact, I need to talk to you about right now. FamilyLife has got an opportunity that we need you to join with us in. We’ve had some families that have come alongside us—
and have said they’ll take every dollar you give and they’ll give three—to match your dollar with three dollars—to turn into four dollars—to help FamilyLife Today—not only stay on the air on this station but, also, in the new year—make a greater and greater impact for families.
Bob: It’s been pretty exciting to see some of the response we’ve been getting, early this month, from listeners. We’re grateful for that. We’ve got a week left to go, and we want to take full advantage of this matching-gift opportunity. We’re asking listeners, this week, “Maybe, after you take back some of the presents, and you get some money back, just send it to us.”
Dennis: There you go! [Laughter] There you go!
I just want you to know, as a listener, we don’t talk much about money, here on FamilyLife Today;but if there’s ever been a time for me to mention it, it’s today because we’re short of what we need. I need you to stand with us—if you believe in what we’re doing. There are those forces, Bob—and I’ve mentioned this before—who would like to silence FamilyLife Today and this ministry. It is listeners, just like you, who are listening today, that—well, you keep us on the air. That’s all there is to it.
If you’ve benefitted from our ministry—in your marriage, your family—perhaps, as a single person, dating—then, we need you to pick up the phone, or go online, and make a generous donation today.
Bob: Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, to make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation over the phone. Or you can mail a check to us at FamilyLife Today. I’ll give you our mailing address before today’s program is over. You probably ought to listen to all that we’re going to talk about today before you decide how much you want to invest in FamilyLife—
Dennis: That’s a good point!
Bob: —because we’re going to be talking about how we’re to view money and possessions in light of eternity. We’re going to be talking with Randy Alcorn, who, as you said, wrote a book by that same name. Randy is a friend of this ministry—he’s an investor in the ministry.
Dennis: That’s right, Bob. On more than one occasion, I’ve received an envelope and a gift from Randy to invest in this ministry.
He’s, not only a leader of a Christian ministry—he is a man, and a husband, a father, and grandfather of five—who wants to make sure tomorrow’s families are strong because it is the bedrock of civilization; and it’s the backbone of the church.
Bob: He’s also somebody who takes giving seriously. We know that we’re not the only ministry he helps support.
Dennis: That’s right. He’s a good man. You’re going to benefit from listening to his perspective on money on this broadcast.
Bob: Here is our conversation with Randy Alcorn.
Dennis: One of the reasons why I was so excited about talking with you, Randy, on this subject is—for a number of years, I've wanted to put together a resource to sort out a biblical perspective of wealth, of giving, and how to go about it. I really feel like our opportunity here today is going to achieve that objective.
I'll never forget a group of executives—that we had here in Little Rock—who had come together for an executive hunt.
We were actually going to eastern Arkansas for a duck hunt. On our way, these men began to talk about their perspective of wealth and passing on wealth to the next generation—to their children. I just listened. I didn't have a lot to say. I just listened because I wanted to really hear where these men were grappling with the subject.
You had a similar experience, where you were seated at the table with several men who were pretty wealthy. What I wanted you to share with our listeners is: “What did you hear those men talk about? What were their concerns?”
Randy: Well, a number of concerns. Certainly, one of the biggest is: “How can they pass on wealth to their children without ruining them?” These men often are aware—sometimes, they're not aware—but often, they've heard stories that there is a corrupting influence.
They work in wealthy circles, where they've seen other people's kids really kind of messed-up by large inheritances. They're kind of hoping that it will be different with them. They figure: "Well, I love my kids. If I love my kids, of course, I'll pass on the majority of my wealth to them," and they're thinking, "We'll give some to some ministry here or some ministries there," but the predominance of the inheritance going to kids.
It's very interesting to hear the discussions. Then, when they ask for my input, to be able to say: "You know, I'm not an expert on large-scale wealth; but I can tell you, even at middle-class level in America, there are a lot of kids—and when I say ‘kids’, often, these kids, who are inheriting, are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, you know, because Mom and Dad have both died now. They're inheriting this wealth—whose lives have been destroyed—literally, messed-up as a result of a large amount of money coming in—because unearned income is most often, not a blessing, but a curse."
Dennis: I've heard you say that, sometimes, an inheritance can be like winning the lottery.
Randy: That's right. What happens is that it's not earned income—it's not something that you've labored for, it's not something that you have invested yourself in, and it's not something that you need. The vast majority of people who inherit wealth are living fine, right now. They are living at whatever standard of living they're at. They may or may not be, depending on their temperaments, you know, happy and content at that level; but they don't have huge fundamental needs. They have a career. They've got a job. They've got a home. They live in a community. They've got a car—maybe, they've already got a recreational vehicle—a boat—or whatever. And then, this money comes to them. It's a windfall, and they're not prepared to handle it.
Instead of giving it away, investing it in God's kingdom, they think in terms of: "Well, Mom and Dad left it for me. They wouldn't want us to give it away. They'd expect us to spend it on us and spend it on the kids." Now, you have this family that's taking all of this wealth that's come to them, and they're just increasing their standard of living and becoming dependent, often, on a higher standard of living.
Dennis: I can hear businessmen thinking, at this point, "Yes, but now, wait a second, doesn't Proverbs exhort me—command me—to leave an inheritance to my children's children?"
Randy: Yes, that's right. The context that we have to look at that is: “What was going on in that culture that made that the wise choice that was in your children and your grandchildren's best interest?” Well, what was going on is that it was largely a poor, agricultural—where you had to have lands to do farming.
For you to have a livelihood, you needed to have the land passed on to you from your father. So, the father didn't sell the land and give the proceeds to the temple and, now, leave you with no place to cultivate so that you would have to go and be someone's servant. That would be the only alternative.
It's natural and it's right that that command would be given because parents certainly should provide for their kids; but today, we live in a radically-different society, where it's actually fairly rare for a young person to grow up and to work the same land that their father has worked—to live in the same place, to be in the same vocation. We have a situation in which the inheritance does not help them and enable them to have a career. They already have a career, and they're already established in—they already own land, and they are established in ways that, in Old Testament times, people were not.
What we have to do is take the principles of Scripture and say, "Okay, what are the timeless truths, here, in terms of what we are to bestow to our children?" I think we are to bestow to our children that which is helpful and necessary to launch them and get them started in careers—but not huge windfalls of money, which really have nothing to do with their careers.
Bob: Alright. What about the young man / young woman—maybe, in their 40s or their 50s—but they know it’s not long before Mom or Dad is going to leave them a substantial amount of money—and they don’t want to do, like you said, squander it all and wind up miserable. What would you say they ought to do on the day that the will is probated and the lawyer says, “Here’s the check,”?
Randy: I would sit down with it. I would certainly pray about it. I would discuss it. I wouldn’t make a hasty decision; but if you’ve anticipated this in advance, you may have had time to discuss it fully.
I would recommend giving away the great majority of it. Now, I would recommend, also, looking for ways that this could truly be a good investment that would help the family in ways other than just giving us “more stuff.” Now, I don’t mean that more stuff is always wrong. If you come out of it—getting a car that was needed or whatever—okay; fine. But I think you need to take a good look at it and say: “What do we really need here?” and, “What is our opportunity to invest in God’s kingdom?—because this money that’s coming in to us is not only a privilege, but it is a test. It’s a test of our character. It’s a test of our values. It’s a test of where we put our treasures.”
I think we can get excited and say: “Look! Here comes this inheritance, and I’m excited about investing it in the kingdom of God.”
Also, “I feel like it would be pleasing to the Lord and, hopefully, pleasing to my earthly mother and father to know—if they’re in heaven and allowed to see from heaven—that this is a wise and generous use of money.”
Bob: What about the guy, who says: “What I’m going to do is—I’m going to take it, and manage it, and invest it; then, I’ll have proceeds, every year—that I can give for charitable purposes. I want to keep this nest egg here; you just never know. It might be handy in an emergency. If my business goes south, I’d like to have something back here—that I haven’t given it all away.”
Randy: I understand the logic in that. I’m certainly not in a position to say that that’s never the right thing to do, but I do caution people in that regard. One of the cautions would be from James 4, which says that we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.”
“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it’s the Lord’s will, we’ll live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins.”
I think where the passage ends is significant because I think there are times where people feel led to give; but then, they decide to delay their giving—delay it to a future time, where the assets will multiply, and there’ll be more to give. Some people were saying that at the beginning of 2001, where the market took a dive. People ended up losing a lot and having a lot less than even a year before.
Randy: Had they acted on the conviction and the compulsion they felt to give at the time God had actually given it to them, there would have been, ultimately, more invested in God’s kingdom.
I think another danger is that, whenever we wait to give, we run the risk of dying first. We run the risk of having our convictions change from the giving. We just need to take the leading of God, as we sense it in this area of giving, and not procrastinate because I think to procrastinate giving is like procrastinating prayer or Bible reading. If God lays it on your heart to pray, you don’t say, “Okay, well, I’ll do my praying six months from now.”
Dennis: Randy, I have an illustration of what you’re talking about. I know of a couple who came alongside an organization and actually helped them build a facility that they desperately needed at a time when that couple had the money. Within months, the business that they were in went south and they lost 90 percent of their wealth. They came back to that organization and said, “Thank you for the opportunity of investing our money when we had it.”
The total amount was $15 million. They were able to take the full value of that stock—give it when it had that value—to build that building. Within months, they had lost 90 percent of their net worth—but in a kingdom-building vocabulary—they had sent the money on ahead. They had invested in something eternal, at that point.
Randy: That’s exactly right. It reminds me of a friend of mine who invested substantially in Christian ministry and had given above and beyond to do it. He lost a large part of the value of his estate and his holdings. The first thing he said, when he saw me—we hadn’t seen each other for about a year—was: “Looking back, I only have one regret—I just wish I would have given more.”
Randy: I think we are never going to look back and regret that we gave when we did. I mean, I think that’s a false thing—if we think, “Well, now, the value of my holdings has increased, now. So, I wish I wouldn’t have given that much a year ago.”
No! We just have more to give now. But we are not in the position to say—we don’t know where the stock market is going to be; we don’t know the value of real estate; and we don’t know if we’re going to be here—as James 4 says—a year from now.
Bob: We’ve talked about giving all to spiritually-minded organizations. Some people, as they look at what to do in their giving—they look back to where they went to college, and look at endowments there, or they look at the opportunity to help with civic groups in my community: “I’d like to leave some money to the college where I went,” maybe, “I’ve been active in the chamber of commerce…” or whatever it’s been. Do you recommend that folks take a portion of their giving and do some of that?
Randy: I would always recommend that people take a close look at the beliefs, as well as, the behavior, and the goals, and the attitudes of these organizations. What kind of eternal perspective do they have?
Do they believe the Word of God? Do they believe the gospel of Jesus Christ? If they don’t, it doesn’t mean that they’re utterly worthless; but it has to mean they are less of a priority to give to than those organizations that do honor the Lord—believe His Word, get the gospel out, believe in the healing power of Christ. I think that we can’t give to everything; therefore, we should be very selective.
I would look back at whatever college you went to and ask yourself the question, “Just because you went there, does that mean you should give to that college?” If you think that, somehow, they helped you and other people gave—if you figure you need to write out a check to square yourself with the college, somehow—write that check out—but I would say, “Don’t write anymore out unless you believe that that educational institution is really promoting the best interests of the kingdom of God.” Many of them, tragically, are not.
Bob: You’re saying that: “If it is God’s money, we ought to invest it in things that God would invest it in;—
Bob: —and He would invest it in spiritually-oriented things.”
Randy: Yes. I think it could be fair to say that God didn’t go to that college, you know? [Laughter] As His child, you went to that college, using His funds; but nonetheless, your vested interest in it—and we also have to ask ourselves: “How much do we feel pressured by requests to give, as an alumnus of a college?” or whatever it might be—and just kind of weigh that against eternal priorities.
Bob: Well, we’re jumping back in on a conversation we’ve been listening to that we had, not long ago, with Randy Alcorn. I want our listeners to hear what you just said, as we were listening back to a portion of that. What was the last thing you said—do you remember?
Dennis: You know—I don’t.
Bob: You said, “That’ll get us some mail.” [Laughter] That's what you said. You think so?
Dennis: Yes; yes, I think—
Bob: Do you think we stepped on some toes with that?
Dennis: I think we may have. You know, the thing I liked about what Randy was saying is—you really need to pull back and say, not only, “What has God given me?”—which is all of it—but, “How does He want me to invest it?”—and not just go about it because others are doing it—but be purposeful.
Dennis: I think one of the things that's needed, within the Christian community today, is a whole new group of givers—who are giving, not only out of the conviction of feeling like they need to give and wanting to give, but also around a conviction of a cause—
Dennis: —a spiritual cause, that they pound the table about, and they say: "You know what? I believe in the work of my church, and I'm going to stand with them. I'm going to put my money where my heart is," at that point, and not just parcel it out—a little here, a little here, a little here—but go make a difference in these ministries because you can make a difference.
Bob: People who spend a lot of time / a lot of money, deciding which stock to invest in, ought to spend, as Randy said, the same kind of time and effort figuring out which ministries to invest God's money in; right?
Dennis: It's return on investment.
Dennis: And, in this case, the return on investment is beyond next week's Wall Street Journal.
Dennis: This is the golden streets of heaven we're talking about here. [Laughter]
Bob: This is: “When your 401K runs out, this is what kicks in;” right?
Dennis: Yes, well, this one never ends.
Bob: We've got copies of a book by Randy called The Treasure Principle in our FamilyLife Resource Center.
Dennis: Great book! If you've not read this book, this is a small book. It's a quick read—45 minutes. I'll tell you what—you'll be scratching—you’ll be doing some itching in some unusual places because of this. It's going to dust your mind and your heart with some itching powder, spiritually-speaking; and I think it will be good for you.
Bob: You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and find copies of The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. You can order from us, online, if you’d like. Again, FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you’d like to get a copy of Randy’s book. Again, it’s called The Treasure Principle;and our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. If you’d like to order online, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, one of the reasons why our conversation today is so appropriate, at this time of the year, is because a lot of people make year-end contributions to ministries like ours. I think it’s good to be thinking strategically about your giving and how you want to do it. Mary Ann and I spend time, during the month of December, sitting down and talking about, “Where is it that we’d like to make year-end contributions?” as a way of acknowledging how God has used different ministries and different organizations in our lives over the course of the year.
I know some of you go through that same exercise. The month of December is a key month for us, here at FamilyLife. What happens during the month of December, in terms of financial giving, really determines what the new year is going to be like for us, as a ministry—how many things we’ll be able to accomplish in the year ahead.
We’d like to ask you to consider making a year-end contribution to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. As Dennis mentioned earlier, there is a matching-gift fund that has been established for FamilyLife this year that is pretty significant. Every dollar we receive, between now and the end of the year, from FamilyLife Today listeners—every dollar is being matched, three to one. So, if you send in a check for $25 today—or if you go online and make a $25 donation—that unlocks, for us, 75 additional dollars from the matching-gift fund that we can apply toward ministry in the year ahead.
We’re hoping to take full advantage of this matching-gift opportunity. To do that, we need our listeners to be as generous as they can be. The cap on the matching-gift fund is at $800,000. We’d like to ask you to go to FamilyLifeToday.com, click the button that says, “I CARE,” and make a year-end contribution to support the ministry; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and you can make a donation over the phone. And if you’d like to mail your donation to us, our mailing address is Post Office Box 7111, Little Rock, Arkansas— Arkansas is AR—and the zip code is 72223.
So, address the envelope to FamilyLife Today, P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. The zip code is 72223. We just want to say, “Thank you for your financial support of this ministry.
We appreciate you. Glad to have you as partners in what God is doing through the ministry of FamilyLife Today.”
We hope you will be back with us again tomorrow. Randy Alcorn is going to be with us again, and we’re going to talk about people who have really gotten a perspective on giving to the point that it’s become a central part of how they live their lives. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can tune in.
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 will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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