Biggest Changes in The Christian Stewardship Space
One of the most dramatic impacts is the digital age we’re in now. I’ve experienced that in talking to parents about training their children. I trained my children on an envelope system where we use cash, but nobody uses cash now. So how do you teach somebody that there is an end to resources? The other challenge is that, as Christians, we’ve become more secular in our approach. Part of that is because the run-up in personal wealth has been staggering in the last thirty years.
Trillions of dollars will go from the boomers to the next generation, but that next generation is now in their fifties. So it really will end up in the third or fourth generation. Life expectancies have extended, and the wealth has been way more than anticipated. There’s more being passed down to a more secular group of believers. This idea of relativism is staggering, as we see in our grandkids. Morality has decreased. People don’t consider materialism a problem. We don’t talk about greed much at all.
Ron Blue Explains The Difference Between Physical and Digital Spending
I carry a lot of twenty dollar bills in my billfold and make it a practice to try to give away those twenties. I’ve been on ten airplanes in the last ten days. So I’ve been through a lot of airports. And if you go into an airport, there are always people who clean the bathrooms. And they’re invisible unless you look for them. I’d look for those people, give them at least a twenty-dollar bill, and just say, ‘Thank you for what you do.’ There’s something very tangible about that.
Judy and I stopped giving online. By January 1st, I knew what my income would likely be for the year. All I had to do was to put it into the online system and tell it to take out 1/52 of this amount every week. So my tithing was done on January 2nd for the year. When you do it that way, there is no real sense of tithing; It is just another mechanical thing.
I have a little report that pops up for me on Sunday morning, breaking down this week’s tithes. It shows my income this week and where it came from. I write it down on a three-by-five card, total it up, and write a check for 10%, but I won’t sign it. I take the card and check down to breakfast, and Judy signs the check. It’s changed our whole sense of tithing because we realized the incredible blessing that God poured down on us.
Plus, it allows us to communicate better about money. So now we’re talking about some things that we never had an occasion to talk about before. Judy signs a check, and she’s the one who puts it on the plate.
Can We Be Generous in The Digital Age?
For sure, we can. This has been on my heart and mind for several weeks. I woke up during the middle of the night, and for whatever reason, the word generosity popped into my mind. And I began thinking about generosity and how we got it wrong. To me, generosity has always been symptomatic of transformation. When people are transformed in their hearts, they will naturally give. And the more they get to know our Lord, the more they want to give and participate in their kingdom work.
We’ve missed the mark on generosity if we’re looking at people as being generous instead of God being the One that’s generous. He gives me the ability to give, but I’m not generous; I’m obedient. We’ve put stewardship and generosity together, but the reality is that stewardship is much broader than generosity. Stewardship is life-changing because we’re stewards of everything. If we can get across to people the concept and reality of stewardship, then generosity will occur. We don’t have to focus on generosity; we need to focus on discipleship.
Generosity Trends Among Different Generations
I had a father ask me how to teach his children to manage money. Off the top of my head, I said, ‘I can tell you this: More is caught than taught.’ Secondly, you learn to manage money by managing money. You can’t just hear because you need to experience making mistakes. And he said, ‘After you said that, I realized my kids have never seen me give a nickel. So where are they going to catch it?’ How do we teach the next generation good money management principles, which are a part of stewardship? My model is youth ministry because youth ministry is just like financial ministry. Back in the sixties, it was all para Church driven. Youth ministry wasn’t even in the churches.
Two guys started to put youth ministry into the churches, and they built a well-known nonprofit called Youth Specialties. It took them ten years to get it going, but they are the go-to source for youth ministry. There is no go-to source for financial ministry. You’ve got people like Dave Ramsey that touch a lot of people, and some other ministries are very good bible studies on money, but they don’t necessarily translate to managing money. God gave me the experience of managing money and making those financial decisions, how they’re made, and their biblical basis over the years.
Ron Blue Explains The Paradox of Prosperity
I’ve seen double-digit inflation, stock market crashes, housing crashes, 14% interest rates on home mortgages, wars, and rumors of wars. So if you don’t have the eternal perspective, you’ll never get your thinking right around that issue. Economic uncertainty is absolutely certain. I don’t know what the bad news will be tonight when I listen to the news, but there will be bad news. Additionally, there is the paradox of prosperity. The more you have, the more choices you have. And the more choices you have, the less freedom you have because you’re always managing.
Now I’m not saying poverty is godly. But I am saying that more is never the answer to financial contentment and security. The Bible says to be content with what you have, not what you don’t have or would like to have. I can feel contentment, but I cannot feel financial independence. So I could tell you that you’re financially independent, but it will not engender any feelings. But when you’re content, you can look at what you have and say, ‘That’s nice. Thank you, Lord.’
True Wisdom in Your Finances
One of the best decisions that I made in building a financial planning business was requiring every financial planner to have a financial planner. It’s not that I don’t know the money and money management, but I can’t hold myself accountable. We developed a tool called the 4H tool. It’s a framework for thinking about money that’s holistic in its approach. Everything on there is biblical and has references to go with it.
I believe pastors know more about money than 80% of the wealth advisors in this country, but they don’t know what they know. So they’re afraid to talk about money for a couple of reasons. First, they’re afraid of being misperceived as being greedy. Second, they’re afraid they will make a mistake with that millionaire sitting there right in front of them and look like a fool. And third, they may not be managing their own money very well.
Ron Blue’s Advice to Those Approaching Retirement
The rules don’t change when you retire. There are only a few habits you have to master. We call it live, give, owe, and grow. I spend money to live, living within my income. I spend money to give because giving breaks the power of money. That’s why God wants us to give. I spend money on what I owe, which is debt and taxes. And I save money to grow. So you continue those habits in retirement, and there are no other habits.
Proper Stewardship of Inheritance
If you love your children equally, you’ll treat them uniquely. This is the way God deals with us. The American way is to divide it equally by the number of kids you have. Your kids aren’t all equal; Some have different needs. Circumstances are different, and they change over time. It took Judy and me two years of asking the kids and ourselves three questions. What’s the worst thing that can happen if we give X child X amount of dollars? How serious is that? How likely is it to happen?
Our oldest child is 56, and our youngest is 45. The reality is that, for the most part, they don’t need any more money. They’ve sent their kids to college, bought the home they want, and established their lifestyle. So if we gave them more money, it would likely end up with the 3rd and 4th generations. So, Judy and I decided to give away as much as possible because our kids don’t need the money. We want the joy of giving it now. So the most important point is things don’t change when you retire.
About Ron Blue
Ron Blue, widely considered to be the father of biblically based financial advice, is the Founder and CEO of the Ron Blue Institute for Financial Planning (RBI) headquartered at Indiana Wesleyan University. Ron holds a BS and an MBA from Indiana University.
He was awarded the Honorary Doctorate at Indiana Wesleyan University. In 1979 he founded Ronald Blue & Company – now Ronald Blue Trust, the largest Christian financial planning firm in the United States. In 1982 Ron co-founded the National Christian Foundation (NCF) with Larry Burkett and Terry Parker which since its inception has made more than $15 billion grants. Ron retired from Ronald Blue & Company in 2003 to lead Kingdom Advisors, an international effort to equip and motivate Christian financial professionals to serve the body of Christ by implementing biblical wisdom in their lives and practices, resulting in financial freedom and increased giving by thousands of dollars by thousands of Christians around the world.
Ron is the author of more than twenty books on personal finance from a Biblical perspective, including the best-seller, Master Your Money, first published in 1986 andrevised with his son Michael in 2016, Your Money After the Big 5-0, co-authored with Larry Burkett, Splitting Heirs, and Surviving Financial Meltdown. He has authored two textbooks since founding RBI. He is featured in the popular, six-part Master Your Money video series, produced by Walk Thru the Bible Ministries and used in over 5,500 churches across the country. In 2016, Ron developed the God Owns It All: Finding Contentment and Confidence in Your Finances with Michael Blue which is being taught in churches and faith-based study groups across the country.
Ron has taught Biblically based leadership and management seminars in the United States and Africa. He has also held a God given passion to help Christian’s plan and manage their finances to be able to maximize their giving to Kingdom purposes. Ron and his wife Judy, recently moved back to Bloomington, Indiana. They have five children, thirteen grandchildren and three great grandsons.
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