You Can’t Take It With You …
About the Guest
It’s been said that money is the root of all evil. But is it really? Today on the broadcast, Randy Alcorn, author of The Treasure Principle, reminds us that we can’t take our material possessions with us to heaven but that we can send them ahead to heaven.
Randy AlcornRandy Alcorn is an author and the Founder and Director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM), a nonprofit ministry dedicated to teaching principles of God’s Word and assisting the church in ministering to the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled, and unsupported people around the world. His ministry focus is communicating the strategic importance of using our earthly time, money, possessions and opportunities to invest in need-meeting ministries that count for eternity. He acco...more
It’s been said that money is the root of all evil. But is it really?
You Can’t Take It With You …
Bob: Do you own a lot of stuff?
Or does your stuff own you? Here is Randy Alcorn.
Randy: We acquire possessions, and these possessions have mass, and mass has gravity, and we end up revolving around these possessions and, unfortunately, the more we accumulate the more they hold us in place around us.
And so Jesus is saying don't lay up yourself treasures on earth but instead lay up for yourself treasures in heaven, and He is arguing against laying up treasures on earth not on the basis that it's the wrong thing to do but on the basis that it's the stupid thing to do because these things are not going to last.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 2nd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to check your portfolio today and see how your investments are doing. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. You know, I might as well just leave right now.
Dennis: Are you feeling deficient in this area?
Bob: Well, there's that, but I've also noticed the fire in your eyes with what we're going to be talking about.
Dennis: You know, I've thought about this. I've thought about leaving because I figure that I'm not going to get a word in edgewise either because you've been teaching a series at your church, your Sunday school class from Ecclesiastes …
Bob: And we've been talking about what we're going to talk about today, but I know how these wrestling matches for the microphone go, and I lose. So, folks, if you don't hear me the rest of the day …
Dennis: Now, let's be honest here, Bob, you don't lose, Bob, you do very, very well. Well, I want our listeners to meet our guest on FamilyLife Today. I don't know Randy all that well. I've been a fan of his and his writings for a number of years. Barbara actually has been reading Randy Alcorn's books longer than I have and, personally, I was just looking forward to getting him here in the studio, hanging out a little bit with him and getting to know him a little bit better.
Randy, I want to welcome you to FamilyLife Today and tell you what an honor it is to have you on our program.
Randy: Thanks, Dennis, it's a pleasure to be here with you.
Dennis: Randy is the President and Founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries. In fact, I want to tell a story, and I don't have Randy's permission to tell this story, but Randy actually sent me a copy of his book, which I had already been reading. The book is called "The Treasure Principle," and he sent a check to our ministry here, an investment in our ministry.
Bob: Made a donation [inaudible].
Dennis: A donation. I'm reading here, the purpose of Eternal Perspective Ministries – "It helps the needs of the unreached, unfed, unborn, unreconciled, unsupported, and uneducated people around the world." And, Bob, I'm trying to figure out where FamilyLife fits in, and the only one I can figure out there is that Randy feels like we're uneducated.
Randy: And that has certainly been confirmed.
Bob: Maybe it's that we're helping to reach some of the uneducated and unreconciled. Would that be accurate, perhaps?
Randy: That's so true, I mean, I look at FamilyLife Today, and I realize how many lives are being touched through what you do, and everything else we do as believers counts for nothing if our families are falling apart.
Dennis: Well, we are honored to have you on the program both as a guest and as an investor in our ministry. Randy Alcorn's other books include "Money, Possessions, and Eternity," a book that I just finished reading called "Safely Home."
Randy, I want to focus today, though, on a subject that I've been wanting to talk with our listeners about for a long time, and it's the subject of how we view our possessions and how we deal with giving.
Now, before we get into this, I just want to make a statement that's a form of a disclaimer to our listening audience, because anytime a non-profit ministry that is dependent upon donations does a program …
Bob: That would include us, right?
Dennis: That would include FamilyLife Today – when we do a program on the subject of money, immediately people either turn it off physically or turn it off emotionally and spiritually. And you know what? I don't want you to do any one of those three. I want you to leave the radio on and if you have any question of our motives, which I'm never sure of my motives, anyway. As much as I know, my motives are pure in wanting to come to you today to say to you, as a listening audience, I really want to see you learn the joy of giving. I'm not talking about to FamilyLife Today. I'm just talking about you giving.
And, secondly, I have a goal for you to raise the next generation of courageous warriors who give, because there is about to be a huge transfer of wealth to another generation that's going to spend it, squander it, or misuse it, and instead it needs to be used for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Now, your book, Randy, "The Treasure Principle," begins with a story of a man who stumbles upon a – well, it's a hidden treasure.
Randy: That's right. In Matthew 13, Jesus said, "The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again and then, in his joy, he went and sold all that he had and bought that field." And as I picture him in the book, I think we need to turn on our mental television sets as we read Scripture, and we see this man walking across this field, and he's probably got a staff in his hand and, suddenly, something goes thunk! As he pokes it down into the dirt, he wonders what made this noise?
He digs around a little bit, and he finds something under there, and it's got a lid, and he opens it up, maybe he's got a lock that he has to break through, and he discovers this treasure, and it's got coins, it's got jewels, it's got all of these wonderful things in it, and he realizes the law of the land is that if you buy a piece of property, you own everything that's on it, and he realizes that, in all probability, the person who owns the land now does not really know that this treasure is there nor does he consider his own. It was probably some owner from way back who died and left it there. And so he realizes that if he just buys this piece of land, if he gets up enough money to do that, then that possession, that treasure will be his.
And so it says that he went, and he sold everything he had to get that possession. Now, we might be thinking, "Well, gee, we should pity this man because this piece of land cost him everything he had." But instead what we're told in this passage is, "In his joy, he went and sold all that he had." And then he purchased this land, and the treasure is something that becomes his new center of gravity. He is focused on this treasure. This treasure is something that is worth everything else. Everything else pales in comparison to the treasure.
Dennis: So his joy is directly tied to the value of what he now possesses.
Randy: That's right, and so Jesus takes what we shouldn't value, what we should realize will not make a difference in eternity just simply in and of itself, these earthly treasures, and uses it as an analogy to what we should value, and He is saying there is another treasure beyond this kind of material treasure that's hidden in the field, and that's what we ought to invest our lives in because when we do that, then we'll be doing what Jesus said, which is "Lay up for yourselves treasures not on earth but in heaven."
Dennis: I think what you point out in your book is that God has a kingdom that He wants us to invest in, and He wants us to be living for. The problem is we get seduced by the present-day values; the present-day idols of materialism, and as a result we never get around to investing in that which will last forever and ever and ever and ever.
We are really being deceived today by an idol of materialism, aren't we, Randy?
Randy: Absolutely. I think what happens is we make – we acquire possessions, and these possessions have mass, and mass has gravity, and we end up revolving around these possessions. And, unfortunately, the more we accumulate the more they hold us in place around them. And so Jesus is saying, "Don't lay up yourselves treasures on earth but instead lay for yourselves treasures in heaven," and He's arguing against laying up treasures on earth not on the basis that it's the wrong thing to do but on the basis that it's the stupid thing to do, because these things are not going to last.
So He turns around, and He says, "Be a smart investor." You know, God has an investment mentality. He wants us to invest. But He's saying stop investing in the stupid place and start investing in the smart place. The smart place is heaven because that's where your treasures are going to last forever.
Bob: Here is right where I go when you say something like that – I think about being in Best Buy recently, you know, and being over and seeing those big projection TVs with the SurroundSound. You know what I'm talking about, right?
Randy: I do.
Bob: And you look at those, and you go, "It would be cool to watch the game on one of those, wouldn't it? And have the SurroundSound there. You pop in a DVD in the DVD player and, man, it would be like having a movie theater in your house." Now I hear Randy Alcorn, he tells me "Don't lay up treasures, your TV is going to break, and it's going to be out of date in a couple of years." And I know that, so is what Jesus saying, what you're saying is that we need to forget ever having the big screen and the DVD player and send it all to the missionaries, or is there room for a big screen with a DVD player as long as I'm taking care of the missionaries on the side? Help me out here, Randy.
Randy: Well, the Bible is very clear on the fact that asceticism is not the right philosophy. It's not that material things are bad. Material things are good, they are created by God, they are provided for us. He provides generously for us for our enjoyment. Paul says that in 1 Timothy 6, right in the middle of a passage on giving.
So I don't think we have to feel bad or feel guilty about having things and enjoying them, but there is a line that all of us cross, and it differs from person to person because lifestyles are legitimately different for us, as believers.
But we have to understand that there is a line that we cross where we are setting up idols, where these things are becoming more important to us than they should; where they are requiring not just more money but more time. You know, I buy the nice, new car, and it's not simply the expense of it, but it's the time that I spend cleaning it and maintaining it and thinking about it and parking in the far corner of the parking lot so somebody won't ding the doors or whatever it is. This thing becomes central to my life, and Jesus has called us to something higher.
It's not we're supposed to feel guilty for having material things, it's that we're supposed to understand He has called us to something higher, something that's going to last for eternity, investing treasures in heaven. So it's not bad to have earthly things, but what is bad is to treasure them and make them the center of our gravity.
Jesus says that you can take those things, and you can invest them in eternity by giving them, and when you give them, they become treasures in heaven. So you can't take it with you, and that's something Old Testament makes clear, Solomon makes clear – you can't take it with you. But Jesus adds an important corollary here because, in essence, what He's saying is "No, you can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead."
Dennis: Let's apply this to your life, all right? You've studied this concept of giving. You have undoubtedly had those moments when you wanted what Bob is talking about – the big screen TV with the channel surfer, the popcorn, you know, the DVD, SurroundSound.
Bob: You're making me cry as you talk about it.
Dennis: You must have had those points where you came to a fork in the road between giving some money away or making a purchase of something you wanted.
Randy: I remember vividly, maybe five years ago or so, standing in a store and looking at a particular item, which I deliberately will not name, and it cost about $2,000. And some money had come our way that was just enough to buy this thing. And I would go back day after day, and I would look at it, I would consider it. I was kind of struggling with God on the thing and asking Him, "Should I get this or not?" And, you know, I could rationalize, but the truth was, even though – there are any number of things in my life that I don't need. I mean, I've got a nice tennis racket, I don't need it; both of us have a car, and they're not new, they're not expensive but nonetheless they're good cars, and we drive them, and I'm not ashamed of it, and I'm not sorry.
But this particular thing, I just felt like how can I justify this in light of world need? And part of my heart just – I just felt heavy, and I felt like, you know, "I've got to walk away from this, and I wish I didn't have to." Well, I walked away from it, made the decision on the spot that I was going to give this money to God's kingdom, and I was already thinking of where I was going to give it. I was going to give it famine relief, to help some people to plant some churches, to do some things like that and immediately I had this deep sense of joy. I thought, "This is exactly right. God has confirmed the wisdom of my not making this purchase," and what hit me as I drove home, even before we wrote the check out, was my joy in giving instead of getting this thing is far more than any joy I would have gotten from the thing itself.
I don't mean that I wouldn't have enjoyed it, but I would get a greater pleasure from knowing the difference it made in other people's lives and the difference it will make for all eternity.
Bob: As you talk about that, I'm thinking, okay, I hear the principle, but if you buy the thing, whatever it is, you take it home with you, and you've got it there to play with." When you write out the check that you write out, you put it in the mail and, poof! They take it away, you've got nothing to play with after it's all over. Where does the higher sense of joy come from in sending a check in the mail versus having something to play with for another six months?
Randy: I think that's when you look into what your church is doing and what ministries like FamilyLife Today are doing, and you say, "Look, what are the eternal benefits of this investment?" Now, if I have no idea what those are, then you're right, I don't have anything. I don't have anything to think about, I don't have anything tangible right there in front of me.
But, you know, I don't really have to have something tangible in front of me as long as I have some grasp that this is making a difference in people's lives. And so it's not that the material thing is bad, it's not. It's that there is something higher, something that brings greater joy; that has greater purpose but brings greater joy.
Bob: I want you to think for a moment about the things that bring you joy. You know, whether it's your marriage, your kids, seeing your kids grow up and walk in the truth, whether it's vacation you've been on, whether it's a great meal, you know, you can think of all kinds of things that create joy. You're saying that in your experience, nothing brings you greater joy than giving?
Randy: Yes, I would say that's true. I would say there are some things that are comparable to the joy of giving, and those include my relationship with my wife, Nancy; my daughters, Karina and Angela. They both got married within seven weeks of each other.
Bob: You were doing a lot of giving then, weren't you?
Randy: That's right, that's right. And giving out my heart, among other things, to see God's answer to prayer in bringing these two young men into their lives, both men named Dan and then that way, later on, when our memories are failing us we have only one short single-syllable name for a son-in-law, Dan. And just to see God at work in their lives, it's just a wonderful thing.
And sharing Christ with people, seeing somebody come to faith in Christ. A university professor from San Francisco State University that I had the opportunity to lead to Christ last spring – those rank up there, but right alongside them are times of giving that do not seem like a sacrifice. And by global standards and historical standards, maybe they really weren't a sacrifice, but I at least know we could have done a lot of other things and probably things we would have liked to do with that money. But instead we gave, and the joy that came out of it was so strong.
And one illustration, when the girls were small that relates to the joy of giving, and maybe also to kind of passing on the joy of giving and cultivating that in a family context – when the girls were probably, I would say, 8 and 10 years old, we received a large amount of money, and we talked it over, and Nancy and I sat down with the girls, and we said, "Now, here is what we could do with this money. We could take a two-week trip to Hawaii, and we could stay in a nice place, and that wouldn't be wrong." We weren't portraying that as a bad thing, we weren't portraying it as evil, we'd have a good time, all of that.
Or we could take this money, and we could give it to missions and to famine relief, and we were having an upcoming missions offering at church, and some of the money was going to Mozambique through World Relief and different places. And here is how it would help people over there, children over there, and all that. "Well, girls, what do you think? I mean, what do you think that God would want us to do with this money?"
Now, this was not a trick question, and the girls look at each other, and they smile, and they both immediately say, "Well, Dad, of course, we should give it in the missions offering." They had absolutely no problem with that. And then we went on to say, "You know, it's not like we have to go on a two-week wonderful vacation to Hawaii to have fun."
Now, again, the danger, when you use a specific illustration is that some people will think I'm saying it's wrong to go to Hawaii. We've actually been to Hawaii several times since then. People have opened up a house that we've been able to stay with at no charge over there, and we actually got together with our daughters and their husbands. But it is very interesting how God used that in our family, because Nancy and I walked away, and we're going, "You know what? They didn't struggle with it at all."
And sometimes we think that we're in danger of, like, neglecting our children, because everybody else's children are getting all of these fancy things, and all this money is being spent on them. You know, our children do not need more and more material things. They need some material things, but they don't need more and more material things. They need the example of Christ-like parents who are asking God what should we do as a family, and they need to participate in the joy of that.
And that's one of the things I think is important to entrust children with enough money, whether it's through allowance or for doing different chores, and then encouraging them to learn the holy habit of giving.
Bob: This guy is kind of a radical, don't you think? I'm not sure he's even American, you know what I'm saying?
Dennis: Well, I think the concepts he's talking about are counter-cultural. I think they're counter-cultural whether you're an American or you're from Britain or South Africa. Although, I would say this, Bob – I think they feel more anti-American, because we love our things. Anybody who has traveled abroad and gone to a Third World country realizes that we, as a nation, whooo, do we have the stuff! The challenge for you is to become a heaven-class giver. I don't like the term world-class giver. It somehow demeans the concept of grace, because if we are children of grace, like Randy talked about, and we have received the gift of eternal life, then we need to be givers, as he said, and we shouldn't just be good givers or great givers – we ought to be heaven-class givers.
Bob: We ought to be extravagant givers, right? I mean, that's what you're talking about. I think of the extravagance of God in giving to us, you know, maybe the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16 – "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son," and if we want to be like God, then that means we've got to be givers – extravagant, generous, givers.
Randy, the book you've written called "The Treasure Principle," is really a challenge to all of us to examine our own lives and our hearts and ask the question – are we stingy or are we generous? Is our heart predisposed toward keeping it for us or toward giving it away? And if it's toward being stingy then what does that say about our hearts and about our love for God?
We've got copies of the book, "The Treasure Principle" in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you to an area of the site where you can get more information about Randy's book. Again, it's called "The Treasure Principle."
I know people who have actually ordered cases of this book and shared it with friends because they found the message to be so compelling. Again, the book is called "The Treasure Principle," and you can request a copy by going to our website, FamilyLife.com, click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast," and there is information available there for you to order the book online, if you'd like. Or, if it's easier, you can just call 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we can make arrangements to have copies of Randy's book sent to you.
You know, not only is this issue of giving something that's fundamental to what it means to be a follower of Christ, but the issue of forgiveness is fundamental as well, and, like giving, it's an issue that some of us struggle with from time to time.
Our friend, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, has written a book on the subject, and we had a chance to talk with her about the issue of forgiveness not long ago, and if you are able to help FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount this month we would love to send you a copy of the CD that features that conversation with the host of "Revive Our Hearts," the daily radio program Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
You can request a copy of that CD when you make a donation online at FamilyLife.com. You'll come to a keycode box on the donation form. You just need to type the word "forgive" into that box, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY – 1-800-358-6329. You can make a donation over the phone and mention that you'd like the CD on forgiveness. It is our way of saying thanks for your support of this ministry, and we appreciate your generous financial giving.
Now, we're going to continue to talk about the subject of giving on tomorrow's program. Our guest, Randy Alcorn, is going to be back. 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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