As a financial planner, my first paying client was a man who said his goal for the rest of his life was to retire as soon as possible in order to work full-time on the mission field. In addition, he wanted to maintain his present lifestyle and continue to give at the 15 percent level as he was then doing. He was a fifty-two-year-old physician with two children who were both grown and educated. He had a net worth of around $350,000, and his income was approximately $85,000 per year. I asked him and his wife to share with me any dreams they might have for their lives. They both agreed that one of their desires was to give $1,000,000 to the Lord’s work before they died. I thought to myself that this was obviously impossible with their income and net worth.
However, about sixty days later, after their financial plan was prepared, I called him and said, “Doc, I hope you’re sitting down, because I have some shocking news for you. First of all, how would you like to retire in five years and have approximately $1,000,000 in investments at that time?” He thought that sounded like a great idea, and then I told him that, according to our projections, it was also possible for them to give away $1,000,000 during that same five-year time period. To say the least, he was shocked and frankly disbelieving.
I met with him and his wife to go over their plan and showed them that they, in fact, had a much higher net worth than they originally thought because of the escalation in value of some of the real estate they owned. By taking a long-range perspective on their planning, it was possible for them to begin giving away some of their assets while they were, at the same time, replacing them out of their current cash flow. Finally, I told them that all of this was possible for two reasons: first of all, because of their desire to give, and second, because they had lived and were continuing to live a non-consumptive lifestyle.
“Giving is never a cause of spiritual growth—it is rather a function of spiritual growth.”
It has now been many years since we prepared their plan. Even though it did not work out exactly as projected, they have been fairly well able to accomplish the objectives they originally gave me . . . because God always has creative alternatives.
I have been able to share the same principles that I learned from this couple with others, and we have seen many clients make a commitment to give substantial sums of money. From my observations I think there are three reasons why Christians who desire to give, don’t give more.
First, they don’t know that they can give and still meet the other goals and objectives they have. They have never really analyzed their financial resources to know what obligations and opportunities they have. It’s very difficult to be a good steward when you don’t know what you have.
Second, they don’t know how to give. They are not aware of all the various ways to give. In the doctor’s case mentioned above, one of the techniques that we used was to give away property that had appreciated in value, thereby avoiding the capital gains tax on it. Furthermore, he still got a deduction for the full fair market value of the property. Through the use of this technique, he was able to reduce his taxes to a very low amount, which freed up cash to be invested in replacement of the property that had been given. It still cost him to do the giving, but it cost him less to give this way than if he had given cash.
The third and most important reason that people don’t give is that they don’t plan to give. We default to living a life of being a responder rather than a planner. It has been my experience that, with planning, giving for a family goes up, on average, about five times above what they were giving prior to doing planning. A very well-known and wealthy American told me one time, “Any man, and especially a businessman, has more uses for money than the money available. Therefore, unless he plans to give, he never will give.” A person whose lifestyle is consumptive can never accumulate enough to be able to give substantial amounts of money away. Giving is never a cause of spiritual growth—it is rather a function of spiritual growth. That being said, giving has a way of transforming our hearts on a different level as giving breaks the power of money in our lives.
by Ron Blue with Michael Blue
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