A “drop-kick easy” decision to give while living and see the joy

In December of 2020, Steve and Mary Rose Zoller sat down to make a decision. With a pencil, paper, and a pros and cons list, they were going to decide whether or not it made sense to refinance a property and take money out for charitable giving.

This wasn’t a rash decision.

Steve has been a CPA and wealth manager for decades, and he’s pragmatic. But “it just makes practical, pragmatic, bottom-line sense to help others,” Steve says. “It’s either that or throw more money on top of the pile.” 

“For four decades, we were accumulating. Now we’re in the utilization stage in life,” Steve says, like a true financial planner. “Now we have a choice. We could keep it and just add it to the pile, or we could utilize it for giving. It made more sense to give it to families.”

Steve has watched clients struggle with wealth. He’s helped many people make wise decisions about giving. And after much study of what the Bible says about money, he is quite sure that it’s not for hoarding. He’s baffled by the rich fool in the parable in Luke 12. “Barns!” he says. “It was plural! For what purpose, we will never know.”

What we do know is that this isn’t how God wants us to live, he says.

Steve and Mary’s view of money relates to Proverbs 30:7-9, which says, “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die … give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’”

 “What could be better than the right amount?” Steve asks rhetorically.

So, when he and a business partner were talking about refinancing a property for a lower interest rate and the subject of giving came up, it was “kind of a drop-kick easy decision,” though he’d never thought of it before. He took the decision to Mary, his partner in financial decisions for years, and she agreed.

“It never dawned on us to give from a refinance,” Steve says, “but at this moment in time, it seemed like the right thing to do.” 

When the couple put the decision to paper, the pro side of their list looked something like this: 

  1. Since interest rates were lower, the debt would cost the same as it had before, even after taking the additional cash for giving.
  2. Their monthly owner’s draw would stay the same.
  3. Charities they had planned to leave the equity to at their death would be blessed now, instead of later.
  4. Their family would be blessed now, instead of later. 
  5. Steve and Mary would be able to watch and enjoy the blessing.

The cons side was blank. 

Between the decision to refinance and the actual refi, there was plenty of time for prayer, and Mary became sure they should give the money to charities and families. Steve agreed. After two weeks of sleeping on the idea, they decided it just made sense.

“We kept taking it to God, in case he said ‘no.’” But he never did.

Though this won’t be the right choice for everyone refinancing property for a better interest rate, the opportunity looked clear to the Zollers. As a CPA, Steve thought about tax consequences, but there weren’t any. The refinance was tax free. And the fact that their family and favorite charities would not receive the ultimate distribution on their passing would be offset well by what they’d received while Steve and Mary Rose were still living.

“This whole thing with ‘later’ doesn’t make sense sometimes,” Steve says. “If I give you some money after I die, what do I need it for? I’m dead. It’s much nicer to give a gift while living and see the joy it brings,” he says. And he and Mary grew more and more excited about it.

In the end, Steve says, God is going to ask two important questions. Most importantly, “What did you do with my Son?” and secondly “What did you do with all the stuff I gave you?” 

Some of their money went to Africa Shalom Mission, a ministry providing faith-based education to primary students in Rwanda. Some stayed in Illinois with a ministry bringing the gospel into public schools, Crossroads Kids Clubs. But the most special gifts were the ones to their relatives who had a need they could meet. Mary wrote each family a personal note with the gift, explaining why they were giving it. “I didn’t want them to feel odd about this whole thing because it is kind of strange.” But it went well, and everyone was thankful.

This method of pencil, paper, and prayer resulted in a more joyful way of giving for the Zollers. “Ron Blue says ‘Do your giving while you’re living, so you’re knowing where it’s going,’” Steve says. “I’m glad I sharpened my pencil that day.”

Photo: Steve Zoller

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