The Motivation for Financial Health
About the Guest
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Art Rainer shares how his parents’ handling of the family finances influenced his own approach to money. Rainer reminds us that God wants believers to be conduits of His blessings.
The Motivation for Financial Health
Bob: When it comes to managing your family's finances, where do giving and generosity fit in? Art Rainer says most people have it in the wrong position.
Art: The majority of those who give—it's an afterthought—it's after all the expenses have been paid off/the bills have been met—whatever's left in the account, then that's what they give.
The Bible teaches something totally different. What we don't see is an exclusion clause when it comes to generosity. There's never a: “Well, you don't have to give if…” It's always: “Give first.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, May 10th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Managing money in your marriage can create a fair amount of relational havoc. We’re going to see if we can help with that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Where did you learn money? I mean, did you have—[Laughter]—did you have—
Dave: That's a great way to start the day, Bob.
Bob: Well, I'm wondering where you learned financial principles that you were going to bring into your marriage.
Dave: You know, I grew up with a single mom and didn't have much money, sort of lower income. My dad was pretty wealthy—you know, airline pilot—built homes on the side. When mom and dad got divorced, I went from pretty wealthy—lived in a gated community just outside New York—we end up in a little house in Ohio only because that's where her parents lived.
Really, had to live, month to month, with my mom; and then I go visit my dad, and it was like country clubs/the whole deal.
Dave: I went back and forth; and it caused in me, as I grew up, to be a saver.
Bob: Your default, coming into marriage, was: “We need to—
Dave: —“buckle down and be tight.”
Ann: And my upbringing was that we didn't have much money. My dad was tight—he was a penny-pincher—my mom would hide everything: we'd go shopping; and she'd say [whispering]: “Don't bring the bags in. Your dad's home”; and so we would hide it all. My mom would give me a credit card, as the youngest of four; she goes, “Just go get whatever you want, but don't tell your dad.”
Bob: Your pattern, coming into marriage, is [Laughter]: “Go get whatever you want, just don't tell Dave.”
Dave: And I didn't give her the credit card. [Laughter]
Bob: We're going to be talking about money and marriage, and about how we get our arms around some of these issues, and how we preserve oneness in marriage; because that's really what's at the heart of a book called The Marriage Challenge, written by our guest today, Art Rainer. Art, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Art: Thank you for having me.
Bob: Art is the [Vice] President of Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. This area of money—not just marriage, but money in general: families and money and how we get our arms around this—this has been a passion area of yours. You have an MBA.
Art: That's right.
Bob: Did you have a default money pattern in the home you grew up in?
Art: Growing up, I have memories of our family needing to go to our own church's food pantry to get food for dinner.
Bob: Your dad's the pastor?
Art: My dad is the pastor; but because of his salary, we would actually have to go to the food pantry and get canned goods for our dinner. I have those memories. At the same time, I have memories of my dad talking about money and how to manage money well. I'm one of the odd kids that actually set up an IRA when he was 16. I started learning about money, and managing money, and investing and saving at a fairly young age. When most kids are thinking about saving up for their car, I'm thinking about saving up for my retirement. [Laughter]
Bob: So this is kind of bone-deep in you: part of it shaped by family experience, but part of it shaped by your understanding of what the Scripture says about how we manage our money.
Art: Yes; I believe that God has designed us, not to be hoarders, but conduits through which His generosity flows. As we look at Scripture, we see that generosity—giving and living generously—is the motivation behind pursuing financial health. We often think about getting financially healthy just so we can spend on whatever we want. The Bible teaches something completely different—it says: “No, financial health is a good thing—we need to get financially healthy; we need to get rid of debt—but we need to do so; so that we can live with our hands open/so I can use my resources in a way to advance God's kingdom.
When we look at Scripture, we absolutely see that—giving generously, saving wisely, and living appropriately—pursuing financial health is important. We're doing it so that God's kingdom can be advanced in our own community and around the world.
Dave: When did you get that perspective? I mean, you're 16; you've got an IRA—I'm not thinking that's what you were thinking at that point—when did this start?
Art: Not only did I get interested in money, and learning about money from a young age,
but my career path—or what I thought my career path would be—started out in the financial world. I started out in banking and learning about investments and how to manage money well from that angle.
I quickly realized that, even as Christians, we were somewhat off in our thinking with finances—all the emphasis was on accumulation—when I'd talk to people/when I'd meet with people, I'd realize that their focus was getting more and more. I couldn't help but think that: “There's something off about this. This is not what the Scripture teaches.” I started diving into the Word and seeing: “What does God say about money?”
Bob: And there's a lot!
Art: There's a lot.
Bob: In fact, I had an “Aha” biblical moment when it came to money just recently.
Dave: —just recently?
Bob: Just recently, I was preaching through the book of 1 John. John, in 1 John, says that we're to love one another and not to be like Cain was. I went back and I reflected on the story of Cain and Abel. The very first thing that's going on here is Cain and Abel are bringing the first fruits of grain or animals to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Well, where did they learn that? This is Genesis 4—this is the first two kids—somehow, Adam and Eve, at the very beginning, had taught their boys, “Now boys, when you go out and take care—the first thing we do is—we give to the Lord.”
And I thought: “That's before anything else comes along; this is what they're training their kids with at the very beginning.” I know you thought about this long before I did,
but that was an amazing realization for me.
Art: Think about this: there are over 2,000 verses about money, stewardship, possessions found throughout Scripture. You have to ask, “Why?” Obviously, it's an important topic; it's an important issue. It’s because there's a direct tie to our heart.
Dave: Yes, get into that.
Art: How we manage our money reflects how we manage our heart. You often hear it said that: “If you want to know where a person's priorities lie, just look at their”—I know we don't use checkbooks anymore—“so maybe go online; log into their account and look at how that person is spending their money. That tells you their priorities.”
Dave: And what's really interesting, as you said, Jesus is talking about this issue in a totally different culture, financially; and yet, the heart issue is no different today than it was then. Again, get at what is it about our hearts and money that directed Jesus to say: “I've got to talk about this quite a bit”?
Art: Well, Scripture says: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where we put our resources/where we put our hope—there's a pool that happens with our heart—wherever we put our treasure, there our heart will be also. Part of it is a reflection—it's a reflection of our heart—but at the same time, there's also a direction that happens. Both of those are happening simultaneously: so it's a reflection of our heart; but at the same time, it also directs our heart.
Dave: That gets at a little bit why, as a preacher, whenever I talk about money, you've got emotional reactions. I've seen that—when I'm sitting in the seats and now, on stage, speaking about it—you bring up this topic—even if you're trying to help people save and get out of debt, the second you start talking about money in church—you know that saying: “It always gets funny when you talk about money,”—there are reactions; why?
Art: Because it is, once again, you're talking about their heart; you're diving right into their heart. And it's because—if we look at statistics—we know that a majority of those people, sitting in the pews or the chairs, are struggling financially. Right now, 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 or more emergency with cash. A $400-emergency hits; they're resorting to credit cards or borrowing money from family members and friends—four out of every ten of us—four out of every ten in the congregation.
Debt is at an all-time high. Student loan debt—we have a student loan debt crisis right now—$1.5 trillion in student loan debt right now. Those that are in the pew—it gets at their heart—because there's a direct tie there, but they're also struggling with it.
Ann: Well, I'm thinking, “Not only are they struggling as people individually, but you're having two people sit together, that are married, that might come from totally opposite views and backgrounds in how you handle money. Not only do you have that going on, individually; but now, you have a marriage crisis, where it can really affect your relationship with your spouse.”
Bob: And for most people, whether you have different views in a marriage or not, most people do have this perspective: “The money in the bank account or in my wallet—that’s mine.”
Bob: I remember hearing a pastor say one time: “The question is not 'How much of my money do I give to God?’ The question is ‘How much of God's money should I keep for myself?'”
Dave: That'll preach.
Bob: That whole realignment of our thinking to go: “I'm not an owner; I'm a steward. I'm a manager of the assets/the resources God has entrusted to me, and I need to be a wise steward.” That's a paradigm shift that starts to redirect the way you think about everything in your finances; right?
Art: That's right. Consider the story of the widow's mite or the widow's gift. Jesus and His disciples are sitting there in the temple, watching these seemingly very well-to-do people drop off huge money bags for their offering. There walks in a lady with two coins, and she puts it in the offering. Jesus looks at this lady and says: “Hey, do you see her? She's the one who gave more than any of these.”
Now, why would He say that? Was she on the—if you looked at a temple ratings giving—was she anywhere near the top?—no, no, no. She would have been absolutely toward the bottom. Jesus cared more about what was still left at home than what was in the offering plate; because in God's economy, the amount sacrificed always supersedes amount given. What she had put in there represented something far more significant than what the wealthy gave.
Bob: Say that again: “The amount sacrificed supersedes the amount given.”
Art: —“in God's economy.”
Bob: Explain that.
Art: In God's economy—the way that God looks at us and the way that God views our relationship with money—in God's economy, the amount sacrificed always supersedes amount given. You can give a million dollars and that means nothing in God's economy. At the same time, you can give two coins and that can mean everything.
Bob: Are you saying that it's got to hurt for it to matter?
Art: Sacrifice—when we look at generosity in the Bible—sacrificial giving is a component of that. You can go to 2 Samuel 24:24, where David is being offered land and animals—everything that he needs for a sacrifice that he is about to make—his response is very telling. He said, “No, I'm not going to take that; because I will not offer to God anything that costs me nothing.”
Once again, it's this idea that: “Yes, giving should cost you something. It should hurt a little bit.”
Bob: Well now, every time I give, I'm sacrificing; because I could keep that and spend it on myself. Is it like I've got to feel the pain for God to go, “Okay, now we're talking”?
Ann: Yes; so that you're going above, maybe, your ten percent; but you're really feeling it?
Bob: Maybe, at 40 percent, you're not feeling it. Is it like I've got to come home and go, “Man, I can't have this [a desire]; because I gave that money”?—I've got to be kind of/have a little grudge on my shoulder or God's not happy?
Art: No, grudge would be the wrong word; [Laughter] because another component of giving is that we're to be cheerful givers; right? Now, we're looking at
2 Corinthians 9:7—we're not to give reluctantly or out of compulsion because He loves a cheerful giver, which also makes me think about the widow and her gift. I can't help but think/originally, I used to view her, just in my head, as this very downtrodden/just miserable woman, walking into the temple.
As I've thought more about that/about that image, I couldn't help but think that I was just totally off in my thinking/how I viewed her. More than likely, she would have probably been the happiest person in that temple. More than likely, she was giving fist bumps and high fives on her way to giving that gift, because God loves a cheerful giver. There's no way that Jesus would have pointed out a miserable giver as our example for how we should then give.
Bob: Okay; so if we're talking to people—and 40 percent of them don't have $400 for their next emergency, and they've got student loans, and they've got debt that they're dealing with—and now, we're saying, “Well, you need to give until it hurts”; they're going, “I'm just turning the radio off; and I'm going to find a music station [Laughter] that's playing Chris Tomlin, where I can just worship the Lord.”
What do you say to that couple, that's going: “We're just getting started. I mean, to give $20 next week at church is going to hurt”?
Ann: I would add with that, Bob: “A lot of people, at that point, the last thing they do is give.”
Bob: —instead of the first thing?
Art: That's absolutely right. The majority of those who give—it's an afterthought—it's after all the expenses have been paid off/all the bills have been met—whatever's left in the account, that's what they give.
The Bible teaches something totally different. That's where I would—to answer your question—I would have to go to what Scripture says. This isn't an Art Rainer’s command or teaching, but this is something that's derived out of the Bible. What we don't see is an exclusion clause when it comes to generosity. There's never a: “Well, you don't have to give if…” It's always: “Give first, then save, then live appropriately.”
While it's a tough teaching, you can't avoid it. God has designed us/He's wired us for generosity, and He uses us in that way to advance His kingdom. I've had conversations with couples about this very issue.
Art: My encouragement to them is to: “Start somewhere.” In the book, The Marriage Challenge, I introduce the concept of the “take-of.” What I encourage couples to do is to start with one percent for the first, maybe, one to three months: “Just do one percent of your gross income and see what happens.” I've yet to have somebody come back and say, “No, we just can't give one percent.” Because, first of all, one percent is a lot less than they realize; and then, God starts to do something in their lives; because they start to align themselves with God's design for them and their finances.
Go from one percent, and over the next few months, do two percent; and then do five and seven. And then after about a year—in month twelve—get yourself to that ten percent mark and see where you're at. It's amazing what God does in the lives of those who trust Him with their financial resources, even when they feel like they simply can't give.
Dave: You would say to do that, even though they've got massive debt.
Dave: You're like, “Okay, you're still trying to pay some debt; but you're not doing that without giving to God.” You're saying, “You start, first, with generosity.”
Art: I say that—once again, not because Art Rainer said that—but because that's what we find in the Scripture, and it's just unavoidable; and then, trust God with that.
Dave: What do you say to the couple—because your book is about money and marriage—that they disagree? You know, you've got one saying, “I want to pay down the debt.”
Ann: This was my mom and dad—like my mom was very: “Let's give”; and he said, “No, we're not going to do that.” They were always in this conflict.
Bob: I talked to a couple one time, and the wife was furious. They had $25,000 in debt. They'd been to hear the missionaries at church, and the husband wrote a $100 check. She was like, “That's irresponsible for us to give to the missionaries just because you were emotionally moved when we've got $25,000 in debt.”
Dave: Let's let Art answer this question. [Laughter]
Art: I have a lot of empathy for those that are facing those types of challenges. It's easy for me to say, “Just give.” But knowing that there's always a real pain that occurs with that—that it's not always an easy thing for that couple to do—if there's disagreement, I'd encourage them to dive into Scripture and just see what the Bible actually says about, not just generosity, but money in general. Start learning about that. I'm confident that, as they learn more about what God's design is for money, they are going to find that it starts with generosity.
Ann: And if one has no faith, and doesn't want to look into Scripture, how would you help them?
Art: I would continue to have the believer spouse continue to look at Scripture and pray for their spouse, that they would then see what they see.
Dave: —or they could pick up a really good book.
Bob: Yes, that's what I'm thinking.
Art: I wasn't going to say that, but now that you all are—[Laughter]
Bob: If a husband and wife, together, read through The Marriage Challenge—I love the fact that you start by saying: “Look, the goal of marriage is oneness; so if you're divided on this issue, what we want to get you to is oneness. Let's talk about this stuff together; let's see what the Bible says. The way to get to oneness is not: ‘You bend to what I think, or I bend to what you think. The way to get to oneness is we come into alignment with what God thinks.’”
Ann: This is a great conversation to have before you get married.
Art: That's right; because it answers the question of what marriage should be or what it should look like, and then also knowing that finances are such an important part of a marriage. When you look at the statistics on marriage and money, they're pretty dire.
There's one study that I looked at that said that 57 percent of divorced couples point to finances as their reason. Whether it's number one or number two, money is always up there when you look at the statistics on divorce.
Seventy percent of couples say that they argue about finances. Forty-two percent of couples admitted to what's called “financial infidelity,” lying about financial matters to your spouse. Forty-two percent of individuals said that they spent $500 or more on something that their spouse did not know about, that they hid a purchase. Six percent said that they had secret accounts that they did not let their spouse know about.
Even if it's—“Hey, I just want make sure that I have a good marriage,”—knowing the statistics on finances and marriage should drive you to, hopefully, better understand money and God's design for it.
Dave: I just want to know if anybody in this studio has a secret account. [Laughter] I'm just looking around—okay; good.
Bob: That's right!
Ann: I wish I had a million-dollar account. [Laughter]
Dave: I wish you did, too!
Bob: I think we can all agree that even more important than having a million-dollar account is thinking, biblically, about the money that God's given us; right? I mean, that's the point that your book makes, Art; and I think it's the most important point. We've got to be faithful with what God gives us and handle it appropriately. That's at the heart of the book, The Marriage Challenge: A Finance Guide for Married Couples.
We have copies of Art's book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. I would encourage you—whether you're in a good place financially or you're facing challenges financially—this is just a great way to think, biblically, about money. To get a copy of this book—go through it together as a couple or go through it with other couples in a small group setting—go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy. Again, the book is called The Marriage Challenge; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329 to order your copy; that's 1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as is life, and the word, “TODAY.”
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