Archives For Stewardship

       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 http://www.crown.org/rootofriches 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.

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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.

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       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.

Advent Conspiracy: Love All

Corey —  December 21, 2010

       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.

Advent Conspiracy: Give More

Corey —  December 14, 2010

       So far, I have discussed the first two concepts behind Advent ConspiracyWorship Fully and Spend Less. Today, we’re going to look at the third concept – Give More. Here’s the Advent Conspiracy video in case you missed it:

Give More

       When you choose to Spend Less, the idea isn’t that you don’t give anything at all. The goal is for you to Give More. Instead of buying something that doesn’t really let someone know you care about them, you give them something more – more valuable and more meaningful – like your time.

       Christmas should be a time to love our family, friends, and even our enemies in the most memorable ways possible. But what do you remember most from Christmas as a kid? Was it the presents? Or was it the time spent making memories with your family and friends?

       The best memories we have of Christmas are the times spent deepening our relationships with each other. So after you decide to Spend Less, choose to Give More by giving your time.

       Give your time by making a special gift that will be cherished for years to come. Or give your time by writing a letter of appreciation, encouragement, or just to keep in touch. You can give time by taking your kids sledding or going ice skating with your friends. Or take time to bake some really good cookies.

       When you Give More of your time, you’re making your love visible to others. You’re creating memories that both of you will fondly remember many years down the road. You’re choosing to make Christmas less about buying gifts and more about giving love.

       That’s what God did when He sent His Son to us. He was giving His love to us because He wanted a relationship with us. And that’s why we are drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. God gave us the Greatest Gift not by going to the mall and buying lots of Stuff but by giving us a Way to have a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Him.

       So follow God’s example this Christmas season and Give More. Give presence!

Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less

Corey —  December 7, 2010

       Last week, I discussed the first concept behind the idea of Advent ConspiracyWorship Fully. Today, we’re going to look at the second concept – Spend Less. Here’s the Advent Conspiracy video in case you missed it:

Spend Less

       Once we begin to Worship Fully and make Jesus the most important part of the Christmas season, we’re free to Spend Less. Spending Less doesn’t mean you won’t buy any gifts this Christmas. You may eventually come to the point where you choose to no longer buy any gifts, but that’s not the idea behind Advent Conspiracy.

       Americans spend an average of $450 billion ($450,000,000,000) a year on Christmas. How much of that goes to gifts that no one really wanted in the first place? How many times have you bought a gift simply out of obligation? How many times have you received a gift out of that same obligation? Doesn’t really add much meaning to your Christmas, does it?

       Advent Conspiracy is asking people to consider buying just one less gift this year. Instead of buying that gift, make something or give your time instead. It sounds very insignificant, but the total effect is obvious if you think about what it would look like for everyone to choose to give presence instead of presents. If you need some ideas for gifts that don’t cost a lot of money, check out these resources:

       Spending Less lets you focus on Jesus and finding special ways to tell others you care about them rather than just buying stuff. Giving presence or home-made gifts conveys more meaning and love to others than store-bought gifts or gift cards. And it frees you up to Give More and Love All – the last two concepts behind Advent Conspiracy.

       So make the choice to Worship Fully this Christmas. Honor God – not Macy’s or Best Buy or Wal-mart. Then find ways you can Spend Less and do something special for at least one person.

       Make sure you’re here next Tuesday for the third concept behind Advent Conspiracy – Give More. Sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you don’t want to miss it!

Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully

Corey —  November 30, 2010

       This was a series I ran last year before Christmas. I’m running it again because I think the lessons are a valuable reminder each year. Let me know what you think!

       On Black Friday, I highlighted this video from Advent Conspiracy:

       Over the next four Tuesdays (including today), I’m going to discuss the concepts behind the idea that Christmas can still change the world if we choose to give presence. The four concepts are:

  1. Worship Fully
  2.        

  3. Spend Less
  4.        

  5. Give More
  6.        

  7. Love All

Worship Fully

       It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus.

       A meaningful Christmas is not about gifts, trees, Santa Claus, lights, or fruitcakes (thankfully).

       No, a meaningful Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s about rejoicing in the fact that God loves us so much and so deeply desires to have a relationship with us that He sent His only Son to die for our sins so we can be reconciled to Him and have eternal life.

       If we want a meaningful Christmas – if we want to see Christmas still changing the world – we must begin by worshiping fully. We must start by focusing on Who, what, and why we’re celebrating. We have to choose to make the Christmas season all about Christ and not consumerism.

       When we begin to worship Jesus fully we’ll realize how wonderful and meaningful Christmas can really be. We’ll lay down our burdens and reject the worldly idea of buy, buy, buy – and instead we will rejoice in God and His Son. We’ll celebrate His Love and focus on sharing His Love with others.

       Worshiping Fully is essential if we’re going to understand and use the remaining three concepts of Spending Less, Giving More, and Loving All. Until you stop letting the world and Satan dictate what you should be doing during the Christmas season, you will never have a meaningful Christmas.

       We must choose to find contentment in worshiping Christ instead of things. You must make this choice if you want to honor God during the Christmas season!

       So take some time to remember what Christmas is all about. Stop and worship the Lord. Give thanks to Him for His most precious Gift – the unspeakable riches we have in Christ. Worship Him Fully and make this the most memorable and meaningful Christmas you’ve ever had!

Make Christmas Meaningful

Corey —  November 26, 2010

       What if Christmas meant more than shopping in packed malls?

       What if you spent more time with your family than you spent trying to pick out gifts?

       What if you could wake up on December 26th with no debts from the day before?

       What if you could throw out all the stress, traffic, and shopping and just focus on worshiping Jesus, giving to the needy, and loving all people?

       What if we gave up Consumermas and went back to Christmas?

       The folks at Advent Conspiracy have a great little video (2 minutes and 39 seconds) about a meaningful Christmas.

       And here’s the promo video from 2009:



       So why not make Christmas meaningful again? Why not do it this year? If you want to change how you celebrate Christmas, here are some good resources:

       How will you make Christmas meaningful this year? Let me know in the comments!