I have friends named Alan and Katherine who were planning to go overseas as missionaries when God directed them to take over his father’s small engineering business instead. As a disciple, Alan wanted to do his best for Jesus, so he began to study the Bible to see what it taught about business and money. He told me that, the more he read, the more anxious he became. God talks about money throughout the Bible and He usually doesn’t say good things about it; especially not about people who live in pursuit of money and wealth. Alan showed me some of the Bible verses that had literally frightened him as a young man. Verses like:
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:9-10
Jesus answered [a rich man], “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24
When Alan and Katherine took over the business, they were not rich and weren’t likely to become rich. The important point wasn’t about how much they had or made. The important question was about who was lord in their hearts. At that point, it was Jesus Christ, and they determined to never let any external circumstances of life change that, whether they were going to be rich or poor.
This is where Alan and Katherine got very strategic and wise in their thinking. If your business makes money, how much of it should you give to God and how much can you keep for yourself? Are you supposed to give God ten percent of your personal income and also of the business’s income? Do you pay the tenth before taxes or after taxes? These are the kinds of questions that most people would ask if they wanted to be a business person and also wanted to do right by God.
Alan and Katherine didn’t think like that, though. In that way, Alan would get the money, and then he would pay God, whereas it should be the other way around. In Alan and Katherine’s strategy, God would make the money, and He would pay them. Rather than figure out how much they would give to God, they just had to figure out a fair amount that God should hand over to their family as His servants.
After the first year, the business made $50,000 and Alan and Katherine got more involved in figuring out the most strategic ways to use God’s money for His purposes. Year after year, the business did better and they gave more away. Alan once told me that his strategy went like this: “We work as hard as we can, we make as much money as we can, we live on as little money as we can, so that we can put the most amount of money to work for God.”
Alan and Katherine’s business has continued to do remarkably well. In fact, from the first year of operation the business has grown by at least twenty percent each year for over twenty years. I haven’t spoken to them in several years but the last time I talked to Alan they were giving millions of dollars, each year, to missions and hurting people in the US. Using something as simple and as vital as money, Alan and Katherine are advancing the gospel to the ends of the earth.
One time I heard Alan say this to a group: “If I went into my Sunday School class and bragged about some blatant sin, people would turn away in disgust or would point out my error to me. If I told people that I was committing adultery or theft I would be rebuffed and rebuked. But if I bragged about the sin of greed, I would be congratulated. If I said, ‘Hey, I just bought a beachfront condominium,’ or, ‘I just bought an ultra-luxury car,’ people would put their arm around me and tell me how great that is. We don’t think of ourselves as greedy but most of us have bought into Satan’s lie that the money that we make is ours and we can spend it any way that we want. Consequently, we keep what we believe to be our money and spend it on ourselves. That is greed.”