THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF GENEROSITY
LRE: How did you develop such a personal interest in stewardship?
BK: Growing up I was not a generous person. I was “a taker” more than I was “a giver.” My life was really transformed when I came to know Christ at the age of 21. I began to study to see what the Bible says about finances and generosity. I learned that the way I had been approaching life, and money, was not God’s way. This led me to move from operating according to worldly financial principles, to a practice of living by God’s.
LRE: Was there an event in your life that caused you to make that change?
BK: Yes! The day came when I had a very little pay check and a big pile of bills. I sensed God prompting me with a big question: “Would I honor Him with what I had?” What I had wasn’t enough! It was a “God moment” that pressed home the question: “Brian, will you trust Me with your finances?” I had to make the choice. Would I trust God by writing out the check to God first? I felt prompted to give a tenth, and did. That started a journey that’s never stopped. Everything changed when I had the understanding that God is the Owner and I’m the manager. It changed everything. LRE: What makes a person a generous steward?
BK: For me, it has been about learning how to be an intentional giver and to operate in faith more than fear. Often people don’t give because they’re afraid. In reality, they feel that “If I give, I’ll have less.” I truly believe that “generosity is God’s crazy mathematics”—if we give, and honor God, we’ll have more contentment, more wisdom, more guidance from Him, than if we don’t give. So for me, giving is the highest financial priority I have. There is nothing higher—not a mortgage, not a car, not a credit card payment. My highest priority is to honor God with whatever He gives me. Living this out has sometimes been challenging, but I’ve done it without regrets. Ultimately we become generous because of God’s generosity towards us, as especially seen in the gift of His Son.
Once we understand what it is that God has entrusted to us, we can then use that for the kingdom of God.
LRE: So you are saying that our generosity should come in response to the generosity God has already shown, and not in order to get Him to be generous with us?
BK: I believe there’s a heretical teaching out there that says, “We give to get.” The Bible teaches we are to give from what we have—from what God has already given us. Another phrase I like to use is, “We don’t give to get a blessing; we give to be a blessing.” When we are intentionally generous because of what God has given us, or entrusted to us, then we become ‘Jesus—with skin on’ in the life of someone else.
MEK: Part of what Brian does, is to help create an awareness of the needs of others, and then how we can use the different gifts God has given us, to meet those needs.One of my operating principles is to discover what gifts one does have. This would include one’s income, other financial blessings, but also our assets, skills, abilities, hobbies, interests, life-experiences and our relationships. Once we understand what it is that God has entrusted to us, we can then use that for the kingdom of God.
LRE: You wrote the book, Seven Keys to Open-Handed Living in a Tight-Fisted World, at the time the Giving Pledge was in the news. Are they related?
BK: The Giving Pledge is something Warren Buffet and Bill Gates started to encourage billionaires to give away half of their wealth during their lifetime. When I saw that, I thought, “Giving and generosity is not just for the wealthy. It’s for every person on the planet.” So what I tried to do was to identify the key aspects of living a generous life, regardless of where in the world one might live. I identified seven “S’s” so that anyone on the planet could say, “I want to make a God-honoring generosity pledge.”
LRE: What are those seven “S’s”?
BK: They are quite simple. First, submit 100% of yourself, who you are, and all you have, or ever will have, to the Lord. Second, study the Scriptures on finances and generosity. There are lots of verses to choose from since there are 2,350 verses on that subject. Third, see what blessings God has provided, whether they be money, assets, time ability, skills, possessions—whatever God has given you. Next, set aside resources to give. This is where you have a plan to separate what you “live-on” from what you “give-on.” In addition to our personal checking and saving accounts, we have a ‘giving account.’ We give a tenth of our main income to our main ministry. But we have other financial blessings that come into our lives, so that’s the fund from which we give further offerings. God blesses us in so many ways, so our giving fund constantly has money in it to give. We give to missions, we give to people in need, we give secretly sometimes and support different projects. It comes out of our “Count Your Blessings” giving fund.” The fifth “S” is systematic giving. There are ministries that God calls you to faithfully support, so give to your local church and missions systematically. It’s about regular, faithful giving. The sixth “S” is spontaneous giving. This is different from systematic giving. This is for what the Bible refers to as special offerings. For example, in the Old Testament when Moses built the tabernacle, the people gave special offerings. And that’s spontaneous giving. That’s where God just moves in your heart, and when He does, you might not even be able to see how it’s going to work out, but you just know that God has prompted you. It might be to give a bag of groceries to somebody, or money to someone else. We don’t worry about tax deductions. The Bible says that if you give to the poor, you lend to the Lord, and He will repay. So a far better promise than a tax deduction, is God’s promise to repay what you gave. And the last “S” is to simplify our lives so we can give even more. Once we understand that generosity is a very joy-filled life, and that you can be a true blessing, it can get very exciting. We can simplify our lifestyle or set our lifestyle at less than we make, and say, “God, I’m going to live on...” whatever the number is, $20,000, $50,000, or $75,000, or whatever, and tell God, “I’ll give the rest.” It’s just one way of becoming a more generous person.
“live-on” from what you “give-on.”
LRE: This sounds so ‘counter-culture’ to the lifestyle all around us.
BK: I explain it this way. When I first started giving, I had debt I couldn’t pay. I had more month than I had money. I wasn’t a giver. I couldn’t see how I could give. But what I discovered was that when I began to give, when I said, “OK, God, this is what You’ve given me. I’m going to give from what I have, I’m going to trust You with my finances and future,” something happened inside of me. I use this phrase: “When you’re a pauper and you give, you’ll feel like a prince. But if you’re a prince and you don’t give, you’ll feel like a pauper.” There’s something about being a generous person, that, even when I had debts I couldn’t pay, there was something inside of me that changed. I began to truly walk with God—more intimately— through the act of giving, and through acts of generosity.
LRE: What have you learned from all the years in which you have taught others about being generous.
BK: I tell people, “There’s no exemption in Scripture when it comes to giving. God calls every single person, rich and poor, and in between, to be financially generous with whatever they have.”