By Dennis R. Carlson
“But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well”1 (Matt. 6:33, CEV).1 “Let the idea be ever present that it is the Lord’s property which you are handling. The will of God in this matter is law.” 2
Very few knew what an android was in 1965 when the fictional Robinson family debuted in the TV series Lost in Space. This science fiction series introduced the human-like Class M-3 Model B-9 Robot to its audience during the same period that the real-life space race to reach the moon was taking place in the late 1960s.
In 2016, a robot named Sophia was given citizenship by Saudi Arabia. Humans today are more aware of what an android is because of the smartphones in our hands, pockets, and purses. There are more than 2.5 billion Android devices in use in the world today. The users of android smartphones talk to their devices and expect intelligent answers.
Androids have come a long way since 1965 when Lost in Space introduced the fictional robot that could talk and interact with humans. But even this first fictional android character would periodically say, “That does not compute,” to indicate that the robot did not understand what was going on.
Are You Smarter Than an Android?
In the context of planned giving, a friend recently made a challenging observation:
“I find it interesting that with some people, recognizing God as the Owner of all they have while they are living is unquestioned, but at their death, they totally leave God out of their planning. If God owns everything now, why wouldn’t God own everything at death? God takes the headaches of ownership. I take the joys of partnership. I don’t question His judgment or His requests. What a privilege to have my planned-giving estate plan in His hands.”3
This comment challenged me to ask several large groups around the world if anyone had a signed last will and testament as a plan for their families. No one raised their hands.
All Seventh-day Adventist Christians who are faithful stewards teach and agree that God is first in every area of life. God can be trusted 100 percent of the time. But do we fully trust God in every area of our lives today? All baptized Christians took a vow to completely trust in God and to put Him first in their lives. That would mean that all we are and possess is entrusted to God always. If we are faithful, we follow God’s plan for our lives and families. Yet very few Christians have a plan to always put God first.
As the android in Lost in Space would say at times, “That does not compute.” Why would so few Christians not plan to protect the possessions with which God has entrusted them on earth?
God’s Plan and Our Planning
I believe that the majority of Christians believe that God loves them and that God can be trusted to always seek the best for them and their families. How do our actions reconcile with our intellectual knowledge of this important principle, not only of stewardship but of faith in a God who loved this world enough to die for all humanity? Can this same God be trusted with 100 percent of our lives, including our planned-gift estate plans?
As leaders in the teaching of stewardship to our members, one of the primary principles we teach is that God owns everything (see Deut. 10:14; Pss. 24:1, 50:12, 89:11; 1 Cor. 10:26).4 Since God owns everything, we are only stewards of what God entrusts to us. This includes our faith, values, spiritual gifts, talents, time, treasure (possessions), relationships, and families. These all belong to God, and we have been entrusted by God to manage wisely these possessions of His. Could it be that the way that the world teaches us to plan is not the way that God wants us to plan?
Do culture, customs, and traditions push God out of first place? I have heard stated by some in every country of the world that I have visited, “It is not our custom to make planned gifts in our culture.” I certainly understand that each area of the world will approach planned giving in a different way. That is to be expected. But individuals in every part of the world have the opportunity to choose to make a plan that provides for the needs of their families and also honors God by putting God first.
By placing God in first place, do we disadvantage our families? This is how the Bible answers this question: “If anyone has no care for his family and those in his house, he is false to the faith, and is worse than one who has no faith”5 (1 Tim. 5:8, BBE). God is first in our lives, and what is first for God is taking care of the legitimate needs of our families. As Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we should be reformers in our planned-giving estate planning: “Let it ever be kept in mind that the present selfish system of disposing of property is not God’s plan, but man’s device. Christians should be reformers.”6
So how would God like to see all humans plan their gifts? “The Lord would have His followers dispense their means while they can do it themselves. Some may inquire, ‘Must we actually dispossess ourselves of everything which we call our own?’ We may not be required to do this now; but we must be willing to do so for Christ’s sake.”7
Planned Giving & Trust Services explores the ways that Christians can be reformers and faithfully honor Him in our estate plans. The goal is total member involvement (TMI) as the faithful Christian always puts God first, last, and always in his or her life.
1 Scripture quotations identified CEV are from the Contemporary English Version. Copyright © American Bible Society 1991, 1995. Used by permission.
2 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship, p. 328.
3 Wayne Searson, Spokane, WA, USA (Source)
4 Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
5 Texts credited to BBE are from The Bible in Basic English, 1965. Published in the United States by E. P. Dutton & Co., New York. First printed 1949.
6 White, Counsels on Stewardship, p. 328.
7 Ibid., p. 324.