You and Your Money
Brad Hewitt, CEO of Thrivent Financial, tells how consumerism thwarts our walk with God. As a culture, we've bought into the lie that having more will make us happy, but research doesn't support this. Hewitt reminds us that it isn't how much you have, but what your heart longs for that determines whether you will be content.
About the Guest
Brad Hewitt tells how consumerism thwarts our walk with God. Hewitt reminds us that it isn’t how much you have, but what your heart longs for that determines whether you will be content.
You and Your Money
Bob: What’s the relationship between how much money you have and how happy you are? Brad Hewitt says there’s some surprising research in regard to that.
Brad: Boston University study—and it was, basically, they’re looking at different groups of people. This was the highest net income group—they discovered that group was just like everybody else—they would need 25 percent more than they have in order to be happy. What’s fascinating is—everybody needs 25 percent more. It didn’t matter really how much money you had—the idea was that: “If I had 25 percent more, then, I would be happy.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. When you have a new mindset about your money, you begin to realize that money isn’t where joy comes from. We’ll explore that with Brad Hewitt today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, do you think you’ve been generally a generous person throughout most of your life, or did you have a—[Laughter] —you’re smiling—just wondering, “Was there something that has transitioned you from stingy to generous?”
Dennis: Well, I mean, our guest on the broadcast started by saying, off microphone, that he’s a stingy tither.
Dennis: He tithes out of obedience—or he did at one point—but he basically had a stingy heart. Had an encounter with Christ—He began to change his life / transformed him into becoming a generous giver. Now, he’s still stingy; but he’s giving joyfully and tithing really has a different feel.
Brad: Yes; in fact, it doesn’t even feel like tithing because we’re so far beyond the tithe; it feels just like the question of: “What is it that I get to do with God’s money?”—which is completely different than tithing—which, when I was tithing, it was my money; and I had to give ten percent.
Now, it’s God’s money; and I get to actually decide—and He’s trusted me to decide. It’s a totally different feeling
Dennis: Well, Brad Hewitt, along with James Moline, who is a licensed psychologist, have written a book called Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money.
I’ve never really thought about having a relationship with money, Bob; have you?
Bob: That’s what this book is all about; and it’s a fascinating thing, because we don’t think about having a relationship with our money. But there’s an emotional bond that people have with money; isn’t there?
Dennis: People love it—we know they love it. Brad is the CEO of Thrivent Financial®, which is a not-for-profit Fortune 500 company. He and his wife Sue have been married since 1985. They have two adult children and live in Minnesota.
Let’s go to the heart of love—it’s called, in America, consumerism. Unpack what consumerism is and why is it so infectious in creating a love relationship with money?
Brad: Well, again, if you go to the Scripture, the passage that often gets misquoted is: “…money is the root of all evil.” It isn’t—it is: “The love of money…”—that’s the root of all evil. It’s an interesting idea, because love is about a relationship and it’s about the heart. That is at the root of so much in America.
I really believe there are four things that we believe to be what I call half truths about money—is:
That money will give you security, because that’s something we really value.
That money will give you independence.
That money will give you success.
And that money—more money will make you happy.
And it’s actually those four things that we’ve so bought into—as a society—that makes us want to love money.
Bob: And as you go through those four, I just have to share with you the statistic in your book that blew me away. It’s the one that said—this was a study where you talked to people who had net assets of, at least, 25 million.
Brad: Yes; average 78 million.
Bob: The average was 78 million. Tell everybody what the study found.
Brad: The study—it’s a Boston University study—and it was, basically, they’re looking at different groups of people. This was the highest net income group—they discovered that that group was just like everybody else—in order to be happy, they would need 25 percent more than they have in order to be happy and to feel secure. What’s fascinating is—everybody needs 25 percent more. It didn’t matter really how much money you had—the idea was that: “If I had 25 percent more, then, I would be happy.”
Bob: So, if that’s where we all are, we’re all thinking—
Dennis: You’re talking about being worth 78 million? [Laughter]
Bob: No; no. [Laughter] I’m talking about, wherever we are—let’s say you made $30,000 last year, or let’s say you made $300,000 last year—we’ll take those two numbers.
Everybody’s thinking, “You know, we’re eking by.”
I’ll tell you how I did this—because we did this with a small group. I asked our small group, at the beginning of a study one time—I said, “I want you to write down—let’s say the economy went bust—and you just had to eke by on as little as you could on a monthly basis—write that number down.” This was in the ‘80s. Our group—the number of eking by, and we were all living in about the same lifestyle—our group went from: “I could eke by on $800 a month,” to “…$2,900 a month.” The guy, who said, “I could eke by on $2,900 a month,”—we had people in the group who weren’t making $2,900 a month; and this guy said, “If the economy went bust, that’s what I would need just to pay my basic bills.”
So, if we’re all thinking, “I just need a little more,” how do we fix that?
Brad: Well, what ends up happening is—of course, as you get more, your lifestyle just changes. It’s those decisions about changing lifestyle and making sure that you actually think about those four things: “Is money actually going to bring me security?” The answer is: “No; it really doesn’t. In fact, that’s not what the biblical ideal is. What you want to have is confidence—confidence—first, that God loves you / that you have an eternal home. Confidence is something you can actually achieve, regardless of how much income you have.”
You can go through each of those four things as: “What’s the half truth?” and “What’s the whole truth?” around “How do we think about those things?”
Bob: So take us through those four—give us the half truth and the whole truth.
Brad: Well, in order to do that, I actually have to tell the story of where I came up with the half truths. I worked at a church denomination, and I sat next to the chief theologian. He would often let me read his papers before they were published.
I am convinced it was to make sure they were dumbed down enough for the average reader—[Laughter]—I knew the role I was playing there. I remember asking him one time, “So what’s the definition of heresy?” I have never forgotten this, because it has been so meaningful in my life. He said, “A heresy is when you take half the truth and you make it into a whole.” Everybody sees through lies. It’s the half truth that becomes the whole truth that is so dangerous.
That’s what we wrote, really, the book around—is we started to see people’s different relationships with money. What we found is that people were usually good at two or three of these four things, but usually one or two would trip them up. The four, again, are security—some people really long for security. Money does give you a little security, but it’s never going to provide the permanent security that the gospel does.
Bob: So the half truth with security is—money will provide a level of security. We all know that; because if the bill collectors are calling every day, it’s harder to sleep at night than if you know, “I can pay the bills this month.” So there’s a level of security that comes with having a level of money.
Brad: It’s a half truth.
Bob: “Pursue righteousness,”—Jesus said—“Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness—
Brad: —“and these other things will be added to you.”
Bob: So that’s the whole truth; isn’t it?
Brad: That’s the whole truth.
The second one is independence. Financial independence is so much of what you hear. If you think about all the ads you see on TV about money management and wealth management—it’s all about: “What’s your number to be financially independent?” That’s, again—it’s a half truth. More money does make you more independent. But what’s interesting is—the whole truth in the Bible is always about community. The reality is—the community will provide you more joy than being independent will ever do; and it will, frankly, provide you more security than all the money you have. [Laughter]
Bob: When you say that, here’s the picture that comes to my mind—is Mr. Potter.
Bob: You know who Mr. Potter is?
Brad: I sure do!—from It’s a Wonderful Life.
Bob: Mr. Potter from—he was financially independent; right?—and miserable—
Brad: —and miserable.
Bob: —and lonely, because he had no community. There’s Jimmy Stewart on the other side, who realizes all the friends he’s got, when push comes to shove. Once again: Proving that It’s a Wonderful Life is the greatest movie ever made. [Laughter]
Dennis: But our route to get to the wonderful life—we haven’t talked about it yet, but it is one word—debt—
Dennis: Buy what you want. Get what you want when you want it and owe other people.
Dennis: It really is another half truth associated with these first two that we’re talking about.
Brad: And it’s associated with the more, which is what we’re going to talk about too. It really is—that’s the danger, to some degree, of having a financial system that lets you actually put these into practice without the thoughtful discipline that you really need.
What’s interesting is—that with independence, money doesn’t buy you happiness—to some degree—and we’re going to talk about that in a second.
But interesting enough—generosity almost always will get you community. Generosity almost always will give you that sense of contentment that God is—partly because, as you are generous, you are actually usually giving to somebody who is in a different position than you, who needs it more. It builds the sense of confidence; because you basically say, “Boy, if somebody else can get by at $800 bucks, maybe my $2,900 bucks is too much!” [Laughter]
Bob: And also, often pairs you up with people who share the passion for whatever you are giving to—they give to it as well. Now, you’re a community of like-minded / like-hearted people who have the same passion.
Bob: We see this with Legacy Partners, people who invest in this ministry. Whenever we’re able to be together with a group of these folks, it’s almost instant community—
—people who never knew each other, but they feel like they’re neighbors within a few minutes; because they have shared values and shared priorities.
Dennis: Well, they’re partners in this ministry; and they’re part of a larger impact occurring across this country and around the world. They just have electricity about them, because they not only care about their own marriage and family. I love to write this at the bottom of a thank-you letter when someone gives—I love to write the note and say, “Thank you for caring about your family and also other people’s families. “
Brad: You create a community—a community that cares about more than just yourself. It’s a wonderful thing—it’s a wonderful life. [Laughter]
Dennis: Bob really needed that, by the way. [Laughter]
Bob: Another half truth and truth—
Brad: So the next one is that “More will make you happy.” And again, this is actually statistically true for a very short period of time. They actually took a study of people who had won the lottery and people who became paraplegic.
Now, you’d think those two groups are about as extreme opposites as you could get. Interestingly enough—their level of happiness, six months later, was no different.
Brad: Can you imagine two more things in life that would be more opposite as you win the lottery and you become a paraplegic? The reality is—that anything, whether it is good or bad—we immediately will start to adjust our lifestyle to whatever that is.
Bob: So you win the lottery: Week One, you are euphoric.
Brad: You are euphoric.
Bob: You become a paraplegic: Week One, you are despondent.
Bob: Six months later, you are back to equilibrium.
Brad: You are basically—and it depends on what it is and how long / now, that wasn’t true for everyone—but you kind of get the gist.
So for money—it’s called the hedonistic treadmill. You think: “Boy, if I had more…” and it gives you a little rush. And “I got that, and I’m happy,” and it quickly goes away; so then, you have to do more. This is where debt and borrowing becomes a really big problem—this whole idea of—again, the whole truth is about contentment.
Paul says, “I’ve had much and I’ve had little, and I’ve learned to be content.” Contentment is really the whole truth. This hedonistic treadmill—is when it is so easy to get on, especially in America, and especially with advertising, and especially with what we see in social media and all the other—
Bob: So the half truth is: “More will make you happier, short term.” Contentment comes from something other than having more.
Brad: And contentment, interestingly enough—again, one of the themes you are going to hear over and over again, if you want to learn to be content, start to be generous.
I tell a little story. We were talking about holidays and vacations. Since our kids were little, we’ve gone skiing in Colorado. Especially, as my career has—I’ve had some success—early in my career, I would go there; and I would see: “These people have these beautiful ski houses! I should have one of these.”
I didn’t have more vacation! I could use my one week and go skiing. I couldn’t have used it anyway, but I just wanted it. Then, I remember going, a few weeks later. I went and served at an Urban Homeworks, which is an inner city ministry that helps people fix up their house. I remember going away from that, feeling, “I am so blessed.”
I remember contrasting the two experiences—being on a vacation and seeing these ski houses / and going, and serving, and being generous—and my two different reactions—one of being discontent and one of feeling blessed. Generosity led me to contentment. Serving myself, even in a really good thing—it was really good for our family to be there—but it was easy to then move into that sense of, “Boy, I need more.”
Dennis: And Brad, you keep pushing us where Jesus pushed us, which is toward generosity; because when we’re around people who are generous—and it’s not because they give to us / I’m not talking about that—but when you’re around people, who are generous with others, it’s infectious and it’s fantastic.
Bob, there’s a story that we have in the archives that—Brad, you haven’t heard—but I want you to respond to this story by our friend, Ron Blue, who has helped a lot of people find the secret of generosity.
Bob: I know the story you are talking about—and he shared this. This is one of those stories, where you just kind of go, “Wow!” And it does change the way you think about what you have and what you give.
[Previous Interview Excerpt]
Ron: I used to have breakfast at Chick-fil-A® with my son. We’d always order the same thing, and this Hispanic lady always waited on us. When we would walk in, she would serve us with a smile / she’d have our breakfast ready. I was walking out of the restaurant one day and I said, “You tip people in restaurants, why don’t we tip fast-food people?” I couldn’t think of a good reason; so I reached in my billfold and pulled out $20. The Lord said, almost verbally / audibly—said, “You cheapskate!” because I had a lot of twenties in my billfold. [Laughter]
I folded up five $20s and went back in and said, “Can you accept tips?” She said, “Sure.” So I gave her $100. A week or so later, I was back in; and she thanked me for the gift. She said: ‘You know, when you gave that to me, I needed a new set of tires. So I was feeling very blessed that you did that.” But she said, “When my daughter got home from high school, and found out there’d been an apartment fire and somebody had lost everything in their apartment,” she said, “I thought they needed the $100 worse than I did.”
Ron: So she said: “We gave it to them.” [Laughter] I mean, I learned a lot of lessons in that. I thought, “You know, I gave out of my abundance—
Dennis: Yes, really.
Ron: —“and she gave out of her poverty.”
Brad: What a wonderful story. I mean, I think that is one of the lessons—I think God softens our heart, along the way.
I think that is one of the most beneficial things of generosity is—is that constant softening of heart—is His reply to me: “I’m going to take a heart of stone and make it into a heart of flesh.” I mean, I actually think that’s what the process of generosity does—is takes a heart of stone and makes it into a heart of flesh.
Dennis: I think there ought to be more sharing of those kinds of stories publically. There is this voice that whispers in your ear [whispering], “Don’t share the story; because if you do, people will think you are bragging about giving.”
Dennis: What Dr Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ®, said—he said: “You know, the devil of hell wants to keep us silent about our prayer lives, about our giving, our prayer and fasting from food. He wants to keep us silent about this so that other people, who don’t enjoy those spiritual disciplines, will never hear about them.”
Dennis: He said, “We need to be talking about some of the great, delightful moments in life, when we gave a gift to someone else,”—like Ron Blue did—
—and it went on with a more powerful lesson than you could ever get from any sermon. I mean, that’s real life—it’s where people are living and what people need to hear today.
Brad: I just want to say: “Generosity is way more than money,”—it is: “Time is more important than money,”—ourselves being open.
I just want to share one story that was shared with me yesterday. We have had, for a year-and-one-half, we have had a person who works at an organization like ours in Japan. He’s been on a year-and-one-half-long assignment. His name is Dasuki. Dasuki—it was his last day yesterday. He came and he brought some little cookies his wife had made. He was kind of sad about leaving, even though he was going back home. I asked him, “What are the two or three things you are going to take back with you?”
He looked at me with a smile and he said: “Well, I’m going to tell our executives that you actually go down into the lunch room and eat with everybody else and stand in line and talk to them all.”
He said, “They won’t believe that a Fortune 500 CEO would actually do that, because”— he said—“they would never do that.” He said, “You know, your willingness to be just one of the people—that sense of generosity infects the whole culture. I want that sense of generosity to move to our company in Japan.”
So I think of generosity—while we wrote this book about money, because it is the easiest one to actually think about—it’s generosity of time, and talents, and self, and being open are just as valuable as giving money; because some people don’t have lots of money to give, but they can give a smile at the grocery store or something.
Bob: I was just sitting here, thinking about an assignment for a listener. I thought: “So if you thought you have 20 bucks in your wallet that is not spoken for—that you could let loose of and it wouldn’t hurt you—
—“find somebody today to give the 20 bucks to and bless them,”—kind of like the illustration you shared of your barber giving you money to bless somebody.
Dennis: Right. And then write us and tell us the story.
Bob: —of what happens.
And if you don’t have 20 bucks / if all you have is a smile, or a kind word, or an opportunity to serve—I came into our church last Sunday, and there was a Scripture in calligraphy that was hanging in the entrance. [To] the young woman who had done the work—I said, “This is really beautiful.” She said,” You know, we’re not able to give right now; so this is a way that we can give.” I said: “No; you’re able to give—you just did.” We do have to think it’s not just about what we can give with our money but the whole lifestyle of giving.
Dennis: Bob, I’m glad you mentioned the smile; because we’re all going to the grocery store, or going to a fast-food place, or—
Bob: —the TSA line / that’s where you like to smile; right? [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, I’m expanding my kindness to TSA agents to beyond them—to the grocery store and saying the person’s name: “Young man, that’s a great name! You have a great smile as a young man. Thank you for your service. Thank you for being kind to me.” I have to tell you—as a father and a grandfather, I’m concerned about the lack of civility in our nation and how unkind we can be to one another. This is a way to fight back.
Bob: Well, I just hope that our listeners will do something today—whether it’s give someone money, or give someone a smile, or just do something that is an act of kindness and generosity. And I hope they’ll go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and answer a few questions—we’ve got an inventory there. Actually, it’s an inventory that Brad Hewitt has created that’s on his website; but we have the link to it.
You can answer some questions and get a sense of how you are doing in your relationship with your money: “Where are some areas where you might be able to improve?” Go to FamilyLifeToday.com if you want to answer those questions and see how you score. We’ve had a lot of people doing that.
We’ve also had a lot of people getting a copy of Brand’s book, Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money. You can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy of the book. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com / you can call us at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in Life, and then the word, “TODAY,”—1-800-358-6329.
Let me also say, “Thank you,” to some of the most generous people we know—that’s those of you who are Legacy Partners to this ministry, those of you who, each month, make a contribution in support of the work of FamilyLife, helping us get this message about God’s design for marriage and family into the hearts and minds of more and more people all around the globe.
That’s what you’re doing every time you make a donation in support of this ministry. You’re expanding the reach of FamilyLifeToday, and our website, and our resources. You’re helping us get more places with this message.
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That’s our gift to you when you support the ministry of FamilyLifeToday with a donation. We do appreciate your partnership with us.
We hope you can join us back again tomorrow. Brad Hewitt is going to be here again. We’ll continue to talk about generosity and your money. 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.
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