Stewardship – Provident Planning Personal Finance for Life in the Kingdom Tue, 25 Jul 2017 23:38:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Reasons Why Business and DIY Don’t Mix Sun, 12 Oct 2014 13:06:50 +0000 As a small business owner myself, I can understand the tendency to minimize costs and try to do it yourself. DIY may be popular these days because it promotes education and saves on families’ personal finances, but there is a different reality in the business world.

Doing everything yourself may increase your short term profit due to limiting costs, but it hurts business in the long run. Businesses need to take a different approach if they want to focus on growth, stability, customer service, and marketability. Another way of putting it is this: DIY may be advantageous in the short-term, but in the long-term, it is crippling your business. As a business owner, you should be concerned with growth. Since there’s only one of you – it helps to start looking at areas to outsource.

Areas for Business Owners to Focus on Outsourcing

It truly takes a business person’s mentality to run a business. That means not flinching at costs and understanding the true benefit. This is a challenge because it is a fine line between setting yourself up for success, and burdening your business with unnecessary costs. In other words, you need to know how to prioritize: when and where to spend right now, and what can wait for later.


Marketing is one of those things that business owners often manage themselves. This can be a viable business plan if slow, sustainable client growth is the name of the game. If you would like to expedite the process, there’s nothing more helpful than hiring someone to do this for you.


There’s nothing worse than having someone run a business who doesn’t understand numbers, or even worse, takes no serious attempt to run the numbers. If you are serious about running your own business and finance isn’t your speciality, consider outsourcing this. It will allow you to focus on what you are good at, and save you a lot of headache come tax time. You may not want to splurge on an accountant, but you can always hire someone like a bookkeeper to oversee the entry of transactions into accounting software.


If you are looking at growing your business (think corporate acquisition or merger), or in selling your business (either as you approach retirement or want to transition jobs), this is a specialty area where it pays to get help. Companies like Transworld represent buyers and sellers when it comes to business sales. They’re going to be familiar with the process and know what to expect, what is reasonable, and maybe even suggest certain components of the sale agreement that you wouldn’t think about. Many of my friends who have sold their businesses have used a third party to negotiate for them and say it was the best thing that they could have ever done.

Running a business is challenging. You’re not only trying to satisfy your current customers, but also recruit new customers. There are way too many components to run by yourself. While you need to be conscious of your bottom line, it can pay huge dividends to take a few risks and focus on growing your business through outsourcing certain elements of the business.

Are You Tied to Your Possessions? Is that okay? Mon, 04 Jun 2012 10:00:52 +0000 My friend who just finished seminary accepted a pastoral position at a church in Hawaii. (Talk about suffering for Jesus, right?) In moving there, the church will be paying to ship his truck there, so that he has a car while on the island. As any typical graduate student does throughout the course of their studies, he collected lots of stuff – mostly books, but also furniture, clothes, etc. While shipping his truck to Hawaii may sound like an easy way to take most of his possessions with him, it’s actually quite the opposite. He is only allowed to keep items in the truck that are bolted down. That means even his face plate for his after-market CD player has to come out.

Ultimately this means that he is getting rid of stuff. He just recently told me how he got rid of 3 boxes worth of books, in addition to lots of other clothes, etc. I started to think about how much stuff my wife and I have collected in the 3 years that we have been married. While we live in a 1 bedroom apartment, I can hardly believe how much stuff we have. How did this happen?!

Are Material Possessions Bad?

We often hear about consumerism or worldly possessions and how bad it is for us. I believe much of this conversation stems from a very basic truth:

You can’t take it with you!

This is the idea that when you die, all the stuff that you have collected over your life means absolutely nothing. Yes, that’s right, those baseball cards, your lucky underwear, your stainless steel appliances – it doesn’t mean anything when you pass.

Yet, this basic truth is often exaggerated…

Worldly possessions are bad. They are evil. Material possessions are false idols.

Or, my personal favorite:

Material possessions hurt your relationship with God.

Since when is a relationship with God and having stuff mutually exclusive? I guess I should be clear. I’m not talking about the level of the “Hoarders” T.V. show(s). I suspect that we all know that hoarding is a serious social illness of some sort (or at least that’s my suspicion without watching the show much). Instead, I am talking about the average person. Isn’t it possible that possessions are not all bad? Or even better, couldn’t it help us in our relationship with God?

Why Possessions Can Help our Faith

I ask this question of whether the stuff in our lives can be a good thing because of two reasons. I often like to tackle the common assumptions of the Christian faith, especially as it relates to finances. This is one of the reasons that I look at tithing differently than other Christian finances authors. The second reason that I ask this question is because of a significant change recently.

My wife and I recently invested in a portable dishwasher. There, I said it! Well, that may not sound like much, but if you know me, it is huge! I absolutely hate doing dishes. Because we are renting, our unit does not have a dishwasher. In our 3 years of married life, we have never had one. This means that we spend, at minimum 3 hours a week doing dishes. My wife’s in-laws were coming into town and I had two days of dishes piled up (prior to getting our dishwasher). I had to do all the dishes at once and it took me 2 hours! Wowzer!

As a result of buying our new dishwasher, things have drastically improved. It literally takes minutes instead of hours each week. I told my wife that it was the best investment ever! That’s how much our dishwasher means to us.

Does this mean that I am too reliant on this material item? Am I ruining my relationship with God because I enjoy the luxury of some of my STUFF?

I think it would be hard to find someone that would answer, “yes” to these questions. I think it is especially relevant when you consider the time saved. I have more time to spend on whatever I choose. Whether this is volunteering, praying, reading, etc. I believe this is a great example that material stuff cannot be equated with evilness. Stuff is not inherently bad.

A Proper Balance

I believe understanding that our possessions are not bad in and of themselves, but instead how we use them is very important. Understanding that we can utilize our STUFF to be a greater service to our community is an important thing. Yet, it doesn’t mean you should buy as many items as possible to free up more free time. There needs to be some balance.

There needs to be a balance between spending without concern for others and avoiding items all-together because of the belief that they are inherently bad. I can’t say where people should draw the line, but I believe it should be somewhere in the middle. One needs to consider the motives for buying stuff before anything.

Are you buying that because it will make you feel good? Do you absolutely NEED to have it? Why are you buying it?

These are all important questions to answer when thinking about how much stuff you have. When you consider that in addition to the great need in this world, you are on the right track.

Readers, where do you think is the balance? Should people sell all their possessions? 

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Should You Give Away All of Your Wealth? Tue, 17 Apr 2012 10:00:12 +0000 One of the most obvious bible passages that relates to personal finances is the story of the rich young ruler. The passage, which is found in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tells the story of a man asking what he needs to do to obtain eternal life. The question is one of the most pertinent questions because since those of us living in western society are the rich, it forces us to ask whether we need to give away all of our wealth. Does God’s message suggest those who are following Jesus to give away everything we have? Such an extreme message seems to suggest that financial planning of any sort is the opposite of what Jesus commands. This seems to be the opposite of what this blog is about, but if we refuse to go the extreme, do we lost the identity as Christians. This paradox is one that has puzzled the church for some time, so I thought I would spend some time reflecting on it.

Here’s the exact words from Mark 10:17-31:

17  And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again,“Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,[b] “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfoldnow in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Initial Commentary on Rich Young Ruler Passage

There are a few preliminary points that I need to point out before reflecting on the question of whether you need to give away all of your wealth. The first, and perhaps more important, is our understanding of “eternal life.” Most often, in Christian circles, this is understood as the path to Heaven. When understood this way, the rich ruler’s question to Jesus seems to be phrased as such: “Jesus, what do I need to do in order to get into Heaven?”

This couldn’t be further from the truth of what he is asking Jesus. Instead, eternal life is more accurately referring to a way of life. In the same way that the “kingdom of God” is referring to a movement that Jesus is starting (instead of some place you go after you die), so is eternal life.  This interpretation is supported by Jesus’ response. He instantly refers to the commandments. The commandments were a part of the covenant of Israelites with God – it was about their life with God right now – in this world. Therefore, the rich young ruler’s question, when paired with this understanding of ‘eternal life’, affirms the importance of our action now.

A Possible Interpretation of Rich Young Ruler Passage

The question remains then, what should be the Christian response when it comes to using our wealth. Does this passage suggest that we need to give everything away?

While it may be tempting to support such an idea, I think reading the passage in this way is too simplistic and misses the point of the passage. Jesus’ point is not that everyone who is rich should give away everything that they have, but instead to point out that we are too strongly connected to our possessions. After all, verse 22 says,

 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (emphasis added)

I am not sure about you, but I know that I can relate to this state of being. I know that I am considered on of the richest people in the world. While I strive not to be tied down to physical items or consumed with buying the latest, fastest gadgets, it can be difficult at times. I think we can all relate to wanting the best stuff. The problem is too often we let our consumerism get in the way of following a better path. Instead of feeding the poor, or contributing to a better society, we are caught up taking care of our items. It was just today that I had to run to the DMV before work, drop off my car to get the oil changed, and will have to do several other errands this just to take care of my car. While it is a blessing to have such items, it can also be a curse, as it has the potential to drain all of my free time.

If we understand this passage this way, it helps re-affirm our act of being intentional with our finances. Planning, one of the core fundamental values of this blog, is supported. Following Jesus or even caring for others does not mean that we do the opposite of financial planning, but the exact opposite. In order to help others, we need to weigh the options and be purposeful to not get caught up in consumerism. Jesus asks us to step away from the distractions for the benefit of others. Last but not least, it is important to point out that I am not saying that you should forego giving. This isn’t in support of the idea of hoarding all of your wealth to yourself because it is yours and we are supposed to be wise with our money. Instead, this is an attempt to hold in tension the willingness to help others while also planning ahead for the financial needs that will come up with your family.

Do you identify with the rich young ruler? Is it difficult to avoid buying the latest items?

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Is the Traditional Missionary System Sustainable? Tue, 10 Apr 2012 10:00:22 +0000 Do you know how missionaries in the traditional sense fund their efforts? Growing up in and being an active of a Christian church, I have become quite familiar with how missionaries fund their mission efforts. In fact, it was just last week that I met up with a friend of mine who, with his wife, is an official missionary with a particular denomination.

He and his wife returned from overseas for 2 short (and meeting-filled) weeks in the U.S. In fact, it was so busy for him and his wife that I only got to see him for a couple hours. One of the primary purposes of their trip back to the U.S. was to raise more monetary support. While it was great to see him and he was able to connect with friends, I can’t help but question the sustainability of the Missionary system. While my particular friend wouldn’t consider himself a traditional missionary, I still can’t help but criticize the traditional system of missionaries, with particular attention to the finances.

What is a Missionary?

For those who didn’t grow up in the church, you may be wondering what I am referring to or what/who is a missionary. Let me first start by defining missionary, as it has traditionally been understood within Christian churches. While I would like to trace the development of this term, it would take thousands of words to do so – and unnecessarily so.

In the traditional sense, a Missionary is one who is on a mission by God. While this is the basic understanding, the term is most often used to refer to a religious individual who travels overseas for the sake of spreading the gospel – i.e. sharing about the influence of Jesus Christ in their lives in order to make the world a better place. The actual work that missionaries get involved in varies from person to person. Some see the most important aspect as winning souls, saving innocent people from an eternity in Hell. Others find the purpose in making this world a better place and focus more on social justice issues.

While there are recent voices who stress the importance that anyone can be a missionary in their home location, there is a strong correlation with moving overseas or to a foreign place.

How Missionaries Traditionally Fund their Efforts

Moving to a new place is difficult enough without having to worry about how to provide for the family. Given the primary purpose of a Missionary’s effort to be about church-related activity, it is often difficult, if not impossible for Christian missionaries to provide for themselves as they work in a new place. As a result, missionaries are often financially able to do what they do only by support from the sending communities. It is through the financial support or sponsorship that they are able to leave and pursue this work.

My friend and his wife are only able to live overseas as seminary instructors and members of the church through the support of many local churches here in the U.S. Simply put: sponsorship makes their work possible. This means lots of visits to churches and correspondence with local churches to fund their trip(s) and effort(s).

Is this Missionary System Sustainable?

While I think sponsorship is an important step in the right direction, I can’t help but wonder about the sustainability of this system. First and foremost, (and not just financially) this form of Missionary work can easily be seen as charity (in a bad way). What I mean is that this type of work, while helpful for many people, does nothing to help the other community long-term. It is a short-term fix; a band-aid.

Financially speaking, the system to fund missionary work is very similar. In order to obtain enough money to support their efforts, missionaries are often required to return to their home to ask for financial support. For many people, this could mean long periods of time away from what their work. It is not only dependent on the willingness to give of the rich communities, but does nothing to stimulate the economy where Missionaries are working. This is all done instead of trying to create a business in the new community, which would be of greater help to the communities in which missionaries serve.

To put it simply, the traditional ways that missionaries fund their efforts is not sustainable. It is always dependent on the sending community’s support and does very little to empower the community that missionaries serve. I don’t mean to say that the entire concept should be thrown out the window. But, if Missionaries want to have any lasting influence on the community that they are serving, they should make every effort to create sustainable change.

What are your thoughts on Missionaries?

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What Is God’s Provident Plan for a Christian’s Personal Finances? Wed, 18 Jan 2012 11:00:04 +0000 On the About page, I state that Provident Planning is dedicated to exploring God’s Provident Plan for the personal finances of Christians. But what does that mean? What is God’s Provident Plan? It’s God’s clear Biblical message that through contentment in Christ, diligent work, and good stewardship Christians can prosper so we can give generously in the name of Christ. By following the Provident Plan, Christians can glorify God through their finances.

This message is what I discovered as I have studied personal finance in the Bible. As a Christian and someone who studied financial planning in college, I wanted to know how I could give sound, Biblical advice, but I found so many conflicting opinions that I felt I should find out for myself. After searching for all the Bible verses I could find about personal finance, I began to see God’s wonderful plan for a Christian’s personal finances.

It’s not a plan focused on making Christians rich, or how we can retire early, or the things we can do to make us feel good about ourselves or our money. No – just like every other part of God’s plans for Christians it brings glory to His name and strengthens the witness of Christ in the world. If all Christians followed God’s Provident Plan for their finances, we would radically change the Church and the world. And while it involves how we handle our money – it’s all dependent and focused on the transformation that occurs when we fully give ourselves to Christ and realize the power of His death, resurrection, and the life we have in Him. Let’s take a closer look at each part of God’s Provident Plan.

Contentment in Christ

Once we have decided to follow Jesus, He becomes everything to us. We are in a continual struggle against Satan to keep other things (especially money) from taking the place of Christ. When we find contentment in Christ and Christ alone, the importance of money in our lives diminishes and pales to the value we place on Jesus. We learn the secret to being happy in all situations – whether we’re full or starving, rich or poor, employed or jobless, single or married – nothing in this life matters at all when compared to the glorious gift of Jesus and the fact that no one and no circumstance can take that away from us. We see everything in light of eternity, and we find that nothing on earth is of more value than our faith in Christ. We come to fully believe and trust that God cares for us and will provide everything we need.

Once we have this habit of always finding our contentment in Christ, the Spirit will teach us to place much less importance on material things. We will no longer be focused solely on our own needs and wants – an early retirement, a bigger house, a nicer car, and so on. Instead, we’ll be consumed with a desire to focus on the needs of others – to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and show God’s love to the world through our faith and our deeds. We’ll spend less and less on ourselves as we give more and more to others.

You can read more about contentment in the Bible here or by downloading a free copy of Contentment Is Wealth.

Diligent Work

Where contentment helps us to spend less on ourselves, understanding God’s call to work diligently helps us earn more money. As the gap between our spending and our income grows, we are left with more to manage wisely, prosper, and then give generously to the needs of others. The attitude and spirit we have as we approach our work can also glorify and honor God’s name. His witness can be seen in how we deal with people in our businesses and our motivation in our work.

You can read more about hard work in the Bible here.

Good Stewardship

While the Bible says little about financial planning as we know it today, God has shown us the value of using wisdom and prudence in managing our affairs. There are verses that speak to planning ahead, saving, avoiding debt, and other practical matters we will encounter in our personal finances. By wisely managing the blessings God provides (that gap between our income and our spending), we can be good stewards and have even more to give in His name.


As we follow God’s teaching on contentment, diligent work, and good stewardship, He will bless and prosper us. When we think about prosperity our focus needs to be on having God’s view of prosperity and its purpose. Prosperity can come in many other ways than just material blessings, and God wants us to use our prosperity to honor Him – not just make ourselves more comfortable. When God prospers us, it’s so we can further glorify Him as we give more and more to those in need.


Giving is the purpose of God’s Provident Plan. All other aspects of His Provident Plan are a means to this end. Through our contentment in Christ, we spend less so we have more to give. Our hard work provides more income so we will have more to give. Through good stewardship we avoid wasting what God has given us so we will have more to give. Our prosperity comes from God not so we can make ourselves richer but so we can give even more. God’s Provident Plan is completely focused on others – on how we can glorify God by laying down our lives and our wants for the needs of others. We live simply so others can simply live.

At the same time, we’ll realize that God’s Provident Plan gives much to us as well. Peace beyond understanding, joy beyond description, and happiness beyond compare are all ours as we trust ourselves to God’s care. When we first begin following God’s Provident Plan, we hardly realize the potential benefits it will have for our own lives because we were still mired in the views of the world. But as we follow Jesus and see that He is trustworthy and faithful, we become aware of the indestructible treasures in heaven that He has taught us to accumulate.

When we fully grasp God’s Provident Plan, we’ll see that giving in the New Covenant has nothing to do with tithing or percentages. It’s not about requirements, rules, obligations, or blessings or curses. Our giving is to be completely motivated by love – joyous and cheerful as we realize that our sacrifice is not loss but gain in Christ. We give freely, generously, and sacrificially not out of compulsion but out of our joy and contentment in Christ. Such giving is a sign of our total commitment to Christ and His teaching, and it’s a very powerful witness to the world.

Following God’s Provident Plan

Following God’s Provident Plan for our personal finances has huge implications for our lives. It goes against every motive the world gives us for why we should manage our finances well. Instead of focusing on what’s in it for us, we look at what’s in it for God and others. But we know that the rewards God has for us far outweigh the deceitful and false promises of worldly riches. If you feel God calling you to follow His Provident Plan for your finances, please browse around the website and sign up for free updates through email or your favorite feed reader!

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Buying Things to Impress People Mon, 09 Jan 2012 11:00:02 +0000

There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours, at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

– Nigel Marsh

Are You a Trader? Mon, 18 Jul 2011 10:00:23 +0000        I’m not talking about stocks or bonds. Are you willing to trade in the pursuit of the “American Dream” and instead pursue God’s Kingdom and His Ways? Check out this video:

       So, are you a trader? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Root of Riches: Interview with Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries Mon, 04 Jul 2011 10:00:05 +0000        On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chuck Bentley, the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, about his upcoming book The Root of Riches: What If Everything You Think about Money Is Wrong?. The book will be released in the next week or so, but if you’d like to get a 20% discount you can go to and sign up to pre-order the book and get a free sample chapter.

       I had the chance to read the book before the interview and I highly recommend it to all of you. Chuck does a good job of getting to the heart of our issues with money by highlighting how being rooted in Christ is the only way to receive true riches. The interview below will give you a good overview of the central ideas in the book and help you determine if it’s something you’d want to read.

       I’ve included the audio here which you can listen to on the website or download for later. I’ve also transcribed the interview for those of you who prefer to read. I’d be interested in your feedback on how well you liked this because it’s the first time I’ve tried doing an interview/podcast. (I was quite pleased with how my intro and outro music turned out!) Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page, and if you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them.

Download audio file (Root-of-Riches-Interview-with-Chuck-Bentley.mp3)
Download the audio by right-clicking here and choosing “Save as…”.
Credits: intro and outro music for the audio is from “Bucolique Utopique” by David on Jamendo

Note: I was not paid anything to post this interview. I only agreed to it after reading the book because I believed Chuck’s message in The Root of Riches is excellent and needs to become more prominent in Christian personal finance.

[0:00] Introduction

[Intro Music]

Paul: Hi, everyone! This is Paul Williams from Provident Planning. Today, I’m interviewing Chuck Bentley, the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, about his upcoming book The Root of Riches: What If Everything You Think about Money Is Wrong?, which will be released on July 11th or at least in early July. Thanks for joining me today, Chuck. It’s great to be talking with you!

Chuck: Well, it’s an honor to be with you, Paul, and thank you for your interest in The Root of Riches and for the opportunity to speak to your audience today.

[0:43] Purpose of the Book

Paul: Well, thank you. Let’s get right to the interview. Here’s my first question for you. What prompted you to write The Root of Riches? What did you see missing in the Christian finance literature that you felt this book could fill?

Chuck: Well, thank you for asking that because I think it’s very important to distinguish this work from other works in the marketplace. I find that most books written about finance, even in Christian finance, deal primarily with the how to’s, the practical application, the principles, and behavioral changes. What I thought was missing was a comprehensive overview of what the Bible says about money and finances from the standpoint of getting rich. It seems to be sort of the silent target for many people.

       And one of the areas of frustration for me was I bought into the world’s definition of getting rich. And what the study of Scripture changed in my life was not so much going from financial failure or hardship to financial success but it changed my heart. And I wanted to write about that transformation and to give a more comprehensive look at what the Bible really does say about getting rich.

Paul: Well, I would definitely agree with you. I think, like the book’s title The Root of Riches, getting to the root of our beliefs about money and how that affects our whole life – not just those financial principles that we apply, but just how we think about money and how we view it and our relationship to it – is really important especially when it comes to getting God’s view and following Christ.

Chuck: Yes, absolutely, Paul.

Paul: And I really appreciated that perspective in your book.

[2:33] Non-Negotiable No. 1

Paul: Alright, in The Root of Riches, you cover three non-negotiables that form the broad structure of the book. And I’d like to give the listeners an overview of what they can expect from the book by reviewing each of these non-negotiables. So Non-Negotiable No. 1 is “I accept that both the cause and the solution to my money problems lie within my own heart.” Tell us more about this non-negotiable. What do you mean by it? What does it encompass? Why is it important?

Chuck: Paul, I realized that the preponderance of the teaching in the Scripture about money deals with our heart. The word “love” is associated with verse after verse after verse when it comes to money. And it seems to me that we typically leave those out, we skip over them, we avoid them.

       And I’ll give you an example. Probably the most famous verse is 1 Timothy 6:10. And I talk about it a lot because that’s the verse that the Lord used to really take me back to review the meaning of it because I had assumed I understood it. I had known it for years and years and years, and I sort of skipped over it because it became too familiar.

       But it says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”. And I went back and looked at the verse and took a hard look at it, and the word that I had skipped was the word “root”. Why did Paul describe this problem as a root problem? And I began to study the characteristics of roots and just realized that primarily they’re pervasive, they give structure to the tree because that’s the foundation of the tree, and they’re also responsible for the fruit of that tree.

       And as I got into it I realized that if our roots are flawed, which they are when we’re born into this world, then we love the wrong things. And when our roots are transformed we love the right things. And I wanted to point out that when we love the correct things then we become rich on God’s terms. So the insight, the big ah-ha for me, was that getting rich according to God’s definition was not about owning things but it was about loving the right things.

       Solomon said it this way “whoever loves money never has enough money, whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their wealth”. He identified this connection of our heart to our very practical circumstances. I found it amazing that we tend to skip over that. It says directly your financial problems are related to what you love.

       So if we will admit that, if we will say, “I’m struggling with a financial issue because of something that’s in my heart.” Then if my heart is changed then the solutions can also flow out of my heart. And that’s a non-negotiable truth in my opinion because if we don’t start there then we just get into the old patterns of just trying to change behavior and not deal with the real root.

Paul: Right, so when you say that this non-negotiable is stated “I accept that both the cause and the solution to my money problems lie within my own heart.” the cause is loving those wrong things and the solution is that transformation to have the heart of Christ and begin loving the right things.

Chuck: The Bible says that in the end times there will be terrible days, the people will be lovers of self, lovers of pleasure, and lovers of money. Paul identified (that’s 2 Timothy 3) the problem with our roots is that we’re in love with ourself, and pleasures, and money. They’re all interlinked.

       And when our heart is changed where we love God with all of our heart and soul and we love people and we love giving and we’re cheerful and excited about giving and serving others, then we experience the liberty that leads us to the correct beliefs and behaviors about money.

       And back to the first question, Paul, the reason I wrote this is because I didn’t see it emphasized in most teaching. The transformation of the heart is such a deep issue and a mysterious issue that I see why it’s easy to skip over it. But the Lord didn’t skip over it! And the reason I wanted to start there is to try to emphasize don’t move past the issue of your heart.

       The Lord weighs the motive of the heart. I think we can have good financial behaviors and still miss the true riches that the Lord promised. Jeremiah 17 talks about those who trust in themselves are blind to prosperity. And it’s because their hearts have not been changed to what true prosperity really means. So that’s the reason that’s the starting point, Paul.

Paul: So we can clarify. When you say the solution to the money problems you don’t mean that once we get our heart transformed we’re suddenly going to be rich and we’re not going to have to worry about our bills any more, right?

Chuck: Well, I think there’s a…no, I’m not…[laughter]…I’m agreeing with you, Paul. I don’t think that they magically go away. But I am attacking this premise that money solves financial problems. That’s the assumption that most people have and it’s where we get off base. If money solved financial problems, then the wealthy wouldn’t have any problems. Right?

Paul: Right.

Chuck: But I love what a friend told me years ago that God gives every one of us a problem that money can’t solve. And that’s because He wants us to recognize that we need Him more than we need money. And that’s a heart issue. That gets to the real issue of where you place your confidence, where your security, where your significance comes from. How do we define success? Those are issues in the heart. And when we get that straight then we’re ready to go to the next step and start to see our financial problems solved once our hearts have been changed.

Paul: Right. That’s what I like about this non-negotiable. It’s coming to that realization that the solution to your money problems isn’t necessarily money but getting to that point that Christ becomes everything to you. So even if you still have money problems after you get this right view of money and start loving the right things, they’re not going to seem like as big of a problem because you’re keeping your eternal riches in mind. You’re looking at the treasure in heaven that you have stored up. And suddenly, as Paul puts it, the afflictions that we’re experiencing now can’t even compare to our future glory. {Romans 8:18} So that’s what I like about it.

Chuck: Well, Paul, let’s flip it over and look at the other side of the coin. Suppose you’re the rich young ruler. You probably have a pretty good financial situation. I believe he was probably debt free, lived on a budget or at least had plenty of money to cover his needs, maybe had a good savings plan, a good diversified investment portfolio, and a long term plan and strategy to do whatever it was he felt led to do.

       But he had a heart problem. And his heart problem was he was struggling to let go of all of those things to follow Christ and to make Christ preeminent in his life. And the Lord knew that and challenged him on that issue of the heart. And if you apply this to the person like that you see why I say it’s a non-negotiable.

       When I was in China recently, I wasn’t talking to a population of people with debt problems because they haven’t really learned to acquire debt in their culture and they have an average personal savings rate of around 50%. So what would I take to them from the Scripture if it were simply to change their financial behaviors? What they were looking for was what does the Bible say about their attitudes, their beliefs, their affections when it comes to money and possessions. And that’s why I think it’s so important, as you agreed, that we cannot skip over this step.

Paul: Right.

[11:16] Non-Negotiable No. 2

Paul: Alright, let’s go on to Non-Negotiable No. 2 which is “I must align my beliefs with God’s Word to produce behaviors that will make me truly rich.” Tell us more about that.

Chuck: Here’s where I started to get into the real meat of the matter. As you said, after my heart has changed how do I actually start to see financial problems solved as a result of that. The Bible makes it clear that we’re to experience a transformation of our heart, a transfer of our affections to loving the wrong things to loving the right things, and then having our mind renewed that we’re changed not by our learned behaviors but we’re changed by our faith. We’re changed by what we believe.

       Colossians says we can be taken captive by hollow, deceptive philosophies that depend on the tradition of man. And what I see is many people are captive to their philosophies of this world. They’ve been taken hostage by their wrong beliefs. So if you align your belief system with God’s Word, then your behaviors change as a natural outflow to produce the good fruit that the Lord expects of us.

       If you simply tell a person, “Go behave like a good Christian. Go behave like a good Christian should with your money. Go start giving. Go start doing all of the financial practices that will improve your finances.” I think some of that works. I think you can teach behavioralism. But until you get to the belief system it’s not going to be transformative. It’s not going to be consistent with what God expects of us.

       You know we must align our beliefs with God’s Word – not the wisdom of the world. And I found in my own testimony that I share in the book that I was really aligned with what the world’s philosophy said. I knew the Scripture but I never aligned what I believed about money with the Scripture. It was a foreign concept to me. And that was getting down to the root of the issue. Do I believe God’s Word and am I willing to forgo what the world has taught me and to believe what God said?

       I’ll give you a great example of that. My behavior did not change when it came to the area of giving until my beliefs changed. And once I began to believe that what the Lord said was true – that it is more blessed to give than to receive – I actually became a cheerful giver once I believed that. I could not become a cheerful giver until I really believed that was true. I may have changed my behaviors but it wouldn’t have brought joy to my life until my beliefs were changed and aligned with God’s Word.

Paul: Right. Yeah, I’ve talked several times on my blog about that. When I discuss giving, I tend to focus more on what I call New Covenant giving. Which is, like you said, cheerful, generous, and a joyful kind of giving and often sacrificial. But that – you can’t really teach that. You can’t give somebody a standard and say, “Give this much and you’ll be meeting your obligation.” That kind of giving (New Covenant giving) requires that we have God’s love living in us.

       And then once that’s true, once that’s happening – like you said, that’s aligning your beliefs with God’s Word – then the behaviors of generous giving are going to naturally flow out of that. It’ll become a part of your life because that’s the way you think all the time. You don’t have to push yourself to do it. It’s just a natural part of your character at that point because you’re gaining the character of Christ.

Chuck: You know, you’re so right, Paul. We are controlled by our belief system. If that weren’t true, then we couldn’t be taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies of this world. But what we believe controls us. If I believe I should put gasoline in my car to make it operate, I’ll do that. If someone told me, “Hey, you can fill it up with water and it’ll work just as well for a lot less.” and I believe that, I would act upon it. Now in that case it would have been a lie that I believed and I would be suffering the consequences of it.

       But what the Lord wants us to do is to act out of faith. And that faith comes from when we really believe Him. And that verse about that it’s better to give than to receive is so foreign to us. It was foreign to me. I wrestled with that one. I thought, “Is that true? Is that real?” You know the Lord is saying it’s better for you if you’re a giver instead of an acquirer or accumulator. And, Paul, I just didn’t really believe that.

       And that’s why it was non-negotiable in the journey that I experienced that I came to say, “Unless I really believe it, then my behaviors will never be consistent with what God expects.” I may be operating with religious piety, but inside I’m still eaten up with greed which needed to be dealt with.

Paul: Yeah, exactly. And I think that this is probably, of the three non-negotiables, the most challenging because it can take so long to get to the point where we can see where our beliefs are not lining up with God’s Word. Our hearts are so deceptive that we just assume that what we would naturally believe is true. And I think it’s very hard to start challenging that and even to be open – have our eyes open – to where we need to challenge ourselves on that.

       And I think that’s where prayer and studying God’s Word and just having that passion for pursuing God’s ways – His Kingdom and His righteousness first – is the only way that you’re going to open your eyes to have that revelation of God saying, “Look, Paul, or look, Chuck, here is an area where you still need to be transformed. You still have a belief that is from the world and not from God.”

Chuck: You know, Paul, the way you expressed that is the way a wise man learns. I know that you’re much younger than I am and you’ve exhibited that same kind of wisdom where you, through study and prayer, come to learn where you are not aligned with God’s Word. I was not that wise. I learned the way of the fool, which was through pain. I did it my way only to discover I was wrong.

       And that’s where the subtitle came from that I woke up one day in a new world and said, “Everything I believe about money is upside down. I am absolutely conformed to the image of the world while professing faith in Christ but I really don’t believe the Bible.” And everything I believed was wrong because (A) I didn’t know the Word and (B) I wasn’t willing to apply the Word to my life.

Paul: Right. I want to be respectful of your time. We have five minutes left so I’ll move on to the next one.

[19:05] Non-Negotiable No. 3

Paul: Non-Negotiable No. 3 is “I must act upon and apply spiritual truth in order to receive true riches.” Explain that one to us in more detail.

Chuck: Well, John 13:17 says, “Now that you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” And the Scripture is a book of faith. We experience the blessings of God when we act upon them. It’s a sequence where our hearts are transformed, our affections are transferred to loving the right things, our mind is renewed so that we know the truth.

       And then the third step is to put it into action – to step out by faith and say, “Lord, I not only believe it I’m willing to do it. If you say it’s better to give than to receive, I will become a giver. Because You’re a giver, I’ll be a giver as well and I will begin to do that. Because You say it’s wise for me to save, I will save. Because You say that it is wise to avoid debt and to get out of debt, I will do that because I want to be obedient to You out of my love for You and I will act upon it.”

       And when that happens it’s amazing how quickly everything in your life changes. Because I went from being completely opposite of what God wanted for my life to falling in love with the Lord, immersing myself in the Scripture, committing myself to put it into action and to live it out – not just to be a hearer of the Word but a doer – and everything in my life was transformed. Everything, including my finances. But the finances – that was not the original goal – the financial transformation.

       And that’s where I’m trying to shift our emphasis. The overarching idea is to shift our emphasis from looking at the Bible as a self-help book to get my finances in order to a book that is much more comprehensive to get my entire life ordered around God’s purposes. And if we can do that and our riches are determined by God’s Word and not by man’s philosophy, then I say we will become eternally rich, we’ll experience freedom from the financial pain we’re in now, and we will have this confidence that no matter what happens on Earth that we will have treasures in Heaven. So to me it’s the ultimate win-win-win if we will put these things into practice.

Paul: Right. And you give some great stories in this section of the book. You talk about Oswald Chambers, and William Borden, and Samuel – you’ll have to pronounce his last name for me I don’t know that I would…

Chuck: It’s pronounced Zwemer (zwhim-er, like swimmer but with a ‘z’). A very difficult name…

Paul: Yeah, so those are examples of men who really took God’s Word to heart and followed it at great cost to themselves. Just really good examples of what it means to apply that spiritual truth and receive true riches.

Chuck: Well, they inspired me and I do hope that they inspire readers, Paul. Thank you for referencing that. I have certain heroes in my life that I’ve never met, and I wanted to honor them and let people know those examples that have inspired me to radically conform my life to God’s Word versus the world. And I believe those are examples I want to be more like.

Paul: And just so readers know – er, listeners know – that this book isn’t all philosophical, there is a chapter in this section that goes over the practices of what you call the He Tree. We haven’t talked about the He Tree and the Me Tree much, but that’s a big theme in the book. But this is the financial practices of those that have been transformed and are applying those spiritual truths.

Chuck: Thank you for mentioning that because I do believe it’s a very important section where I give some practical tips and insights of how to apply the truth in this book in a way that will make a difference in your finances. I’ve had the opportunity to teach this a few times in different settings around the world, and I gave sort of a condensed version of what I think will make the most difference in people’s lives if they will actually apply those things.

Paul: Yeah, it is very condensed but I think – like we’ve been talking about the whole time – if you get that transformation in place, you’ll naturally start to follow those behaviors that come from the truth in Scripture.

[23:50] Main Lesson of the Book

Paul: Alright, Chuck – last question. I know I’m pushing the time here but this will be a quick one. What is the one lesson you hope readers take from The Root of Riches? What is it that you most want them to remember after finishing this book?

Chuck: That riches are determined by what we love not by what we own. If the readers will take that to heart and recognize that God’s Word shouts that from beginning to end, then I think that they will be blessed by that discovery. And if they will put that truth into action into their life, they will experience God’s riches beyond measure. I do hope and pray that’s what happens, Paul.

Paul: Alright, I like that. Riches are determined by what we love not by what we own. Right?

Chuck: Absolutely.

Paul: OK.

[24:39] Conclusion

Paul: Well, thank you, Chuck, for taking the time to talk with me today. And thank you all for listening. If you’d like to learn more about Chuck’s new book, The Root of Riches, you can find more at The book will be released in early July, but you can sign up now to pre-order a copy and save 20%. Thanks again, Chuck, and have a great day!

Chuck: Well, Paul, thank you for what you’re doing at Provident Planning and for your interest in this book. I pray God’s blessings on you and your work.

Paul: Thank you.

[Outro Music]

[25:20] End

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If Christian Personal Finance Can Work Without Jesus, It Isn’t Christian! Mon, 27 Jun 2011 10:00:15 +0000        About a month ago, Trent at The Simple Dollar posted an article titled Theming in Personal Finance: Do Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett Work Without Jesus?. Trent says he thinks it’s a good thing when people tie Christian beliefs with good personal finance advice in a way that reinforces both. He goes on to say that the personal finance information in many books that do this would work without the other material (the Christian parts).

       I agree with Trent. Good personal finance advice is good personal finance advice. It doesn’t matter if you dress it up with Bible verses or political views. Spending less than you earn is always going to be good advice. Saving for future needs is wise. Avoiding ridiculous consumer debt just makes good sense.

       But I find his initial question interesting. Do Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett (‘s advice) work without Jesus? In other words, can Christian personal finance advice work without Jesus? And my answer is that if it can, it isn’t Christian!

What Makes Christian Personal Finance Christian?

       Here’s what I mean. If all the advice that any “Christian” finance guru gives can work without Jesus, then the advice itself is not Christian. If Christian personal finance blogs are just giving the same advice that all other personal finance blogs give, then there’s nothing uniquely Christian about them.

       Now I’m not saying that Christian personal finance advice should not include any of the same material as “regular” personal finance advice. As I said before, good personal finance advice is good personal finance advice. It doesn’t really matter where it comes from.

       But for it to be Christian personal finance advice, it needs to be consistent with the message of Christ.

Twisting Scripture

       On Trent’s post, I left a comment saying, “Perhaps the reason ‘Christian’ personal finance can work without Jesus is because we’ve twisted the message He brought to fit our society’s desires.” You see, if Christian personal finance advice just takes regular personal finance advice and dresses it up with a few carefully chosen Bible verses, then it’s just twisting Scripture to fit in with the ideals that our society already accepts.

       But if you start with the message that Jesus brought and that Scripture as a whole teaches, then you’re not going to come up with advice that fits in with society’s standard way of doing things. Too often, Christian personal finance does it the other way around. We start with the world’s ways and fit Jesus into it. There’s nothing Christian about that. In fact, that’s just telling people what they want to hear.

       If “Christian” personal finance advice revolves around budgeting, getting out of debt, saving and investing, and growing your income just so you can reach your goals and your dreams, then it’s no different from the regular personal finance advice. The focus is all about you – which is what we want to hear.

       But Jesus didn’t come with a message all about you. He brought us a message that was all about God and others. He didn’t come to tell us how to get rich and retire early. In fact, He had some strong warnings for the rich and a parable about a man who was all too happy with his ability to retire early. Rather, He taught about how we should serve others and how we should give God our primary focus. He told us that if we want to serve money we won’t be able to serve God.

       So if you’re reading a “Christian” personal finance book or website and there’s not something in it that’s really challenging how you think about money, it might be good to step back and ask yourself if it’s really giving you Christian advice or just plain advice.

The Emphasis Here at Provident Planning

       I’m trying to avoid that here on Provident Planning. When I did my initial study of personal finance in the Bible, I was very challenged by what I read. Rather than emphasizing material comfort and luxury, God emphasizes contentment. Rather than glorifying early retirement and amassing wealth for yourself, He holds up generosity as a greater goal.

       It’s not always easy to keep the Christian aspect of personal finance in the forefront. But I hope you’ve realized from what I’ve written that the kind of approach to finances that I’m encouraging can’t work without Jesus.

       When I talk about contentment, I’m talking about contentment in Christ. I’m talking about contentment that is steadfast through all trials and all circumstances. I’m talking about a kind of contentment that realizes nothing in this world compares to the glorious riches we have in Christ. I’m talking about a contentment that you can’t explain or experience without Jesus.

       And when I talk about generosity, I’m not talking giving just to meet your obligation to God so you can do what you want with the rest. I’m talking about generosity as the ultimate goal of your personal finances. I’m talking about generosity that sacrifices to meet the desperate needs of others. I’m talking about a generosity that you can’t explain or experience without Jesus.

One Voice Among Many

       I’m not the only one trying to emphasize Christian personal finance that’s true to Christ’s message.

       I’ve had great conversations with my friend Kevin Tupper at Christian Simplicity (currently under construction) about “living a life that’s inwardly rich toward God and outwardly rich toward our neighbors” and the implications that has for our finances.

       My friend Craig Ford at Money Help for Christians just announced that he’s going to spend more time focusing on spiritual issues of money and the problem of materialism in American churches.

       And I’ve just finished reading Chuck Bentley’s The Root of Riches and will be posting an interview with him next week. Chuck’s book is focused on how we will never be truly rich unless we’re rooted in Christ. All the right behaviors in the world aren’t going to help us if we still hold on to the wrong beliefs.

       These are just some of the people who are passionately pursuing a kind of Christian personal finance that absolutely cannot work without Jesus. And I’m glad to be working alongside them as I learn and experience a transformation of my heart that only comes from God. I pray you’ll join us as we seek God’s will for our personal finances rather than trying to find ways to justify our own will for our money.

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Advent Conspiracy: Love All Tue, 21 Dec 2010 11:00:06 +0000        So far, I have already discussed the first three concepts behind Advent ConspiracyWorship Fully, Spend Less, and Give More. Today, we’re going to look at the fourth and final concept – Love All. Here’s the Advent Conspiracy video in case you missed it:

Love All

       All of the concepts we’ve been discussing lead up to this final goal – Love All. When you choose to Worship Fully, Spend Less, and Give More, you enable yourself to Love All.

       God loved the world and gave His only Son so that anyone who believes in Him will not die but will have eternal life. Jesus showed love while He was on the earth – he cared for the poor, healed the sick, reached out to the forgotten, and showed mercy on the sinner. And then He willingly gave up His life so that we all would have the chance to choose Him over the world – to choose eternal life with God.

       When we choose to make Christmas about celebrating Christ and the love God has shown to us by sending His only Son, we give ourselves the opportunity to love like He did. Because we have chosen to Spend Less, we can join Jesus in Loving All people by giving resources to those who need help the most. We also reflect God’s love at Christmas by emphasizing relationships and presence instead of stuff and presents when we Give More.

       Your choice to buy just one less gift this year can also be a choice to show more love to someone in need. Take the money you saved from not buying that one gift and give it away to the poor. If we all buy one less gift, we can give one unbelievable present in the name of Jesus Christ.

       Advent Conspiracy is not trying to raise money for any project of their own. No money goes through them. They have partnered with Living Water International to dig wells for those who don’t have access to clean water, but you are free to give to whatever need the Spirit leads you. If you have a favorite charity, then give that extra money to them.

       This simple act of buying one less gift and giving that money to someone in need can change the world. And it just starts here. As you begin to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All every day of your life, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of Christ. Your life will be a shining example of the power of God to change hearts, and you’ll change lives with small, simple choices. Join the conspiracy and enter the Story.