The Impact of a Gift

The Impact of a Gift

In 2012, my wife and I visited our youngest daughter in Calgary. We attended Centre Street Church (where she is now on staff) and then browsed the book store where I found a Stewardship Bible. I decided to purchase this item because I had just completed training for financial professionals and the notes contained in this Bible supported the course so well. When I went to the cashier, she said, “That is yours.”

I said, “Yes, I am here to pay for it.”

“No,” she responded. “A lady donated this to us with the instructions that whoever was interested in it, please give it to them.” This is the first and only time I ever went into a book store and walked out with a book in hand that was given to me.

This was one of those moments where there was a sense that something divine was at work. It was like the Lord was sending me a message that it was important for me to more fully understand the message of stewardship. I do not know who donated that Bible to the bookstore, and that person, therefore, cannot know the significance this kind gesture had on my life. It was one of those “little things” that led me to change my 24-year career as a financial advisor to actually becoming a director of a national ministry working with financial professionals.

With our limited perspective, it is nearly impossible to fully comprehend the impact we can have on others with the gifts we can give. Maybe that is exactly the reason for this statement in 1 Cor. 4:2: “Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.”

We have all been “put in charge of things” to manage in this life and it is a good idea to consider the potential impact we could have with those things. Consider your time. Can you impact others with how you use time? In 2012, I read the book, “Money, Possessions & Eternity” which helped change my perspective on money. This means the investment of time by the author to write this book was impactful on my life. Until I met the author, Randy Alcorn in 2017, he could not have known that impact. In the same way, our use of time can influence people beyond what we typically realize.

Ken Boa speaks of stewardship this way:

In every stewardship relationship there are two parties involved: the master who hands out the resources and will one day ask for an accounting; and the steward who is entrusted with the resources and must eventually answer for how they were invested. God is the master; he distributes gifts at his discretion. We are stewards, accountable to him for all that we do with all that we have.

December is a time of giving for most, but we should see it more as an opportunity to invest in the lives of others. I have wondered if that Stewardship Bible just sat on a shelf and the thought was, “This Bible would be of better use if it was given to or invested in someone else.”

The reality is: “to whom much is given, much is required.” We must understand we have a responsibility to be faithful with all that has been entrusted to us.  The steward is not actually accountable for the results, but called to be faithful with the resources. It is easy to look for the results rather than focus on our stewardship responsibilities. When we focus on the results and they are not clearly evident, we can easily ask “Why should I continue?” The fact is we are not always aware of the results, nor are we responsible for the results. That is why our calling is to be faithful.

Faithfulness with our resources is vitally important because of the future accounting. This is exactly why we ought to expand our thinking to view our giving as an investment in others.  Investors look for opportunities to get a good return on that investment, which is actually the perspective of a steward.

If you think about all you have received in this life, how are you managing it? It is important to have a focus beyond yourself.

today-is-a-gift

We all have an ability to give something:

  1. Maybe it’s time, which we all have in equal measure
  2. Or opportunity to use your talent, which is unique to you
  3. Or perhaps it is giving from your treasure, which varies by each person.

When considering all that we have and all that we do, it is important to see opportunities, not only to give but also to invest in others. When we give of our time or talent or make a financial donation, do we see it as giving or investing?  Is it just semantics? When making donations most millennials want to feel like they’re making an investment, which is really a steward’s perspective on giving.

During this Christmas season:

How can you use time to impact others? Are there opportunities for your unique gifting to bring joy? Can you make an investment financially through your resources that can have reverberations beyond what you can imagine?

May you experience the Joy of giving this Christmas season!

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Far too often we can let little things slide but recently I read an article titled “Never Walk by a Mistake.” It served as a good reminder of the importance of correcting even what seems like a small thing.

walk-byGeneral Ann Dunwoody was walking down the street when she saw a soldier in uniform walking with his hands in his pockets. Anyone who’s spent time in the military knows that this is a big no-no. Dunwoody could have literally walked by the mistake and not addressed it. It’s something small, it wasn’t impacting anyone at the time, and the kid probably just forgot. It wasn’t anything overtly heinous. As a general, though, she knew that if she didn’t correct the error, she would be, by the sin of omission, setting a new lower standard for that soldier. So rather than letting it slide, she approached him, kindly addressed the problem (rather than yelling at and demeaning the young guy), and reinforced the ideas of discipline and attention to detail.

Here is what intrigues me: by not correcting the error, we are actually setting a lower standard, which is obviously not acceptable.  After reading  an article by Jerry Bowyer entitled “Are Christians Allowed to Get Rich?” I saw that there is a standard set for Christian business owners and there are at least two mistakes that lower that standard:

  1. Not Understanding Your Purpose and Calling
  2. Not Understanding You are a Steward, not the Owner

1. Purpose & Calling

Typically, when we speak of  “calling,” business owners are not the first to come to our mind. We tend to immediately think of those with a more sacred calling, like pastors or missionaries.  David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby is “the son of a pastor, and the brother of a large cohort of pastors, pastor’s wives and missionaries.”  Like many Christian business owners, “David felt that there was something not fully Christian about his passion for running a successful store.” When he would talk excitedly about his business, his saintly mother would ask him, “Yes, but what are you doing for the Lord?” Obviously his mother meant well, but had a limited understanding of God’s calling.

work-is-our-calling-400We usually make the same mistake when we categorize our work (or business) as secular, separating it from the sacred (calling). Rather than sensing the pleasure of God  through our work, we often consider our work less than God’s calling. It seems that David Green felt like a black sheep because the rest of his family were “ministers” while he was in business. However, when we serve others (in our work), we are actually serving the Lord, not just men (Eph. 6:7) and can fulfill the call God has placed on our lives. Here is a great piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord … (Col 3:23).

In time, David Green discovered that God can use a merchant just as well as He can a pastor. It seems that business was his purpose and calling after all and was a means of engaging in the great commission. I love what he said in the interview with Jerry Bowyer: So I believe I have a calling on my life; I think we all can, no matter where we are, be anointed. I sense God’s anointing on my life as a businessman.

2. A Steward, Not an Owner

It would certainly be valuable to listen to the audio interview with David Green as he provides insight on how Hobby Lobby endeavours to incorporate biblical principles into its business. He speaks about the importance of avoiding long term debt and he says, “We go into debt when we think God isn’t moving fast enough,” which identifies our lack of contentment.

DGreenThe part that I found most interesting is the corporate structure of Hobby Lobby, where the shares are owned by a trust rather than by family members. This speaks to the fact that the Green’s are stewards of the company and the corporation is actually held in trust. This means if the company was to be sold, 90% of the value would go to a foundation and subsequently distributed to the Lord’s work. Typically, a business is passed down to the next generation, then the next, but in the case of Hobby Lobby, the family cannot actually touch the assets. Since these assets are seen as under God’s ownership, the corporate structure reflects that and is actually referred to as a “stewardship trust.” 

God owns it all, like Psalm 24:1 clearly states, is a statement Christians agree with in principle but despite this knowledge, we often live like we are the owners.

If you are a Christian business owner or a Christian financial advisor, accountant or lawyer directing business owners, please listen to the audio recording for just 10 minutes (start from 14 minutes to 24 minutes).  It is easy for Christian business owners and Christian financial professionals to be “conformed to the world” when it comes to business structure and advice. What I heard is transformational because it is based on biblical principles.  If we choose to ignore these principles, we are setting a lower standard than has been laid out for us.  Does the legal structure of your business align with your theological structure? Does the corporate structure represent the interest of the steward or the interest of the owner?

 

 

Did You Chase The Ace?

Did You Chase The Ace?

One of the headlines in the news, especially in Newfoundland, but also nationally is:

Newfoundland couple wins $2.6-million Chase the Ace jackpot in final night of lottery

Chase

According to one blogger, Chase the Ace is a phenomenon in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2014, just two lottery licenses for the game were issued; for 2017 alone, at least 283 have been granted to churches and community groups across the province in order to raise funds. I find it interesting that he also referred to this phenomenon as “a new religion.”

When I read this statement, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt, maybe a little uncomfortable. I decided to seek a definition and without even leaving my laptop, google told me: religion is a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance,

It seems the word “religion” accurately represents the Chase the Ace phenomena because hundreds of people would line up for hours with funds to purchase tickets. What was the motivation? While it was ultimately about raising money for the church, the primary motivator of the participants was the desire for profit, not about giving (even though the cause was a good one). Right below that definition of religion, it states that “consumerism is the new religion.” While this lottery is a successful means of fundraising, what created the enthusiasm among the people was the desire for wealth, which is driven by consumerism.

Here is the structure of the Chase the Ace lottery: the consolation prize was 20% of the day’s ticket sales, while 30% accumulated into the jackpot that was awarded if a ticket-winner drew the Ace of Spades from a diminishing deck of cards. The other 50% went to the parish (charity). Interestingly, there is little focus in the media on the amount raised for the church except that: Organizers say they will know how much money the lottery raised in a couple of days.  There is no doubt this fund-raising was a huge success and much more was raised this way than by passing an offering plate around on Sunday.

Here is my point: most people weren’t focused at all on giving, yet 50% was being given away. They were “tricked,” for lack of a better term, into giving half of their money away. What was everyone focusing on? Maybe partially on giving. The primary focus though, was on receiving, or winning the prize. There was a building of excitement each week as the Ace was not drawn and the jackpot (30% of ticket sales) continued to grow.  Even the 20% (consolation prize) created great anticipation.

Interestingly, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial motto is an admonishment from Jesus Christ: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” The promise is that when we do this, tomorrow will take care of itself; but it seems like we no longer place any confidence in these words. One of the ways to put God’s kingdom first is to give, and trust Him for our provision. Instead, giving is disguised as a lottery and we trust in our own abilities for tomorrow’s provision, even if it comes from a lottery.

Churchill

The fact is most of us have simply lost the focus and excitement of giving, because we would much rather receive. Obviously, the vast majority of those who bought tickets did not win anything, so their only consolation is that they gave 50%, but most of these probably feel they lost the entire value of their ticket. I think the truth is that most had little thought for the amount they were actually giving to charity. Isn’t it still true though, that it is more blessed to give than to receive?”

 

Profit From Your Giving Account?

In my last blog post I asked the question: What are you getting in exchange for money? How we spend our money is usually determined by the value we receive in exchange for our money. Let’s face it, if we do not feel we are getting good value, then we decide not to spend money in this way.

When it comes to giving money away, we need someone to help us gain the right perspective.  As an example, when we make a donation to charity, do we consider it giving money away or investing it? In Phil 4:10-20 the Apostle Paul expressed his appreciation to the Philippians for their financial support by telling them they were the only church who gave during this time.  Paul was not simply thanking them, but helping them gain an important perspective about the benefits of giving. Here are a few reasons we usually give:

  1. There is an expressed need
  2. We are moved (with compassion) to give
  3. Maybe we have been taught to give 10% of our income
  4. Our income is higher, so we could use the tax break

The new perspective Paul brings contains another benefit of giving that we often overlook: “the profit that is increasing to your account.” Paul actually downplayed the benefit of the gift to himself (or his ministry), in order to emphasize what these people were receiving in exchange for the gifts (money) they gave.  It is difficult for us to even comprehend an eternal account, or that we can make deposits into it with our giving, but that is actually what Paul was excited about. He was really saying, “When you give what is temporal, you multiply what is eternal.” The true value received was an increase in their kingdom account, which incidentally, yields dividends in this life as well.

Accountability_ProfitIn the next verse, Paul notes that he received the gift, but also that it was “well pleasing to God.” So the gift that was given to Paul’s ministry was actually credited to the kingdom account of these people; treasure was being “stored up” in their account in heaven. It was a gift on earth, but an investment in a heavenly account.

Typically, having an account is essential to receive services at any financial institution today. It is interesting to note that the verse that most Christians quote about God supplying our needs, follows this reference to “the profit that is increasing to your account.” It seems the promise of supply (from heaven) is connected with having an account (by giving on earth). The promise of God meeting our needs “according to His riches” is connected to the account that Paul referenced, namely, the one that is accumulating there through giving here on earth. Our giving actually “opens” an eternal account.  However, if you think about what Phil. 4:19 says, the supply we receive for our needs is not actually from our deposits (or gifts given to charitable work) but “according to His riches.” This is a little much to comphrend … we make deposits into our kingdom account by giving and the promise of our needs being met is not even withdrawal from that account, but comes “out of His wealth.” So when we give, we can truly have confidence in two important things:

  1. Our kingdom account is receiving deposits that will profit (eternal rewards)
  2. Our needs are promised to be met while we are on earth

I think that is a great return on investment!