Why Aren’t We More Generous?May 26, 2006
On the broadcast today, prolific author and financial expert, Ron Blue, talks with Dennis Rainey about the excuses people often make for not giving generously to God and others.
On the broadcast today, prolific author and financial expert, Ron Blue, talks with Dennis Rainey about the excuses people often make for not giving generously to God and others.
Why Aren’t We More Generous?
Bob: Do you love stuff? I guess at some level all of us do. Here's a helpful story from Ron Blue.
Ron: I was in Africa, and I visited with an African pastor two hours outside of Nairobi. He lived in a mud hut, he had five children, single-room mud hut, thatch roof, and I'll never forget, I was sitting outside of his house, looked over, and his two-year-old daughter was playing on a pile of stones, and she had a D battery. And I asked this pastor, I said, "What is the greatest barrier to the spread of the Gospel in this part of the world?" And his answer was classic – he said, "Well, it's materialism." And I'm sitting there by this mud hut, and the pastor telling me that it's materialism, and I said, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Well, if a man has a mud hut, he wants a stone hut. If he has a thatch roof, he wants a metal roof, if he has one cow, he wants two cows."
The point is that materialism and greed are diseases of the heart; they have nothing to do with money.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, May 26th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine, and the question we've got for you today is does stuff have hold of your heart? Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. We're talking this week about generosity, and it occurs to me, Dennis, you knew a guy who – well, he lived a fairly modest life throughout his professional career, and it just so happened that one day he was singled out and awarded a prize and got a cash gift of $1 million.
Dennis: The Templeton Award.
Bob: Yes, on one day he was a millionaire, just like that, overnight, right?
Dennis: And gave it away.
Bob: Just like that, he gave it away.
Dennis: He did. That was Bill Bright.
Bob: He held it in his hands. It's a classic story. He got the check for the Templeton Prize for religion, and he said – he held it for a second, and he said, "I've always wanted to know what it felt like to be a millionaire, and now I know," and then he turned around, and he endorsed it, and he gave it to Campus Crusade for Christ for the purpose of advancing the work of the kingdom.
Bob: And, just like that, he was a millionaire, and just like that he was back to living on common means, right?
Dennis: Yes, and just a few weeks before he died, he called me on the phone, and I have written in my Bible at the bottom of Galatians, chapter 2, verse 20, how he became a generous man. The Scripture says, "I have been crucified with Christ, and it's no longer I who live but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me."
That may have been Bill Bright's life verse. I honestly don't know what his verse was, but I have it in my Bible, May 24, 2003, in a personal phone call from him. He exhorted me with that passage, and, you know, if you want to be able to handle life and its responsibilities and along with it what we've been talking about all this week – money. If you want to be able to handle money well, I think Galatians 2:20 is a great place to start, because we need to gather from the Scriptures our perspective about what to do with money and how we should view it.
With us in the studio again is Ron Blue. Ron has been with us on a number of occasions; has written a book called "Generous Living." He spent his entire career around the area of advising people, really, from the Scriptures. Wouldn't that be accurate, Ron?
Ron: Oh, yes. God's Word has more to say about money than any other topic, and I've made it my life to help people understand what God's Word says about money.
Dennis: And he's done that well, and so we thought we'd have him on FamilyLife Today and help you know how to become a generous giver. He is president of Christian Financial Professionals Network, a network of CPAs, financial planners, insurance executives, who are all wanting to get a godly perspective of money and wealth and giving so that a generation can invest in future generations for God's work.
Bob: And, Ron, you know it's a little risky for us to have you on talking about this subject, because there are going to be listeners who are going to assume that we have some motive other than trying to exhort them in a biblical direction. But the church and the Christian community has been intimidated into silence on something that the Scriptures teach clearly and plainly because they fear a mixed motive, right?
Ron: Yes, they do, and I've made it my life for 25 years to work with Christians in planning and managing their finances, and if I could speak just for an instant on what I'm doing now, because it does relate to people and how they plan, and their generosity. I believe that people need to deal with the issue of who owns it, and if God owns it, and Scripture says that he does, then I, as a steward, need to handle God's resources in a godly manner. And everybody, when they make a financial decision seeks advice someplace, and I would maintain two things. One is that the body of Christ, those people that follow Christ need to understand that the mindset, the paradigm, the belief system, of their adviser, be it CPA, a CFP, a CRU, whatever the designation is, needs to come from a biblical perspective. Otherwise they can't integrate faith into the financial decision-making.
On the other hand, the financial advisor needs to know how to offer biblical wisdom as part of their counsel, and then the two can come together, and the result of that will be families getting out of debt, it will be families investing wisely, it will be families giving generously, it will be families living with contentment and enjoyment with the things that God has provided for them.
Dennis: And you are attempting to put together a network of financial advisors who will provide that kind of biblical perspective for laymen and women, whether they be single, married, whether they make a lot of money or whether they're middle income, middle class.
Ron: Right. We have a nonprofit organization that its purpose is to train Christian financial advisors and to give financial advice, then, to anybody, and then if somebody is looking for a Christian financial advisor, we have certified advisors that they can come onto our website and link up with a Christian financial advisor.
Dennis: We've been talking here about people getting a biblical perspective of money, and that has to be one of the reasons why we aren't more generous. But are there other reasons, Ron, why people don't exercise generosity today?
Ron: Sure. I think, first of all, they don't have the biblical perspective. They do not understand that God owns it all and that I am a steward, and that God always has my best interests at heart. They don't believe that. So that's the foundational reason people don't give more is because they just don't believe what God's Word has to say about giving.
Bob: You know, there are some listeners, though, who are going, "I'll tell you the foundational reason why we're not doing more giving – we just don't have it to give."
Ron: Okay, that leads me to my second reason that people don't give – they don't have the money to give because 80 percent of Americans have more debt than they have assets. That's the bad news. The good news is they don't know it, because they've never added up their assets and their liabilities.
Dennis: That's what I was going to ask you – what do you mean they don't know it? They've never totaled it up?
Ron: They've never totaled it up, and because they can continue to make the payments, they've never looked at the fact that on their statement of net worth, that home is not worth that, that car is not worth that, that boat is not worth that, that vacation certainly is not worth it anymore. So they run up their credit cards or their mortgages or their car loans or consumer loans, and they've never looked at the value that they have on the other side in terms of their debt versus their assets.
Bob: Now, it's okay to have a mortgage, though, isn't it?
Ron: Sure. It is not wrong to borrow money biblically. It's just wrong to not repay it, one; and, number two, it may be really stupid to borrow money for some things. It's not wrong, it's just the foolish would go that way.
Bob: So the person who is either in that situation or that just say, "We're living check to check, we're not in hock, but just taking care of the kids is draining all of our money. We'd love to give; it's just not there."
Ron: That's right. I'd say that the second biggest reason that people don't give is because their finances are in disorder or disarray. So even if they wanted to give, they have the debt that they can't meet, and they've got the family responsibilities and so forth and so on. So what do they do? Well, first of all, they figure out are they living within their income, that's the beginning point. Secondly, they figure out how can we begin a debt repayment plan to get us out of debt so that we're no longer committed every single month to that as our first priority.
Bob: And should they be giving at the same time that they're repaying their debt?
Ron: I believe so, yes. I believe that giving is a discipline, and it puts money into the right priority when they do that.
Bob: So even though they may owe creditors money, that they could use that money to pay some of that debt, you would encourage them to go ahead and exercise that spiritual discipline of writing out the check and giving to the local church or to a ministry of their choice.
Ron: Absolutely, because that's how God gets their attention.
Dennis: And keeps it.
Ron: And keeps it – every week if they're writing that check, they're saying, "You know what? I wouldn't even have the money to pay my bills if God didn't give me the money."
Bob: So, again, I just want to make this as practical as I can – let's say that my minimum payment on my credit card this month is $80, okay? That's the minimum payment, and I'm at the end of the month, and I've got $80.
Ron: But you don't wait until the end of the month. You set up a plan, and a lot of people need help on this, and there's ways that you can get help to set up a spending plan. The best place would be in the local church. But if it's not Crown Ministries or CFPN, our organization, Good Sense is a stewardship type ministry – there are places you can go to get help. But you need to get your finances in order is the second thing. And that is living within your income, paying off your debt, giving as a regular basis, planning for your taxes, and even setting aside some money for the future – saving.
Dennis: And I'll tell you in order to put that plan together, you need resources to be able to do it. One of the things you did a number of years ago was partner with us, and you wrote a Homebuilders couples series Bible study called "Mastering Money in Your Marriage," and we've sold nearly 100,000 copies of this Bible study, and I would say to that young couple who may find themselves like Ron is talking about here, form a group. Get together three or four other young couples who may be struggling around the same issues of living within their means and not only work through to get a budget in place of how you're going to spend the money but also establish the community network of accountability. Because that accountability outside your marriage and the embarrassment of having to come to a small group and saying to them, "You know what? I blew it. I went down to the sports shop, and I bought a pair of tennis shoes that I needed to save for. Instead, I charged them."
And so that accountability, I think, can add real strength to a couple. Is there a third thing that they can do to get out of this situation? You've talked about getting a biblical perspective; secondly, getting a plan.
Ron: Getting a plan together, and I think that the Bible study approach, Dennis, is a really good one, because it forces you on a regular basis, weekly basis, probably, to meet with somebody else that will help you.
Everybody struggles with money, I mean, everybody struggles with money, and the more money you have the more problems you have.
Bob: But a plan and accountability in whatever situation are going to be helpful, and it's not there to be a policeman or a rod to whip you with. It's there to be a tool to help you accomplish what you really want to accomplish in your long-term goals.
Ron: Yes. And once you have that plan, you're following the plan, you have accountability, you paid off your debt, you have some liquidity, you're living within your income, you're saving for the future – that's freedom. Because now you say, "Man, I'm doing it right, and I am living with freedom." When you're not able to meet your obligations, when you feel guilty about the lifestyle you've adopted, when you have the debt that you have, there is no freedom in that, and there is a constant burden to it, and God wants me to be free. That's why He created me to be free and to enjoy Him.
Bob: You know, we just heard recently from some friends of ours who – he had been pastoring a church in Slidell, Louisiana, and Slidell was one of those areas hit by Katrina when it came through, and his house was, it was destroyed. And he wrote to tell us that he was getting ready to move the family back into a home, and they were really excited about the fact that they were moving, because for the past many months he and his wife and, I think it's their six children, had been living in a two-bedroom apartment.
Now, that's not ideal, that's not how I'd want to do it, but you can do it, can't you?
Ron: Sure you can. If you have to, you can.
Bob: You can live in cramped quarters. Most of the world's people do. They live in conditions that we would think are somehow beneath us. But if we do want the goal of getting things righted in our finances, it may means some sacrifice and some tough circumstances.
Ron: You know, Bob, God gave me an experience many, many years ago that kind of put it all into perspective. I was in Africa, I was with Campus Crusade, and I visited with an African pastor about two hours outside of Nairobi. He lived in a mud hut, he had five children, single-room mud hut, thatch roof, and I'll never forget, I was sitting outside of his house, looked over, and his two-year-old daughter was playing on a pile of stones, and she had a D battery that she was playing with. It looked like her only toy, and she had the most perfect look of contentment on her face, and I thought "She hasn't lived in America to see what she's missing," if you will.
And I asked this pastor, I said, "What is the greatest barrier to the spread of the Gospel in this part of the world?" And his answer was classic – he said, "Well, it's materialism." And I'm sitting there by this mud hut, and the pastor telling me that it's materialism, and I said, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Well, if a man has a mud hut, he wants a stone hut. If he has a thatch roof, he wants a metal roof, if he has one acre, he wants two acres, if he has one cow, he wants two cows."
The point is that materialism and greed are diseases of the heart. They have nothing to do with money. Money is just a manifestation of something that is inside.
Dennis: And it doesn't have to be a culture of enormous wealth. The human heart is going to find something to turn into an idol.
Ron: That's right, and that's why I think in America it's harder for us because we are so confronted with the cultural demand to be successful, be significant, be famous and be rich and all these things. We honor those things. But materialism is still a disease of the heart, and that's the first thing that has to be conquered for somebody to become generous.
Bob: As we've talked about this whole area of money this week, I remember you saying money really isn't the issue, money is a tool, money can be a test of what God's calling us to, but you've also said that money can be a testimony. What do you mean by that?
Ron: I mean that the world has a right to look to me as a believer and see a testimony of how – where I place money in terms of a value. So money should be a testimony to the world. Not only that, it's a testimony to my kids. And I think that kids that have lived in a home that had wealth in the proper perspective grow up financially free much moreso than those where materialism has grasped the family.
And we have an opportunity to pass on to our children the right value system when it comes to money. I think our kids have a right to look to me and say, "How did Dad and Mom do it?" And to call me into account for how well I demonstrated godly character when it came to handling money, and that's the most difficult area of my life. And you know what? I've many times had to say to my kids, "You know what? I blew it. I made a mistake, will you forgive me?" Either a bad decision or something.
Dennis: You know, one of the things that motivates me to give – I'd like to say it's always the Bible, and it's always spiritual – but someday I envision my children poring over my belongings, all right, and they're going to be digging through the financial papers, going through the bank accounts, the savings accounts, and the federal returns, which is a record, of sorts. It doesn't have to be the ultimate record, but it is a record, of a kind, of your giving for the past year.
Bob: They're going to see how much you were giving and where you were giving, aren't they? And they're going to think, "I could have had that SUV when I was" …
Dennis: Oh, they've already said that. They've already said that, because Barbara and have given away all the royalties from our books. If you'd ever told me I'd have the opportunity to give a $1 million away, when I came on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, making $285 a month, I would have laughed at you. But through God's generosity of giving the gift of writing, first of all, and then the opportunity through a ministry like this, we've had the chance to put our books in a lot of people's hands, and all those royalties from all those books, we've never taken a penny. They've gone into FamilyLife to further this work and to multiply this ministry out across the United States and around the world.
You know, I hope our children have caught the picture that we were living for another kingdom, not the one that's visible here, but the invisible, imperishable kingdom, which the writer of Hebrews said cannot be shaken and will be eternal. And that's what you're really talking about, isn't it, Ron? It's a testimony to God that we want to be a part of what He's doing.
Ron: We do and you know what, Dennis, we want to share that with our children. Judy and I practice sharing our giving with our children. We never hid anything financially from them and we, around the dinner table or the breakfast table, made giving decisions. So they knew how much we were giving, and they knew where we were giving and why we were giving.
Dennis: You know, Ron, I appreciate you being willing to share some answers to some pretty tough questions here. We've asked you not how much you give but what percentage you give. You've shared you're headed toward 50 percent. We need more men and women like you and Judy who are willing to model – well, it's not what's average, it's what the Scriptures speaks about. It's someone who is attempting to live out biblical principles and obey Jesus Christ. And I just appreciate you, as a man, your faithfulness to follow Christ and here in the – well, your most productive years of your life – you're going to finish well, and I just appreciate you and hope you'll come back and join us again on FamilyLife Today.
Ron: This has been great. I have enjoyed the conversation.
Bob: It has been a great conversation, and it occurs to me not all of our listeners have been able to hear the entire conversation. We've got it on a CD if any of our listeners are interested in getting a copy, they can go to our website at FamilyLife.com where we also have copies of your book, "Generous Living," that is a great guidebook for all of us. No matter where we are financially in life, the whole concept of generosity is, as we've said, it's a godlike characteristic. God is a giving God, and if we want to reflect His character in our lives, we need to learn how to be more generous.
You can get a copy of Ron Blue's book, "Generous Living," by going to our FamilyLife Resource Center on our website, FamilyLife.com. There's a red button in the middle of the home page that says "Go," and if you click that button, it will take you to another page where you can get more information about Ron's book about the CD audio of our conversation this week on the subject. There's information about a book from our friend, Randy Alcorn, who has written "The Treasure Principle."
In fact, any of our listeners who are interested in getting Ron's book and Randy's book, we'll send you the CD audio of this conversation at no additional cost. Again, the website to go to is FamilyLife.com. Click the red button in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to the page where you can get more information about these resources or order online, if you'd like.
You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY to place an order. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on the team will answer the phone and let you know how you can get these resources sent out to you.
Quickly, I wanted to remind our listeners, we've been talking this month about the matching gift opportunity that is available to us here at FamilyLife. We had some friends of the ministry who came to us and agreed that they would match every donation we receive during the month of May on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $375,000. And one of the reasons they did that was because they know that in summertime giving to ministries like ours often dips a little bit, and they wanted us to head into the summer with a little bit of a cushion, if we could. And we've had many of our listeners contact us this month, and they have been generous to make a donation of $25 or $50 or $100, even some who have gone beyond that. We appreciate those of you who have gotten in touch with us.
We are hoping in these next few days to take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity and hoping to hear from listeners who have not contacted us yet to make a donation so that we can do that. If you have not made a donation to FamilyLife Today this month, would you consider doing that? You can do it online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY. Not only will you be helping us keep this program on on this station and on stations all across the country, but you'll help us take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity if you can make the donation before the end of May.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, our toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, and we do hope to hear from you, and we want to say thanks in advance for your generous support of this ministry.
And we hope you have a great weekend. I hope you can be back with us on Monday. We're going to have a special Memorial Day tribute to a friend of ours who was a part of the FamilyLife team for a couple of years and made a big impact on this ministry. We'll introduce you to her on Monday and tell a little bit of her story, and 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. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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