Becoming a Generous Giver
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, Ron Blue, founder of Ronald Blue & Co, talks with Dennis Rainey about the benefits of giving generously to advance God's work.
Ron Blue talks about the benefits of giving generously to advance God’s work.
Becoming a Generous Giver
Ron: Even the idea of borrowing money – sometimes that's a test. In the business world, I was taught that call OPM, Other People's Money. You use other people's money to build. That's called leverage, and you can get a greater return when you do that.
Bob: Money is a tool that we use to live, but it can also be a test of what's in our heart.
Ron: So one of the greatest tests for me was to stop borrowing. It was a bigger test than it was to give and to trust God, then, to provide what I really needed rather than what the world told me that I needed.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 24th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Borrowing is just one test we face when it comes to money. Do we think about borrowing the way the Bible thinks about it or the way the world thinks about it? We're going to talk about that and some of the other tests related to money on today's program.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You have raised and launched your six children at this point in life, right?
Dennis: Figuratively speaking, yes. Some of the launches boomeranged.
Bob: I understand.
Dennis: You know, you kind of have to relaunch them again.
Bob: Came back to the launching pad for a second shot.
Dennis: They didn't stay there long, though, because we had that all figured out.
Bob: Would you say that you accomplished the objective of raising generous children?
Dennis: That's a really good question, and I guess doing a quick inventory of our six children, I would say, for the most part, they're pretty generous.
Bob: Do you want to give it a number, like, three out of six, and then we'll start guessing.
Dennis: We actually sought to teach them the value of giving when they were little, even when we gave them an allowance. We'd give them their allowance in coins, and they were supposed to put one set of coins in the giving envelope, another in the saving envelope, and another in the spending envelope. We didn't do the best job in the world at that, but we learned that from a good friend of FamilyLife, Ron Blue, who joins us on FamilyLife Today.
Ron: I'm delighted to be here also.
Dennis: Ron, you taught a biblical perspective on handling money, because Barbara and I really benefited from your ministry. And, of course, many of our listeners will know Ron from his business in Atlanta. He was the founder of Ronald Blue and Company; went on to manage a number of associates who worked with him for, what, Ron, 20-25 years?
Ron: Twenty-five years, yes.
Dennis: Twenty-five years – he's a board member of Campus Crusade for Christ. So, in essence, Bob, you need to salute. He's your boss.
Bob: Sir, Mr. Blue, Sir.
Dennis: Make sure you get fired, Bob, speaking of money.
Bob: I'll be kind.
Dennis: Ron has written a number of books about money and giving and wealth. One of them we feature in our Homebuilders couples series called "Mastering Money in Your Marriage." It's sold almost 100,000 copies, and a book we want to talk about today called "Generous Living, Finding Contentment Through Giving." Now, Ron, would you say you were a generous young couple as you and your wife, Judy, started out your marriage together and your family?
Ron: Absolutely not. I started out our marriage with one objective, and that was to be successful, and giving was not on the radar screen nor was anything to do with the church or godly living at all.
Bob: Accumulating was the goal, right?
Ron: Oh, absolutely.
Bob: And giving is antithetical to accumulating, or so it seems.
Ron: It sure seems that way.
Bob: And so most folks would think "Why would I give when I want to acquire," right?
Ron: Absolutely, and there's really only five things you can do with money, and giving is one of them, and it's the first one to go whenever there's a budget crunch.
Bob: The five things are spend it, save it, give it, invest it?
Ron: Save and invest it, I would put in the same category. Pay your taxes and pay your debt are the other two.
Bob: Okay, all right, that's good. And you're saying when money gets tight, the first thing to go is giving.
Ron: Because it's always optional.
Bob: But even when money wasn't tight for you, giving wasn't even on the list?
Ron: No, because you realize that if I give a dollar, you know, I’m out a dollar. Maybe I can reduce my taxes, but I'm still out 50 cents, 75 cents.
Bob: If I had come to you in that time – you've been married for five years, and I had said, "Ron, do you think of yourself as a generous person?" Would you have said, "Oh, yes."
Ron: I'd probably said I have a good heart, but now I'm speaking from the basis of about 30 years of experience, and I can tell you, I was not generous.
Bob: So your analysis at the time was, "I'm probably as goodhearted as anybody else?"
Ron: I'm as good as the next guy, right.
Dennis: It's dangerous to compare yourself with just the herd, though, isn't it?
Ron: It is, yes, very much so.
Dennis: You speak of this coin that I'm holding, and I happen to be holding a Canadian dollar – and the reason I'm holding a currency other than an American dollar is because I wanted to make a point of it. You speak of money in terms of something beyond just being a coin; that there are really three things that you say it is.
Ron: Right. Money – it is a tool, and it really is only a tool. When money owns us, it's no longer a tool, it's a god. But if I look at it as I own the money rather than the money owning me, then it becomes a tool to be used. So when I trade money, for example, for a vacation, it's really not the hotel and eating out and so forth. I'm creating an experience, I am using money as a tool to do something else.
When I buy a home, I am using money as a tool to do something, to create a lifestyle, to create an environment. When I pay tuition to college, I'm using money as a tool to educate my children and give them an opportunity.
Dennis: And when you give, you're using money as a tool to further God's work.
Bob: Well, it's interesting that you express it in that way, because I'm sitting here thinking, really, nobody wants money. I mean, that big stack of paper or a big jarful of metal coin – that really isn't what you're after. It's what that coin and that dollar can do. It's what you'll buy with it. It really is a tool.
Ron: I think there's three things that drive people – all of us, innately. One is this need for security. I need to feel secure, I need to feel significant, and I need to feel successful. And when we see money, we look at money as being the tool to accomplish all three of those, because I can buy significance, I can buy security, and I can buy success.
Bob: Or at least you think you can, right?
Dennis: And the way the world looks at it is a person who is good at earning money and gathering money and accumulating money, he is successful, or she is successful. I had a businessman one time share with me – he said, "It occurred to me that I didn't need to be a world-class earner of money. I needed to set my goal to be a world-class giver of money." And you think about the culture we live in, we don't applaud the person who is that world-class giver and celebrate their giving. We typically admire the person who is the world-class earner, who accomplishes and achieves and has the big home and drives the expensive cars.
Ron: You know, God gave me an opportunity just this past March, to see a world-class giver, and I take my son, my oldest boy, who is about 30 now, out for breakfast once a week. He still lives in Atlanta, and he still wants to meet with Dad, and so Dad wants to meet with him. So we go to Chik-fil-A, and we go to the same Chik-fil-A, and every time I walk into this Chik-fil-A, there is this Hispanic lady who would wait on us, and she always waited on us, and she always greeted us with a smile and just a radiant look to her face.
We'd been doing this for months and even years, and so I was walking out of the Chik-fil-A, and I thought, "You know, you tip waiters and waitresses at the restaurant, but you never do at a fast-food restaurant," and I said, "This lady has been great to me." So I reached in my pocket, and I pulled out a $20 bill, and I was getting ready to go back, and it was like the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, "You cheapskate," because I had a lot of 20s in my billfold. So I pulled out five $20 bills, $100, folded it over, went to the counter, and I said, "Can you take this?" And very graciously, she said "Yes."
So I gave it to her. About a month or so later I was back in there …
Dennis: Now, wait a second, you gave her a $100 tip?
Ron: I gave her $100 tip. It was one of those things – I mean – and when I gave it to her, I said, "God has blessed me so abundantly, and you have blessed me, and I just want you to have this." She didn't know how much it was, but it was $100. So when I was back in there about a month later, she came over – my son wasn't there yet, and she came over to the table, and was waiting on him. She came over, and she told me her story. She is a lady, a single mom, she is working at Chik-fil-A in order to put five children through college. She immigrated to America to give them an opportunity. So she's showing up there at 5:00 in the morning to work so she can put her kids through college. And she said, "And I'm so proud of my kids." She said, "They have turned out so well." And then she said, "You know, when you gave me the $100," she said, "I needed a set of tires, and so I was very, very thankful. But I got home that night, and one of my high school children came home and shared with me that there had been an apartment fire near where we live, and there had been several families that had lost everything." And she said, "I knew that there was a better use for that $100." So she said, "We gave it to a family that had lost everything."
Ron: And I immediately said, "You know, I gave out of my abundance. She gave out of her poverty. She needed the $100, I didn't need the $100." There were two things about it – one was that she was able to receive with grace in order to give.
Ron: And I think the key to giving is to understand where it comes from.
Dennis: You've already confessed here, Ron, that you weren't generous starting out in your marriage, and yet I'm listening to this story of you making a gift to a young lady who is struggling to put her family through college. Where did you learn that kind of thinking, that kind of conviction that would cause you to roll up five $20 bills and put it in the hand of another person?
Ron: Well, you've got to confess, though, Dennis, I still don't consider myself generous. I'm kind of like my friend, Hugh McClellan, who – he says he gives 70 percent of his income away. But he said, "Believe me," he said, "that's not costing me much, because he has so much." So I don't feel generous. The $100, it's not an insignificant amount of money, I don't want to denigrate that. My own giving has come more out of teaching and preaching and talking and counseling where it's my own conviction now. But, again, I would say I am not a naturally generous person.
Dennis: Any conviction, I've found in my own life, has come about with me ultimately stepping out in faith and being obedient at that baby step initial opportunity. One of the things you teach about money is that it is a tool, but it can also be a test.
Dennis: Do you remember early in your marriage when you and Judy were tested around generosity that ultimately – where you passed the test – or maybe you failed it, and it was through the failure that you ultimately developed a conviction that generosity needed to be a part of your family's value system?
Ron: Well, not only generosity, but even the idea of borrowing money. Sometimes that's a test. You know, and in the business world, I was taught to call OPM, Other People's Money. You use other people's money to build. That's called leverage, and you can get a greater return when you do that.
So one of the greatest tests for me was to stop borrowing. It was a bigger test than it was to give and to trust God, then, to provide what I really needed rather than what the world told me that I needed.
Bob: You're saying to stop borrowing to build you business.
Ron: Not only build my business but to make an investment or to buy that car or to buy the furniture, to buy a bigger home. There are lots of reasons that people borrow money, or lots of uses for borrowed money, and to say, you know what? I'm not going to do that anymore. I'm going to trust that God knows what I need, and I'm not going to borrow any more.
Bob: But you look around today, and you know this – the consumer debt continues to increase year in and year out. People who maybe 10 years ago, it was a mortgage only – now it's a mortgage and a couple of cars and some credit cards, and then I'm watching it be the rule as opposed to the exception, that the college education is a borrowed asset as well. We are hooked on OPM, aren't we?
Ron: Oh, yeah. I was doing a radio program years ago. It was a live call-in show, and I had a person call me, and he said God had called him to the mission field and that he was going to go to seminary to prepare to go to foreign missions. He said, "Here is my question." He said, "About the only way I can afford to go to seminary is to do student debt" – borrowing. "What do you think about that?" And here I had a test of faith, because I knew what my conviction was, and so I said something to him that I'd never said to anybody. I said, "You know what?" And I remembered E.B. Hill speaking many times to Campus Crusade events and listening to E.B. Hill about when he went to college and how he was funded, and so I said to this guy, I said, "You know what? Do you believe God has called you?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Well, then, God will provide the resources. If you've got the money to go to school for a week, go for a week, and if God doesn't provide for week number two, stop." That was pretty gutsy advice.
Ron: And, frankly, I forgot about it. About six years later I got a letter from this guy, and he said, "You remember?" And I did remember. He said, "Let me tell you how God provided." He said, "I've just finished school. I don't owe a penny, and God provided," and he went through the litany of boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. He said, "I'm done, I don't owe any money, and I’m going to the mission field." That's a test of faith.
Dennis: Ron, that's a great story, and I just had something happen to me that I have to tell this story, because it's really kind of a fun one. I had a young man I was mentoring a number of years ago, and I'm not in a ministry like yours. Mentoring around finances, it wouldn't necessarily be a strength of mine. I'm not in the financial advisory business like you were. But this young man came to me one day, and he said to me, "Dennis, I think I know the answer to this question, but I'm going to ask you, anyway." I'd been mentoring him for a couple of years. He said, "Our consumer debt is out of hand, and I just bought a car, and our house has a mortgage that's too high. What should I do?"
Well, Ron, I didn't have to be fully trained by you and read all your books to know what to tell him. I said, "Well, the first thing you need to do is you and your wife need to pull out your credit cards and a pair of scissors and just have yourself a field day cutting up those credit cards and then go to work paying off that consumer debt, and it was a bunch. It was – I think it was $30,000 or $40,000. So it wasn't a small chunk of change.
And I gave him some other pieces of advice, which he left there that day kind of smiling and yet, at the same time, grimacing that he had some tough choices ahead of him. Well, I just got an e-mail from him last week, and he wrote me back. He said, "My wife and I were just talking, and we were just thinking about your ministry, and we would really like to support your ministry, and we want to become monthly donors." He said, "Would you please put me on the mailing list?"
And, you know …
Bob: And he said, "You can charge it to my credit card."
Dennis: No, he didn't say that, but what you're really talking about here is extremely practical when it comes to giving. Some people would say, "Well, you guys ran a bunny trail when it comes to debt." Huh-uh. For a lot of young couples today debt is keeping them from being able to give.
Bob: Yeah, how are you going to be a generous liver if you owe your soul to the company store, right?
Ron: Right, and I want to challenge you. This is your radio program, but I get to challenge you on something.
Ron: Okay? You said "I don't know much about finances," but I want to tell you something. I believe that you know as much about finances as some of the most sophisticated financial advisors there are, and I'll tell you the reason for that. There are over 2,350 verses in Scripture that deal with money and money management.
Dennis: I have studied Solomon, who had a little wealth.
Ron: He had a little wealth. And God's Word has more to say about money that will never, ever change. I was testifying before a congressional subcommittee a number of years ago, and the senator asked me, he said, "What would you tell the American family about their finances?" And I thought, "When I tell him what I'm going to tell him, he's going to laugh," because it was so old-fashioned. But I said, "Well, Senator, I would tell the American family, number one, spend less than you earn, live within your income; number two, avoid the use of debt; number three, have liquidity or flexibility built into your financial planning; and, four, set long-term goals so you have some idea about how you're managing your money and what you're managing your money for – those are four biblical principles.
And when I looked up, he was picking up his pen. He said, "Well, let me get that down." And he wrote them down and repeated them back to me. And he said to me, he said, "Well, you know, it seems to me that that would work at any income level."
Dennis: Do you think?
Ron: And I said, "You're right, Senator, including the United States government."
Bob: Kind of stung him back there, didn't you?
Ron: Well, but, think about it – those are four biblical principles that will work under any political structure, any equipment, anyplace that you live in the world and at any time period.
Bob: And they are spend less than you make, and then avoid the use of debt …
Ron: Right, the Bible says "The borrower is the lender's slave." There are no exceptions to that.
Bob: You said something about liquidity.
Ron: Liquidity – emergency. Consider the ant – you know who sets aside some in the summertime so that they have it in the wintertime.
Bob: Good to have a little store, a little reserve. And then the last thing you said was long-term goals.
Ron: Set some long-term goals so that you say, "I know where I'm going." Paul said, "I press on toward the upward call." He knew where he was headed and financially we need to know where we're headed.
Dennis: And in case our listeners don't know where Ron got that, from the bestseller of all time, the Bible.
Ron: That's exactly right.
Dennis: Exactly, and, you know, what we're talking about here is a biblical perspective of money and wealth, and there is a great need today for young families as well as older families to really go back to the Scriptures and consider how the Bible speaks of money, how we should view it, and how we should use it for God's glory, because if God has entrusted you with a little or with a lot, you are to be a steward of it regardless.
Bob: And, you know, there are some folks who I think God has uniquely gifted or equipped as givers. I mean, the Bible talks about the spiritual gift of giving, and there are some people who God has just wired them to be generous, and yet all of us are called to be generous, whether we're gifted or wired in that direction or not. And that's why I think any of us can benefit from reading a book like the one you've written, "Generous Living," or I'm thinking of Randy Alcorn's book, "The Treasure Principle," which has been read by a lot of folks.
We all need to refresh our thinking, to renew our mind on this issue of money and possessions, materialism, stuff, and giving and generosity. Why God warns us about some things and commends us for others.
We've got copies of Ron's book, "Generous Living," in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Any of our listeners who would like to get a copy can go to our website at FamilyLife.com. There's a "Go" button in the middle of the screen, and you can click on that button. That will take you right to the page where you can get more information about Ron's book. We also have copies of "The Treasure Principle," by Randy Alcorn. That's in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well.
Again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com. There's a red "Go" button in the middle of the screen. Click on that, and it will take you right to the page where you can order copies of these resources or get more information about them online. If you are interested in getting both books, we can send you at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation with Ron Blue. There's more information about that on our website. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY if you have any questions or you'd like to place your order by phone – 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
You know, as we're talking about this subject this week, a lot of listeners have been generous in their support of FamilyLife Today. We depend on the generosity of folks to continue this program on this station and on stations all across the country, and we have heard from many of our listeners this month who have been contacting us to make a donation. Many of them motivated by the fact that we have a matching gift that's available to us in May. Each dollar we receive in donations from listeners is being matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis by some friends of the ministry who have agreed to match up to a total of $375,000, and it's been very encouraging to see that we have listeners who value this program, want to keep it on their station and other stations all across the country. They have contacted us either by phone or by going to our website this month, and their donations, again, are being matched dollar for dollar.
I don't think we have exceeded the amount that's in the matching gift yet, and we're hoping here in the closing days of May that our listeners will join with us and help us take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity. Again, you can do that by making a donation online or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY. Thanks to those of you who have already been generous with us this month, and those of you who can still make a donation, we appreciate you doing that. We look forward to hearing from you.
Tomorrow we want to talk more about money and materialism and generosity and stuff and how we're supposed to think biblically about all of those subjects. Ron Blue is going to be back with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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