“I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones. There I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry'” (Luke 12:18-19).
It happens more frequently than you might think.
A Christian brother or sister comes to a point in life when their bank account is fuller than it has ever been. Their investments have paid off beyond anything they ever expected. Someone in the family died and left their estate to them. Their stocks and bonds flourished in this booming economy. A business they owned has been sold and now they have all this money.
They are wealthy by anyone’s definition.
At this point they ask themselves–and the Lord, too, we trust–“What do I do now?”
Four or five years back, an old gentleman with that very problem decided to pay off the indebtedness of our Global Maritime Ministries in New Orleans. The fascinating thing to me was that he knew no one at GMM personally, but only that it had been begun by a Navy veteran of WW2. The man himself had been in the Navy during that great period, and he had a place in his heart for this ministry.
Some years earlier, a woman I once pastored sent my church a check for a nice sized hunk of money to be used “any way the pastor decides.” Wow, did I have fun with that. Since our church was struggling to pay off a mortgage and the ministerial staffs were hurting for money for their programs, we put some in each of their accounts and then funded a radio program which the pastor–that would be me–had been wanting to start. The program reached a lot of people and lasted for seven years, until I left the pastorate for another position.
So I know it happens.
How much is a lot? How much money does one need to be called rich?
I’ll not be answering that. There are ten thousand ways of defining rich, and each of us will have our own favorite. I like the one that says “If you can go to the grocery store and buy everything you need and pay for it without a thought as to whether your bank account will cover it, you’re rich.”
But we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about big time money. Whatever that is.
Got time for a story or two?
The church member invited me to meet him for coffee at the local restaurant in the middle of the afternoon. He had something important to share.
As a real estate developer, he was deeply involved in a project in a resort area. “It looks like it’s going to pay off in a huge way, Joe,” he said. And when it did, he would be giving a tithe of the full amount to the church for whatever I felt we needed to be doing. “I wanted you to be thinking about what you would do with maybe a half million dollars.”
That was a few years back when that was about our church’s annual budget.
We talked and dreamed, and I prayed for him and with him.
Nothing ever happened.
Then one day, some years later, he told me what had happened.
“I got greedy,” he said. “I got to thinking this money is good, but it could be so much more. Why, if I turned around and invested this money in the next project, we could give the church ten times that amount.”
This was just before the economy in that area went bust. Developers were over-building and suddenly the market was flooded with expensive condos available for a song.
He lost it all.
Questions to ask and concerns to raise when trying to decide….
–What would God have me to do? That’s always the first and foremost question to ask when doing anything.
–What ministries has He really laid on my heart? Who do I know who is working faithfully for the Lord and could use some financial encouragement?
–Do I need to seek outside advice? (Ask the Lord. Be careful of seeking the counsel of someone who would like some of your money for themselves, or has a strategy for investing your money to make more. Con men abound, even in churches.)
–Do I need to get counsel from my adult children? Or at least make them aware? (Every situation is different, and no advice fits every situation.)
–Leaving something for the children is good. Leaving them a fortune is bad.
–Do your giving while you’re living so you’re knowing where it’s going, someone has said. It makes sense.
–Perhaps you would wish to begin small, and see how that goes before making a larger gift. Our Lord said the person faithful in small things can also be trusted with larger, more important things. (Luke 16:10).
–And one more thing, but a very important one….
If you are Southern Baptist, each state convention has a “Baptist Foundation” where wise counselors advise you on investments and gifts. They have no ulterior motives, they will not tell you what to do, and they can be trusted. Ask your pastor how to contact them, or find them online. (Usually, they are a part of your state denominational office and can be found through them.)
At the end of the day, it all goes back….
When Charles won a competition with his company, the prize was a one-week vacation, all expenses paid. The kicker was he was given a certain amount of money–I think it was $4,000–and told he could go anywhere he chose, spend it anyway he liked, but with one stipulation: When he returned, whatever was left of the money would have to be turned in.
I bumped into Charles and his wife Shirley at a restaurant near Hammond, Louisiana. I had been somewhere to preach or something and was stopping there for a bite of dinner. They were just leaving, heading home after a week in Gatlinburg. They bought my dinner. “How about something else,” Charles said, pointing at items the restaurant had for sale. “Can I buy you that? How about this?”
When I laughed at his eagerness to buy me a present, he explained that if he didn’t spend the money now, it would go back to the company. And he was determined to use it up!
Use it up. After all what’s left over at the end of the day stays behind, while you go on.
No one will build a monument to us for making a huge amount of money. But we can leave a great legacy in the lives of people if we use the money to touch the world for Christ.