How Much is Too Much?

One of the hardest questions to answer for those who desire to create wealth is, “How much is too much?” If one is creating wealth to produce for the kingdom, how many of the seeds that you generate should you keep and how many should you give away? While this is a personal question that we all need to answer, I can give you some questions and insights that will help guide your decision.

What is the vision God has given you?

If you don’t have a family or personal vision, you will more easily struggle with restraint. If you don’t have a target to shoot for, any target will do. Filter each large purchase through the question, “Will this purchase bring you closer to vision fulfilment or further away? Are you making the correct trade-offs to achieve your vision?

Have you dealt with the hedonic treadmill?

The hedonic treadmill is a principle that states, once your basic needs are met, people quickly and easily take what they have for granted and compare what they possess to each other. People then begin to calculate their happiness as a function of relative income instead of absolute income. We call this keeping up with the Jones’.

An article in the Atlantic pointed out that the more people make the less they give as a percentage of their overall wealth. Ken Stern writes, “One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income.”[1]

Further research pointed to the principle of proximity. The wealthy have the means to isolate themselves from those in need. While those in the middle and lower classes see needs on a regular basis. If you want to avoid the hedonic treadmill, you must not isolate yourself from the needs in our world. Make a point to create systems that keep your favorite charities and opportunities in front of you.

Are you tithing?

The tithe is a great starting point to help you maintain consistency in your giving. It’s so easy to give less as you make more. We can have a running catalog of things we want as our income increases. But if you make a habit of tithing, you create a great foundation of obedience to build your generosity upon.

A friend of mine was making around $800 per paycheck. He would faithfully tithe his $80. He started his own business and began making much more money. His tithe checks grew correspondingly. He struggled to tithe each week as he noticed, “That’s a lot of money!” One day he felt a gentle nudge in his heart that said, “Would you like to go back to tithing $80?” He gladly wrote the check!

Keep eternity in mind.

Remember, we will all give an account to how we stewarded our money and possessions. Jesus reminded us to store our treasure in heaven and to whom much is given, much is required. If you keep forever in front of you, this perspective will help guide your spending and giving decisions.

Set an income level that you will live on.

Above that, give it away. How much is enough for you? Without this line, it’s easy to have spending creep. How much is enough? Just a little more. You can also set a percentage giving goal. I would like to get to the place where our family gives away 50% of what we bring in. Rick Warren, during an interview with Larry King, was asked about his giving patterns. Mr. Warren had reached a place where he was giving 90% away and living on 10%. He earned most of this from the proceeds of his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. Larry King asked, “Is it true you live on 10% of your income? How can you do that?” “It was a good book!” Rick replied!

Working through these questions and creating your spending boundaries before your next raise will prepare you for that moment and guard you against the hedonic treadmill and spending creep!

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Are You Winning? Practical Advice for Winning at Life

David was looking to me for guidance regarding direction for his life. He had struggled with what path to take for career and personal success. We talked about time management, personal discipline and learning from other successful people. Finally, I just asked, “Why does God have you on the planet? I continued, “You are here at God’s behest, for his purposes, what are those?” David, paused and said, “I’m not so sure of that.” “I see people prospering and successful that don’t know God.”

When pursuing success, (not a bad goal in and of itself) one must first define your win. What is success? Perhaps a bigger question is who determines success? Is it us? When learning to play a game one must first decide how the score is kept.

David is living his life like so many others. They fail to consider how the ultimate scorekeeper keeps life’s scores. God keeps the time and the score. He is the final judge and rewarder. He hands out the trophies. Many wealthy people look at their bank accounts as scorecards. Yet God keeps score differently, and it’s his card that matters.

He looked at a widow’s pennies and proclaimed them more than the big dollars that were put in the offering. He told a man that life doesn’t consist of material possessions. Jesus counseled people to store their treasure in heaven.

Far too many people are living like they are captain of their destiny, but they exist because God wants them here. God created you for him. If you gained the whole world and lost your soul, you made a bad trade. You may have “won” for eighty years but you lost for eighty billion.

Three Questions

I coach people to ask three questions for clues to why they exist. 1. Where do they feel God’s pleasure? In what activities do you experience endurance with joy? A friend of mine loves tax law. If you ask him a question about taxes he lights up like a Christmas tree and could go on for hours. He feels God’s pleasure when he surrounds himself with the IRS’s legal code. This is a clue. God wired us with certain gifts and passions.

Question 2: Where do you feel God’s partnership? The Holy Spirit is a helper. God anoints us to use our gifts for his glory. The first mention of anointing wasn’t for a preacher but artists and carpenters.

Then Moses told the people of Israel, “The Lord has specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.  The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts.  He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze.  He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft.  And the Lord has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach their skills to others.  The Lord has given them special skills as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple, and scarlet thread on fine linen cloth, and weavers. They excel as craftsmen and as designers. (Exodus 35:30-35)

Where do you find yourself excelling beyond your peers?

Discipline and Anointing

God may have given you a gift and He may have anointed you to accomplish great things, but anointing does not replace discipline, it only comes along side of it. The Holy Spirit is a helper, you are the doer.  It is the process that brings the prize. The road to greatness is paved with the asphalt of the ordinary. Your capacity for greatness will be measured by your ability to handle repetition while maintaining mental focus. Talent is no substitute for consistency.

God may have given you a gift and He may have anointed you to accomplish great things, but anointing does not replace discipline, it only comes along side of it. The Holy Spirit is a helper, you are the doer.

Johann Sebastian Bach was arguably the greatest worship leader to ever live. He worked tirelessly and demanded equal commitment from those he worked with. Few people matched his industry. At the end of his career, his works filled sixty huge volumes.  When asked the secret of his genius, he answered simply, “I was made to work; if you are equally industrious you will be equally successful.”

What About God’s Dreams?

Question 3: Where do you feel God’s passion? God’s heart beats for three things, the lost to hear the gospel, the Christians to grow to maturity and his kingdom to show up on earth as it is in heaven. These are God’s dreams. We are here to make God’s dreams come true. Don’t expect his guidance for your dreams if they have nothing to do with his dreams.

If you find yourself using your gifts and talents for his glory, you cannot lose in life, no matter how the culture keeps score, God keeps the one that matters.

For more on finding your place in God’s story see the Christian’s Guide to Wealth Creation where we devote multiple lessons to personal success in a way that will matter forever!



Playing the God “Equality” Card

Playing the God card.

All through the Scriptures, God places special value in helping the poor. Jesus came to preach good news to the poor. When we give to the poor we are “lending to the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:17) James decries those who have defrauded the workers by keeping back their wages. (James 5:4)

When discussing income inequality, people are fond of playing the God card. “God wants us all equal,” they would shout!  “God hates inequality.” the Reverend Jim Wallace proclaimed on the floor of the Senate after a minimum wage vote.

But does God hate inequality? Or are there other issues of greater importance? Often Christians will use Acts 4:32 to substantiate a belief in a command economy (socialist/communist).  Speaking of the early church It says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” But does this verse really point to the church favoring communism? After all, they had all things in common.

They say never to read a single Bible verse but to always read the context. The next verses give us the rest of the story. “There were no needy ones among them, because those who owned lands or houses would sell their property, bring the proceeds from the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet for distribution to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 4:34-35)

These passages do not support a command economy. They point to a group of people living in relationship to one another under a shared vision. No government official took their property and redistributed it. The individuals owned property, the means of producing wealth, and they willingly shared it. What these passages really affirm is wealth creation, community, and generosity as a means for helping others.

Even the ten commandments affirm private property rights. “Do not steal” and “Do not covet,” both assume a right to private property, not property collectively owned by the state.

Other passages point to the fact that God really doesn’t demand economic equality but rather he rewards those who make the most of what they are given. He prizes uniqueness over sameness. The parable of the talents and the minas (Matthew 25, Luke 19) describe the master giving unequal resources and rewarding different levels of productivity.  When he disciplined the lazy workers, he took away their resources and gave it to the productive ones.

Matthew 20 describes the master recruiting different workers at different times of the day. Those who worked part of the day received the same as those who worked a full day. Naturally those who worked the full day spoke up about this “injustice.” The master called them on their envy and pointed out that he paid them what they had agreed to and he had a right to do with his money what he wanted.

While these parables aren’t necessarily trying to teach economics, we can, however, learn from secondary principles regarding our issue of income inequality. The master represents God, and God doesn’t seem too concerned about it.

Jay Richards, in his book, Money, Greed and God, writes, “Instead of being pleased for receiving what they were promised, the early risers envy the others for what they have received. We all tend to do that—to link inequality of outcome or opportunity with injustice. But they are not the same thing.”[1]

What can we take away from what the Scriptures say? First, the Bible doesn’t endorse socialistic, command economies. It endorses wealth creation, community, and generosity for helping others. Second, God grades on both a straight scale and a curve. In other words, we all share equal value and equal indebtedness to a holy, infinite God. Jesus came to establish our value and pay our debt of sin through his redemptive acts on the cross and the empty tomb. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

But with regards to productivity, God didn’t give us equal talent or opportunity. He grades us on what we have and what we can do with it for his glory. To whom much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48) For God, it seems, inequality isn’t the problem, injustice, poor stewardship, and absolute poverty are. We should focus on those issues and not chase illusory goals of economic equality.

[1] Jay Richards, Money, Greed and God, 107

You Mad, Bro? The Key to Dealing with Anger

 I’ve recently run across more and more angry people. People that on the outside you wouldn’t think struggle with it. Our society is trying deal with an increasing level of domestic violence.  I have a history of anger that kind of ambushed me. There were times when I would be going along just fine and then BAM! Someone would do or say something that would trigger an angry outburst.  After I settled down I asked myself, “Where did that come from?” Years later, I’ve learned where it came from and how to deal with it so it doesn’t control my life and motivate me to do things I will regret later. Here’s what I’ve learned.

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A Procrastinators Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals in 2015

I was a born procrastinator.  I am not wired as an “alpha type A go get ‘em type.”  In school, my grades reflected my laziness.  I have been on academic probation at two universities.  However, when I began walking with God, He gave me direction and purpose.  This translated into actions my day to day life.

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The Hidden Factor of Success That No One is Telling You

I recently met with twenty-two-year-old Jordan to coach him in some life decisions. He had found himself in a pit through the accumulation of his decisions over the last five years of his life.  Jordan is a healthy, bright, talented, and hard-working young man.

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