You’ve heard the saying, “Money talks?” Sometimes that’s not a good thing. The voice of money in our world and our lives can grow so loud! We’re bombarded with messages about a “good life” that always seems to elude us.
Cultivating the gift of giving
Chuck Andrews [above, center] is a financial advisor who comes from a legacy of faith that traces all the way back to John Wesley. He learned to give early and started with 10 percent when he was mowing lawns and $2 to the church meant $18 left in his pocket. His dad told him, “If you can give two dollars, you can give $20, and if $20 isn’t hard, then $200 won’t be.”
This became his way of life. “When you start out giving when you’re young, it becomes easier not to deviate,” Chuck says.
Fast forward to his college years when he heard these words from Pastor E. V. Hill: “God’s not blessing you to bless you. He’s blessing you so you can bless somebody else. Don’t be a reservoir; be a conduit.” This idea resonated deeply with him.
“If God’s gonna give you five talents, you better go make five more,” Chuck says. “It’s not mine. It’s all his.” He was determined to make more with the gifts he’d been given.
After reading through David Platt’s book, Radical, with a friend, Chuck was challenged: “Get in your prayer closet and ask God what he wants to do with what you have.” So he did.
“The harder you work, you can just continue to stack it up if you want to,” Chuck says. But he knew the money he was earning and everything he had was God’s. That meant he should always ask for the Father’s direction about how to use it. So, he spent about four months seeking God for a plan.
Not long after, Chuck had an opportunity to merge his business. “I knew, when we did that, there was going to be an income increase,” he says. “So, I thought it was a great time to do this.” God was leading him somewhere, and he agreed to go.
When choosing his financial finish line, he didn’t use the “ramen noodle number,” he says. It’s wasn’t, “How can we shop at Walmart and have two shirts in our closet?” But he chose a number and said, “Anything above this line, I’m giving it away. All of it.’”
After he’d pledged to give whatever was over his finish line, that number began to increase. And though his friends are buying boats and beach houses, his family sticks with this commitment and uses their financial margin to fund ministries to widows, orphans, and the poor.
Committing to more for others
Before Andy Yoon asked his (now) wife Mel to marry him, he promised he would buy her a Ferrari. The couple wanted to make a lot of money and do something great with their lives, to work hard and live on the ocean.
Five years after he graduated from dental school, Andy says his dental practice was struggling. “I came home every day angry and upset. Family life was terrible. I was super stressed out.” He remembers asking God what he wanted them to do.
That’s when he read the same book Chuck read – Radical – and the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan, too.
“Both of those books changed our lives completely,” Andy says. “I remember driving to work one day completely in prayer.” It was a simple one: “I’m going to be completely vulnerable; just tell me what to do,” he told God.
The answer he got back was, itself, a question: “Andy, what have you done with what I’ve given you?” Andy’s answer was a hard one to face: “Nothing.”
“If I am taking this seriously,” Andy thought, “I should probably give more to others than I’m taking for myself.”
But he realized this was his conversation with God, and he hadn’t discussed it with his wife. “We make decisions together,” he says.
But Mel had read the Radical book too. “A book like that hits you wherever your idol is,” she says. “For us, it was definitely money.” She knew they didn’t have things for the right reasons. They had them for all the status reasons. “We were idolizing money.”
So, they committed to giving away 51 percent of everything they made.
“I thought it was going to tank,” Andy says. But the opposite happened. “It’s not prosperity gospel,” he explains, “but God allows us to flourish when we want to impact his kingdom.” It taught them a big lesson in stepping out in faith.
“One of the big takeaways is willingness,” Mel says. She and Andy both came to the conclusion they weren’t blessed to bless themselves. God had blessed them for the sake of others.
And then they got to the practical details.
They recognized that the gospel might not reach certain places because the problems in those places were too overwhelming. So, they began working with a charity called Neverthirst, which brings clean water to indigenous people and shares the gospel as they do.
“Those are the two most important things on this side of eternity,” Mel says. “Eternal life and water.”
Now their kids are not only witnessing their generosity, they’re involved in their giving. “We are the crazy people who will roll into meetings with all four of our kids and let them ask questions,” Mel says. “Living this out in front of them is important, but we don’t stop there. We do wells with Neverthirst in other people’s names to expose them to the ministry.”
Mel and Andy have asked God, “Why us?” Why has he so blessed their step of faith? Maybe it’s because they asked God how he wanted to use them.
Hastening Jesus’ return
Doug Cobb [above, left] became a believer as an adult after meeting his wife, Gena. But, right from the beginning, generosity was something that found its way into their lives together. “When I was making $300 a week at a computer store, we managed to tithe,” Doug says. “Looking back on that, it’s evidence that Generosity was one of the spiritual gifts that God blessed me with.”
Doug and Gena started a company in their 20s and later sold it. Doug started a venture capital company with a friend and worked with some startups. “Not everything you try works,” he says, “But enough worked for me that God provided a great career.”
When Doug and Gena sold their first company in 1991, they ran across a book called Money, Possessions, and Eternity, by Randy Alcorn. “That’s when we decided to jump off from tithing to a more radically generous lifestyle,” Doug says.
They’ve been on the journey for 30 years.
Their strategy was simple: They wouldn’t build “bigger barns,” and if they discovered an opportunity, they would take advantage of it. They didn’t want to turn their backs on anything the Lord was doing. God offered them an enormous task, and they accepted it.
After the sale of one of their companies they had some extra resources for giving. So, they directly invested in projects to further the Great Commission in Nepal, Nigeria, and India.
“That was the most amazing experience of our lives,” Doug says. “About a year later, I was able to go to India and sit with thousands … some of the first people in their people groups to ever be followers of Jesus in the history of the world.”
Doug was captivated by the idea that 2,000 years after the Book of Acts, we’re still able to do what we read there. “It caught my heart and my mind.”
So, Doug decided to dedicate his life to doing his part to see the Great Commission completed.
“It is so easy for wealthy Americans, wealthy westerners, to just get caught up in a worldview that ‘more is better’ and to lose touch with reality.” We have far more than we can spend or deploy in our lifetimes.
“It’s just piling up in bigger barns,” he says.
But Doug knows the stats about Bible translation and the organizations that are reaching the “ends of the earth.”
“We’re talking about maybe being the generation to see the fulfillment of Matt 24:14,” he says. “Once Jesus comes back, everything we have is going to be useless.”
So Doug and Gena are aiming for treasure in heaven. “I really believe and hope there will be some of that for us. What we have in this world will become utterly useless.”
“If it’s possible that we’re living in the era of finishing the Great Commission and the return of Jesus, that should change our view of money, possessions, and eternity.” That was the view of the early church.
Doug and Gena’s greatest challenge involves a commitment to give from their net worth, not just their income. “It feels so counterintuitive. It’s scary to do. But I think that’s the right strategy, given the times in which we live.”
________Read the other two stories in this three-part series:
- Part 1: Should you set a financial finish line?
- Part 2: How we set a financial finish line (and you can too)