MILLION DOLLAR ADVICE
by Ben Rae
Not long ago I began a research project on stewardship. I was convinced that we often think too small. It was during this time that I met an older gentleman who never thought small and certainly not when it came to his stewardship of the blessings God provided. I knew for a fact that he was very generous. In that one year he would give one million dollars. I shared with him my “giving” journey and asked for some advice. I wanted to know how we could become more generous as faithful stewards. I wanted to learn how we could better manage saving, investing and giving. What he shared has been life changing.
After speaking with him, my wife and I attended two seminars that opened our eyes regarding our stewardship journey. The first was a Christian seminar that dealt with creating financial wealth. The presenter explained the importance of budgeting, investing and how to get ahead, financially. He also considered the Bible’s teaching on money showing that, while money can be a trap, (Matt. 13:22) it is not the root of all evil. It is the love (idolizing) of money that is the problem, (1 Tim. 6:10). But the learning didn’t stop there.
"I had heard of wealthy people giving large sums of money to help God’s work but I had not heard of people with our more modest kind of income giving large gifts."
PERMITTING GOD TO BLESS
I learned that wealth can be a blessing that God gives (Ps. 112:1-5), and the blessing doesn’t by-pass hard work (Pr 14:23), discipline (Pr. 6:6-8), fearing God (Pr. 3:9-18), or being generous (Lk. 6:38). Financial blessings are critical for building churches, hospitals and schools. They can be a blessing when helping those who are not as fortunate (Eph. 4:28). With these insights in mind, my wife and I started to budget and save. We laid our plans to be generous and saw the blessings of God everywhere. We anticipated that His blessings would continue and even multiply.
FAITH AND GENEROSITY
At a second seminar, the presenters, a pastor and his wife, shared their astounding testimony of faith-filled giving. I had heard of wealthy people giving large sums of money to help God’s work but I had not heard of people with our more modest kind of income giving large gifts. Their example was a real encouragement. Until meeting this couple I had thought we were generous, but their testimony inspired and challenged us to trust God’s word and consider new levels of giving. My wife and I started taking new steps of faith with giving. It was the inspiration from this pastoral couple and their stewardship experience that led us to begin our search for those who loved to give. It was then that I met the older gentleman whom I have referred to as the ‘million dollar giver.’
TWO KINDS OF STEWARDS
He shared with me how he came to the place where he was able to give away a million dollars in one year. Although he is a millionaire now, he had started giving generously as a young man when he had very little. He proceeded to share with me two pieces of biblical financial advice he has followed for years. He attributed his wealth to a large degree to these two principles--principles that I call “the million-dollar advice.” The first principle is to count every cent (keep a disciplined budget). The second principle is to be a generous giver (don’t be limited to 10%). He said that he and his wife decided to do this when they started with nothing. They allocated a tiny “spending money” budget for themselves, stuck to their budget and were determined to give much more. He shared how in those days he kept a tally of their budget in a notebook. Today he keeps that as a memento, symbolizing the foundation of discipline that God gave him. That simple practice was foundational for their financial success. He answered my question on balance: “Should I give now, or invest now so I can give more later?” His response: “While its important to invest, you’ve got to be generous now. Giving is to be done in the present, and not some time off into the future when you think you can afford it. Remember, giving comes with a blessing.” Why short change the additional blessings God wants to pour out "for," and "through," us?” He told me, “I don’t believe God will make everyone rich. However, following both of these principles opens the door for Him to bless even more if that should be His desire. Diligence and generosity on his part provided the channel by which God enabled him to give an offering of over $1,000,000 in a single year.
"They are missing God’s purposes and blessings that are connected to generosity. It seems that there is also another large group—those who are generous givers but who don’t budget! "
The million-dollar giver left me with some wonderful advice to think about. I’m sure there is a large group of people who are diligent with their finances in obedience to God (Pr 17:23-27; Gal 5:22,23), but they give very little. They are following one of God’s vital stewardship principles, valuing every cent of God’s resources but they will not realize the full blessing of God if they stop there. They are missing God’s purposes and blessings that are connected to generosity. It seems that there is also another large group—those who are generous givers but who don’t budget! These are those who love to be generous, who willingly give financially and no doubt please God by sharing His blessings with others (2 Cor 9:6-14), but when it comes to the diligence, responsibility, and self-control of budgeting, they are sorely lacking. They may not even feel that this is something that God is serious about. As a result they make no serious effort to budget, avoid debt, invest and certainly do not “count every cent.” Some, in an effort to stay free of the love of money, give generously and actually abandon thinking about money as much as possible. They trust God to bail them out of their financial crises. By neglecting careful financial management, they end-up wasting God’s financial resources and do not give the Holy Spirit opportunity to grow the fruit of self-control. They seldom reach higher levels of financial authority, even if God is blessing them for the generosity they show. It seems clear that God’s desire is to find stewards who are both generous and responsible and who have an attitude of “live-to-give” and yet, who are very careful with every cent.
EFFICIENCY AND GENEROSITY
The ‘million-dollar giver’s testimony sounds like the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30). God gives us a limited amount of financial power (and other resources) to see how it is handled. When He finds those who prove themselves generous and diligent, He says, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matt. 25:21,22) We know that money is one way but not the only way for us to show generosity. Nevertheless, it is one of His gifts. As you’ve considered the million dollar advice, how has the Holy Spirit been speaking to you? Now is the best time to invite Him to do a new work in you!