Who Am I Serving?
Brad Hewitt, CEO of Thrivent Financial, challenges listeners to adopt a new money mindset in which God owns it all, and we are merely stewards of His money. Hewitt delves into the concept of stewardship, and reminds us to ask ourselves when we're making financial decisions, "Who am I serving?"
About the Guest
Brad Hewitt challenges listeners to adopt a new money mindset in which God owns it all, and we are merely stewards of His money.
Who Am I Serving?
Bob: Someone has famously said: “If you want to know what a person really loves, give me their calendar and their checkbook and I’ll tell you.” Here’s Brad Hewitt.
Brad: A friend of mine actually does a money audit. He does it about every quarter—he goes back to his checkbook and just says, “Is my checkbook matching my rhetoric and my values?” He’s trying to just calibrate whether what he says and what he does are the same thing. He said: “I’m really good about saying the right things. I really want to just check to see if I’m doing the right things. The best way to check it is to see where I’m putting the time, and money, and other things that I’ve been given—to see if those match up with my values.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. Are your time and your money going to what really matters most to you? We’re going to talk about developing a new money mindset today.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
I want to read to you a Proverb that I’m guessing most of our listeners have never prayed what the writer of Proverbs—this is actually from later in Proverbs / so it’s not from Solomon—but here’s the prayer; “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” Now, I’m guessing there’s nobody who’s prayed: “Lord, please don’t give me riches and don’t give me poverty. Feed me with the food that is needful for me lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” The writer here is concerned: “I don’t want to have so much I forget who God is. I don’t want to have so little that I’m tempted to dishonor God. Just give me what I need / just give me enough.” Now, people may have prayed, “Just give me enough”; but they never think they have enough; right?
Dennis: No doubt about it. In fact, the forward for the book we’re going to talk about today, Your New Money Mindset, which was written by James Moline and Brad Hewitt—and Brad joins us. Welcome to the broadcast.
Brad: It’s an honor to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Dennis: The forward to this book, Bob, is written by Ron Blue, a good friend of ours and a good friend of yours—I know, Brad. He talks about how materialism is choking Christianity in this country and how, no matter what you have, you want something better.
Bob: Well, you probably know Brad—I forget who it was—but one of the Rockefellers or somebody, who—they asked him, “How much is enough?” and he said, “Just a little more.”
Brad: “One more dollar.”
Bob: Yes; so that’s the mindset I think that all of us have—is we never get to where we go, “I’ve got plenty now.”
Dennis: Well, this is a great book; because your money is a statement of your values.
Just a little bit about Brad—Brad and his wife Sue have been married since 1985.
They have two adult children—live in Minnesota. Brad is the CEO of Thrivent Financial®—also serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity®. He’s just got a great career of helping people.
Brad, you and I, before we came in here, were talking about this. You said you did some research and found that there was one quality that set couples apart from all others—if they could just grab ahold of this one quality, it would make all the difference in how they handled money and how they enjoyed life.
Brad: Absolutely. We’ve been trying to do more and more research about what actually makes successful people be able to move to this surplus mindset, which we talk about in the book. The one attribute that, by far—by far—was more important than anything else—was living below your means / having discretionary income. It was a choice that people made.
In fact, what’s interesting about that prayer that you read at the beginning is—as far as I can tell—and I’ve looked and looked—it’s the only prayer about money in the Bible. It’s an interesting prayer about, “Just help me to have enough.”
Dennis: It’s interesting—in our hearts—the Proverb is really striking at the core of what the issue is: our hearts. That’s really what you’re writing about in this book; isn’t it?
Brad: In fact, part of the reason we picked the title was/is—while money is all God’s, the mindset we have about money is ours. It’s our mindset that actually trips us up, more so than anything else. In fact, what the whole premise of the book is—is that, before you work on your habits or anything else, you have to work on your heart. The heart is the most important thing if you want to have a healthy relationship with money.
Bob: I heard a pastor one time say—and this was—I never thought of it this way—he said, “Most people ask themselves the question, ‘How much of my money should I give to God?’” He said, “The question you ought to be asking yourself is, ‘How much of God’s money are you going to keep for yourself?’” [Laughter]
I thought—just that paradigm shift—and he’s right, because what we have is not our money / it’s something we’ve been given to steward. Then the question is, “How much of that are we going to keep for ourself?”
Dennis: Bob, you don’t know this; but Brad described himself in an unusual way. Share that with our listeners. You said you tithed—but what?
Brad: Part of my journey around money has been—been a tither—my grandfather taught me tithing, early on. He gave us a dollar and said, “If you give 10 cents to church, I’ll be really happy.” Then he went—checked with everybody—and after we did that, he gave every one of his grandkids $100—which, back then, was a lot of money.
Brad: Of course, we had to put that right in the bank and tithe on that. So, I learned tithing early, from my grandparents and my parents; but it was always a tithe out of obedience. I come by my stinginess, I think genetically. [Laughter]
I think it’s funny that God would use somebody who is incredibly stingy to write a book about generosity. It’s only in God’s wisdom that you take something that is a weakness and use it to His glory.
Bob: Was there a turning point in your own journey, where you went from tithing out of obedience to tithing out of cheerfulness / or out of desire?
Brad: It was, actually, the very idea of stewardship—when it becomes, “It’s not my money,”—and it’s the question: “How much should I keep?” I actually think there are two stewardship questions that are really the most important questions. In fact, in The New York Times™, there was an article about the one money question to rule them all, which was: “How much is enough?” I don’t actually think that’s the right question—that’s not the one that rules them all.
The one that rules them all is: “Who am I serving?” For me, when I actually started thinking about the question of “Who am I serving?” with each money decision I was making, and I kept coming back to me—
—it was a turning point in my own life to think, “Hmmm; maybe the other question of ‘How much is enough?’ is a really good question after you’ve answered the question about ‘Who am I serving?’ and keeping those two things in balance.” That was really important for me in my life.
Dennis: Brad, you had an encounter with Jesus Christ.
Dennis: I mean, it was a person who moved you from being a stingy obedient tither to being someone who was infectiously in love with Christ and wanted to be a part of what God was doing on the planet and became generous.
Brad: Right; right.
Dennis: Explain the process you went through, Brad, and kind of walk us back in your own life: “How did you encounter Christ that He ultimately changed your life / transformed your life in this way?”
Brad: Well, I think that is the power of transformation as the Holy Spirit works in us and we see our life transitioning. Part of what—the challenging parts, as you read Scripture and you see things, and you see what God loves is a joyful giver.
If you’re prying out the tithe out of your tight fist, it is hardly the joyful giver; and you go, “I know there’s something wrong.”
I think, over time, the obedience turned into something, where I could say, “I’m not any worse off because of tithing; maybe I’m a lot better off.” It was more of a slow process with encountering God’s mission and seeing the slow use of those tithe resources and then, frankly, going beyond the tithe. I can’t explain the exact moment, but I know it went from obedience to joy. I’ve never thought about it ever since as that process of the joy I get out of generosity is just one of those life-giving things that God gives us.
Dennis: Was there a gift that you made to someone?—was there a generous moment, that kind of marked you as you turned the corner away from being a stingy tither?
Brad: I’m still stingy. Let’s just be—[Laughter]—
—let’s just be really clear.
I would say that it was more of my volunteering my time. I was a—I volunteered as a youth leader. I can tell you the moment that was just so vivid in my mind of that time where I could see the joy of giving. I was doing a small group of junior high boys—I was their mentor. We were going—it was a Saturday morning—and we were going to work at a house to rehab a house / it was part of a church program. The job we had that day was to tear apart the third floor, and throw all the stuff we were tearing out—out the window. It was this—I didn’t want to be there. It was kind of one of these things, where it was hard to get up / hard to go do this.
I was in the other room; and I heard one of them say, “If this is serving Jesus, I’m all in.” And I thought, “Wow!”—just the joy they’re getting of serving and tearing apart this house. It was the perfect job—
Bob: —for junior high boys— [Laughter] —tearing a house up and throwing it out the window. [Laughter] I know they’re going: “Ahh! This is the coolest!”
Brad: But it was listening to them, and then thinking about that in my life, and thinking about the joy of serving Jesus. It is those moments where you see the impact that you have and the privilege that you have of God giving you the resources to be able to give away.
Bob: Brad, I think about our listeners. Some of our listeners are wondering if the money is going to end before the month does, and that’s kind of how they’ve been living. For us to talk about generosity, we might as well be talking about some other abstract concept for them, because they just can’t figure out how to do with what they’re doing. I think of others of our listeners, who may have a surplus available; but they’re trying to be wise about the future—and college education, and retirement, and all of that—that’s kind of in the back of their mind. And then, they’re thinking about the church has got a building program going on; but we’re thinking about vacation this summer.
How do you decide, when the church is saying, “We’re trying to build the building,” and you’re thinking, “Well, we thought this would be a nice summer for a nice vacation”? You’ve taken your family on nice vacations; right?
Brad: I have.
Bob: Do you ever feel guilty doing that?—like: “I should be giving all this money to the church, and we should never have a nice vacation.”
Brad: No; I don’t feel like that. I think that is exactly why that second stewardship question—that I said is: “Who am I serving with this?”—because sometimes it’s important to serve ourselves; sometimes it’s important to serve our spouse; sometimes it’s important to serve our kids; sometimes it’s important to serve others. It’s not good or bad—it’s actually being / deciding, as we’re making those decisions: “Am I being led by God and the Spirit to actually make this decision?” and “How do I know I’ve had enough of one of those things?”
I think the assumption that most people make is—to your very specific question of “What if I’m coming to the end of the month and I’m not sure if I have enough?”—
—the lie people believe is “If I had more, then I’d be generous.” What the research actually says is just the opposite—is: “When you’re generous, you will actually discover you have more.” It’s this upside-down view of life that is really interesting.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the choices that we make—so, if you actually buy too big of a house or whatever, and you don’t have any discretionary income—that we were talking about at the beginning—you’re always going to feel like you don’t have enough. It’s really trying to sort out those decisions. It is, frankly, more of the bigger decisions that you make in life—on whether you can really afford to do that—that really are important. It’s a lot less of the little things.
Dennis: As human beings, we love formulas. It’s why the tithe is so easy to grab hold of—it is 10 percent. The reality is—what you’re hitting on, that goes past the action of tithing to the heart that’s underneath that action, to say:
“Hey! Are you enjoying this? Do you count it a privilege to give?” It’s not a formula—it’s a relationship with Christ.
When you come down, Bob, to your question about a vacation with your family, there’s where you’ve got to depend upon the Spirit of God to lead you, as a couple. This is the strength of a family—a husband and a wife can say: “You know what? We’re going to make these decisions together.” That may mean you grapple in prayer together over what you’re going to do, how much you’re going to give, where you’re going to go on your vacation, how much you’re going to spend.
Bob: But I think that the point that you make in your book, that was so helpful to me, is—as you’re looking at those choices together, as a couple / praying about them—if the second question “Who am I doing this for?”—if the answer is always: “…me,” “…my wife,” “…my kids,” and it’s never—
Bob: —advancing the kingdom or serving our community / if that’s not in the equation anywhere—
—that’s where you may need to be doing some recalibrating.
Brad: Right; because, then, you actually have to go back to that first question of “How much is enough?”—because, clearly, you’ve made a decision that “I don’t have enough, because I’m doing all the things to just serve me and my family.” We just know that that isn’t a / the biblical principle of being able to share, and be part of a community, and be part of that.
It’s really a fascinating part of—as soon as you can sew outside or invest outside of that, what happens is that joy comes into the equation even as much as providing for your wife, or your kids, or whatever, and how joyful that is to be able to do that. It becomes just as joyful to do something in your community or even around the world. That’s part of the mystery that God’s created—He’s created us to be generous people like He’s generous.
Bob: We recently, at our house, did a little remodeling project at home.
Looking at the project, I thought, “Okay; how much can we afford to spend on this project?” and then I thought “Do we really need to do this project?” I mean, “Could we live the way we’re living?” or “Does this sprucing up—is this just indulge…” I mean, I kind of agonized through this. Mary Ann and I talked about it as we were going through this. Here’s what I thought—I thought: “Okay; the budget for this project for our home should be less than what we’re giving away this year to ministry.
Bob: “As long as what we’re spending on our home is less than what we’re giving away in ministry, I think I can feel comfortable with that.”
Now, that’s not a formula; but that just helped me in my—to your second question—it helped me calibrate here: “What am I doing with my money?” and “Am I doing what God would have me do with my money?” Some of it went to our home improvement project; but more of it went to advancing the kingdom, which is going to be here long after our house is gone.
Brad: One of the stories I have in the book is—a friend of mine actually does a money audit. He does it about every quarter—he goes back to his checkbook and just says, “Is my checkbook matching my rhetoric and my values?” He just looks at—adds up what he is spending. It’s not to do a budget—it’s not to do anything like that. He’s trying to just calibrate whether what he says and what he does are the same thing. He said: “I’m really good about saying the right things. I really just want to check to see if I’m doing the right things. The best way to check it is—to see where I’m putting the time, and money, and other things I’ve been given—to see if those match up with my values.”
Dennis: I like that idea. I don’t do it quarterly; but at income tax time, I’m forced to do it. You total everything up; and it is good to just kind of look back and go: “Are we giving more?” or “Are we trying to keep more?”
Dennis: “Are we sending it on ahead?”— back to Bob’s illustration of investing in the kingdom—or “Are we putting it down here, where moths will eat it or rust will destroy it?”
Bob: —“or fire will consume it one day.”
Bob: Because that’s where all of this is headed; right?
Brad: Right. One of the things Sue and I do is—we actually spend some time talking about the places that we’re going to give every year. In fact, we do that at Thanksgiving—we talk to the kids about: “What is the one thing that we’re going to do for other people at Christmas time?” We have a conversation about: “What are we going to give to next year? What are the ministries we’re going to give to? How are we going to think about that? How are we going to do…?” We spend way more time budgeting and thinking about where we’re going to give now than we do on the things that we actually spend on. We kind of have our house and the other things we have to pay for, but those aren’t really the fun things. So we kind of do those; and the fun part of it is: “Where are we going to make impact?”
I think that’s been some of this transition from being stingy to being generous is—absolutely, we get way more joy out of the places where we can see the kingdom being served or other people in our community being served. In fact, part of—we have a house right in the city; and it has some nice entertaining spaces. What we pledged with our house is—we’re going to use our house to host events so that we can give away more out of our house than what we pay for it. It was a way to think about: “How do we actually just use an asset God’s given us to be able to use for the community?”
Dennis: I’m sitting here, just—you can’t help, after listening to you, Brad, do a self-evaluation, “How am I doing on here?” [Laughter]
I’m actually thinking about how some other people have modeled the giving spirit to me. My barber, who’s probably going to be a little miffed at me for saying this, because he’s here in Little Rock; and people, who listen here in Little Rock, are going to know who Tony is.
I’m getting ready to leave the barber shop. Tony reaches into his till, where people pay him, and he gets his cash. He reaches in and grabs 40 bucks. Now, that’s pretty much two haircuts for him—okay?—in terms of cash. He said, “On this trip you’re going on, give this to someone who serves you and bless them.”
Dennis: I was in the Bay area—had a chance to speak to a group of pastors—and there was a young lady, who was from another country, serving us at our table. All of a sudden, it hit me: “That 40 bucks!” I looked the young lady in the eye and I said: “You hang on; I’ll be right back. I’m really not stiffing you on the tip—I’ll be right back.” I ran upstairs, got the 40 bucks, came down; and I gave it to her—and I said: “This guy really loves Jesus / he’s following Him, and he wanted you to have this. He’s from Arkansas—
—“that’s not where you’re from. He just wanted you to have this cash.” She looked at that money and she looked at me. I’d like to know what she was thinking. I think she thought we were from another planet. [Laughter] It was Tony’s to give—my privilege to deliver. We both got blessed out of that as I told him, when I got back, what had happened. We really do live a blessed life when we give money away and, especially, when it is somebody else’s. [Laughter]
Brad: What it does is—it changes your mindset, which is the whole point of it’s our mindset about money and it’s our relationship with money. In a family / in a marriage relationship, you want to have intimacy / you want to have a tight relationship. What we find out for money is—you want / if you want to have a healthy relationship with money, you want just the opposite of a marriage relationship. You want to have no emotional connection / you want to have no intimacy with money. You want to see it simply as a tool to produce the resources that you want.
As you think about the marriage relationship and money, what you want to do is actually have two really different relationships. With your marriage, you want to have intimacy and a tight emotional relationship;—
Brad: —and with money, you want to have just the opposite.
Bob: Before we sat down here to have this conversation, I went to your website; because you’ve got a tool on your website that is a / it’s a diagnostic tool to help people understand what your relationship with your money is like today. I found it helpful. In fact, I’d encourage our listeners—come to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ve got a link to the assessment that’s on Brad’s website. It’s worth taking a few minutes, answering a few questions, and just saying, “How am I doing when it comes to money and my mindset toward money?”
I’d also encourage you, as a couple—or maybe with your kids—get a copy of Brad’s book, Your New Money Mindset, and work your way through it. In the process of thinking about money, and your material possessions, and contentment and joy, maybe you can cultivate some new more-biblical patterns of thinking about money and possessions. The book is called Your New Money Mindset. You can order a copy from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order your copy. Again, the website is FamilyLIfeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
While we’re on the subject of money this week, many of our listeners understand these principles we’re talking about—the relationship between generosity and blessing—because we have some very generous listeners.
Some of you who listen are monthly supporters of FamilyLife—we call you Legacy Partners. Others will make a contribution from time to time. I think you have realized that, as you invest your money in kingdom-related priorities, there is joy that comes with that.
I want to be quick to say here—we think, when it comes to giving, your local church needs to be your first and most important priority for your financial giving—but I know many of our listeners go above and beyond what they give to their local church and help support this ministry, because their thinking aligns with our mission. They want to see God’s design for marriage and family expanded in this culture and around the world. Every time you make a donation to FamilyLife, you’re helping us reach more people with that message.
If you’d like to make a donation today, you can do that at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY; or you can write a check and mail it to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue talking about generosity, and money, and cultivating a new money mindset in our own hearts and in our family. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with 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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