God and Money by John Cortines and Greg Baumer
3 Bullet Book: 2020, book #48: “Asking ‘how much should I give?’ Not only sells God short but also sells yourself short. Ask instead, ‘how much do I need to keep?’ It’s all God’s anyway.” — John Cortines
Finished on July 11, 2020
This has been one of the most impactful books that I’ve ever read. I’ve added it to my annual reading list so that I can continue to review and adopt new aspects of the book that I had not implemented the previous times through. Since first seeing this book, I was intrigued and excited right away. The authors are two people who have gone to Harvard Divinity School and also got their MBAs from Harvard. They are deeply entrenched in the business world but also firmly centered on their faiths. The goal was to understand more about people that I would consider in the faith and in the business world. That goal was greatly surpassed and the expectations I had for this book were far too low. This was my second time through the book and since reading it in 2020, I’ve also worked through it once more in 2021.
The 3 Bullets
1. The authors went deep into the historical side of things and dove into the depths of the Bible which I appreciated. There are many mixed opinions and perspectives of a present-day tithe. I know that a lot of Christians will say that tithing was only required under the Old Covenant and now that is no longer a requirement. However, even if not a requirement, why not aspire towards tithing? I’ve been tithing for years and each year I strive to make it more and more intentional. One of the most valuable things I’ve ever incorporated into my life has been tithing. It’s essential that I can maintain the heart state I’ve cultivated throughout the future years, and tithing is a core aspect of that.
2. Incorporating financial transparency is essential. The authors outline three specific ways that we can introduce financial transparency into our lives. The first is the publishing of an annual financial report. Second, the authors suggested forming a personal board of directors that would provide guidance and insights. I adopted this for the first time in 2021 and reviewed it with a handful of trusted people in January 2021. I cannot overstate the value that I found from this. There were different perspectives and valuable questions or insights from everyone that participated in this process with me. Thirdly, the authors share that they also share a similar report with their small group or a community group. This is most definitely something that I aspire to as well. I am confident that in the future — when I am working for myself — I will want to be transparent with my overall finances and share my personal financials at a public level.
3. The other main takeaway from this book through the notes I had the last time I read it was about the way that we give. The authors emphasize and remind the readers that giving to ineffective ministries is really poor stewardship and should absolutely be avoided. It is our responsibility to give for God’s glory and not our own. When there are organizations that we give to, we may want to include personal notes or acknowledgments to communicate to the organization our purposes for giving. The focus is not life on earth but rather, eternal life, and giving is one of the greatest ways that we can model this and support others in the lifelong process of discipling the nations.
Mosaic law and the 3 tithes:
1. Levitical tithe — 10% annual tithe was intended to serve as an inheritance and to support their livelihood as temple servants, etc. (Numbers 18:20–24)
2. Festival tithe — 10% tithe used to host the feast of tabernacles, an annual festival honoring God’s work in bringing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 12:17–19, Deuteronomy 14:22–27, Deuteronomy 26:10–16)
3. Charity tithe — 10% tithe in the 3rd and 6th year of Israel’s 7 year societal life cycle used to support foreigners, orphans, and widows as well as to provide additional resources to the Levites. (Deuteronomy 14:28–29)
This averages to a 23% annual tithe (not 10%).
Old Testament teaching about wealth and giving:
1. A proper use of one’s possessions has been an important part of a right relationship with God since the very beginning.
2. For many biblical characters, faith played a major role in governing their behavior with regard to wealth and giving. Positively to Abel, Boaz, Abraham and Job. Negatively for Cain and Jacob, and a mixed record for David and Solomon.
3. God clearly considers enacting justice for the poor a key responsibility of those blessed with wealth; through visible actions.
We learn the appropriate relationship between ourself, our wealth, and God.
“But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.” — Deuteronomy 8:18 NIV
Should Christians tithe under the New Covenant?
Because of the historical tithes, the authors have concluded that there is no mandate or obligation to tithe today. They believe that there should be no set formula but that Christian giving should reflect God’s character. Giving should be voluntary and generous and God honors sacrificial giving. Giving should be cheerful. We should support local pastors as well as the poor and needy in our communities. James 1:17–18. Serve others out of thankfulness to God for what we can give.
A first-fruits mentality has a major psychological benefit. Putting God first is the benchmark. The ambition is to be generous far beyond the 23% annual tithe from the Old Testament law.
Rather than drawing a line in the sand, ask, “do I feel good about my faithfulness in everything I’m doing?” What is godly wisdom in this decision? We must be God-honoring. Stewardship is not about just giving as much as possible.
Failing to support the poor is a sign that we do not know God, that we do not understand either His love for His creation or our role in implementing His purposes on earth.
Asking “how much should I give?” Not only sells God short but also sells yourself short. Ask instead, “how much do I need to keep?” It’s all God’s anyway.
“It will be a life beautifully lived if you can begin blurring the lines between spending and serving.”
Laboring hard with purpose is something we should plan to do as servants for as long as the Lord gives us life and a functioning mind.
The authors included a story of someone who regularly gives to people from secular organizations who seek his giving. He gives around $100 and includes a letter expressing the importance of developing a relationship with God and focusing on eternal life too, not just better lives on earth.
Giving to ineffective ministries is POOR stewardship. Always measure the returns and determine the level of impact provided.
3 strategies to incorporate financial transparency:
1. Publish an annual financial report. Share with close friends, mentors, and advisors. Include saving, spending, and earning objectives for the year. Includes performance relative to those objectives and their goals for the following year. Include a brief historical snapshot. Include analysis of their giving including the recipients of and amounts or their giving. Also include key areas of consumption and net worth figures. Then speak with each advisor about the report.
2. Form a personal board of directors.
3. Share with your community group or small group.
Radical generosity is often a result of 3 things
1. Deep understanding of God’s word on subject
2. Direct exposure to a life with generosity
3. Firsthand experience of the need for generosity