Kingdom nomics book-131205
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Kingdom nomics book-131205
Copyright © 2013 by KingdomNomics Foundation, Inc.
by Phil Wiegand
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved solely by the author. The author guarantees all contents are original
and do not infringe upon the legal rights of any other person or work. No part of this
book may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the author. The views
expressed in this book are not necessarily those of the publisher.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New
International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.
“He is no fool
who gives what he cannot keep
to gain that which he cannot lose.”
1 Life’s Leading Indicators .......................................................................7
2 Three Kinds of Believers .....................................................................13
3 The Greed Factor. .................................................................................21
4 Who’s the Boss?....................................................................................27
5 Aiming at New Targets. ........................................................................33
6 Kingdom Power ....................................................................................40
7 Kingdom Attitudes....................... .........................................................46
8 The Investment Plan..............................................................................53
9 A Richer Experience .............................................................................60
10 The Path to Significance .......................................................................67
11 Eternal Dividends..................................................................................73
12 Developing Your Investment Portfolio.................................................80
Appendix A: You Are What You ATE. ....................................................86
Appendix B: Button Pushers......................................................................87
Appendix C: Personalizing the Word .......................................................88
Appendix D: Ten Principles for Our Family Foundation ..........................90
Phil’s Bio and More Resources .................................................................93
irst, I wish to thank my lovely wife, Ruth Ann, because she has encouraged me to
write this book for a long time. Years of studying the Bible from a business
perspective have given us some unique spiritual insights and applications that we wished
to share with our family and as many other people as possible. Her loving counsel and
advice over the years have been invaluable.
Secondly, I wish to acknowledge Helmut Teichert, who was the catalyst for bringing this
book project to fruition. As the project manager, he helped focus the message, established
a basic structure for organizing the material, and recruited and led the team that made this
book a reality.
I am particularly thankful that Rob Suggs was willing to take on this writing project. As a
professional writer and accomplished wordsmith, Rob waded through my many pages of
notes and masterfully transformed them into a manuscript. His professional style of
writing and composition have made this book what it is, an easy and very meaningful
I also want to acknowledge Sheryl Moon for her wonderful and skillful efforts in editing
these pages to make sure that all the editorial issues were properly addressed.
I am so grateful to my team for making this book possible.
is a discipline committed to
experiencing maximum returns
in life and eternity.
et’s step around the corner of time, shall we? Let’s pay a visit to the next phase of
Why not? I have some ideas about the possibilities of everyday living. I’ve tried and
experienced them myself, and I’ve seen them lived out by people I care about.
I can predict what might be in store for you. As a matter of fact, I’ve made much of my
living in the prediction business. I examine a stock, make an educated projection about its
future, and invest accordingly. I’ve learned that the future of any stock is all about the
people who stand behind it. So I’ve had to learn about people, too. I’ve had to observe
their values and their habits.
In both kinds of ventures—in the fates of stocks and
people—there are what we call “leading indicators”
that predict future performance. We look to certain
factors to help us predict success.
This book is all about the leading indicators of your life. These leading indicators consist
of a set of principles I’ve come to group under the title of KingdomNomics—the organ-ization
of economics under the laws of God’s kingdom.
KingdomNomics is more than theory. It’s a discipline committed to experiencing
maximum returns in life and eternity. We all have time, talent, and treasure, and these are
being consumed daily. The question is, by what? Are they being consumed for the sake
of temporary pursuits, or toward things that are eternal?
I think of daily time like daily bread. Each one of us has a “loaf” of time, if you will.
Each day consumes one slice, and the loaf becomes smaller as time passes. We
eventually realize this, to our dismay, and it becomes so very important to expend our
given time wisely—to make our lives count for something meaningful.
That’s what KingdomNomics concerns itself with:
knowing and experiencing the benefits of joyfully trading
earthly, temporary gratification for something that will
KingdomNomics is living life by the principles defining value from God’s point of view
was outlined in the Scriptures. We apply these principles in the decisions that determine
how we invest our time, our talent, and our treasure, the “three Ts” of kingdom
advancement. For those who take seriously the coming of a new life—one that follows
earthly life—nothing could be more important.
And yet so many of us live as if these decisions are trivial, expending those three Ts with
little thought of the fact that what we do here echoes in eternity. The kingdom thinker,
however, develops an I want to make a difference attitude, looking at the important
matters and seemingly trivial ones alike and thinking, How can I do something for the
kingdom here? Something that will last?
Then he discovers something truly thrilling: Worldly wealth comes and goes, but he,
acting on kingdom principles, can become rich in the world to come by making the right
investments in this one. He can take it with him—if it’s the right “it.” That means
focusing on what matters to God, and we do that by the application of KingdomNomics.
But before we simply jump in and start making decisions, it’s important to understand two
key truths that provide the foundation for all of the principles related to KingdomNomics:
1) KingdomNomics requires a different set of priorities, and
2) KingdomNomics requires that we have only God as our ruler.
The Road Less Traveled
The first truth is reflected in what Jesus said about salvation:
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and
broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter
through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that
leads to life, and only a few find it.
Jesus is saying that many people choose what is easy. Few people champion the kind of
principles we’re discussing here. Fewer still are those who will live them out. Being
intentional about the use of our time, talent, and treasure is difficult. So we may not be
surrounded by a great crowd of enthusiastic adherents to these ideas. But they are still
true. They actually work in this life, bringing great joy and contentment.
The real question is this: “Am I going to aspire to be one of the few strategic Christians1
in this world who lives out the incredible truths of KingdomNomics, rather than simply
talking about them ... or will I take the easy way that leads to uneasy results?” Will you
look back from the vantage point of eternity and know you’ve done the right things, or
will you have ultimately made poor decisions?
It’s true that KingdomNomics principles have incredible benefits here and now—but they
also require discipline, wisdom and sacrifice. We live in an instant gratification world in
which people want easy fixes and simple solutions. If this were a book that played to
those impulses, it would easily find a large audience. But our focus is not on today’s
easy pleasures; it’s on eternal significance. Our ultimate joy is deferred to that
“someday” life. Each of us must choose what matters most.
Every day I see people living out the well-known par- able of Jesus, in which various
people are entrusted with certain sums of money (see Matthew 25:14-30). Some people
simply hide their resources. Some consume every dollar they have, as well as dollars they
don’t have (leading them into debt). Others invest a little, yet still consume more than
necessary. Still others bring incredible dividends by investing wisely and sacrificially.
From a purely financial perspective, disciplined investment is wise. However, from a
kingdom perspective, the implications are exponentially profound. It is the path of the
We have mentioned leading indicators of a kingdom- based life. Perhaps the most
important of all is your check- book. What does it reveal about you? If you were to study
its columns of entries, would you find most of those entries pointing to things that pass
away, or things that endure forever?
Paul said of kingdom-based people that “we fix our eyes
not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is
seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2
Corinthians 4:18). The idea is so simple, yet so
challenging. I have to ask myself from time to time,
“Does my check book truly reflect that I have my eyes
fixed on the unseen and eternal things that are important
That’s the leading indicator of my heart and soul. It demonstrates what matters to me,
regardless of what I say matters. I know that KingdomNomics dictates that my checkbook
speaks of a life consumed by eternal realities.
So our first truth is that we will have very different priorities from most people. Unless
we keep our eyes focused on God, we will tend to drift back toward the ways of the
The Rule of One
Secondly, Jesus makes this challenging statement about the investment of life:
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one
and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and
despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
The challenge here is that KingdomNomics requires incredible focus. We will serve
money, or it will serve us ... as we serve God. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition, because
the human heart has room for only one ruler. Which ruler have you chosen?
You lose nothing and gain everything by choosing God. Most people choose money for
the love of “things.” But in the New Testament, Paul tells Timothy that God “richly
provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). When you choose
God, “things” are much less of a problem. But if you choose money, you could possibly
lose the blessing of God forever. As a matter of fact, you could fall into the traps of greed
and excessive consumerism, finding you never have enough!
Remember another statement Jesus made:
But see first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these
things will be given to you as well.
C. S. Lewis, a 20th-century writer, put that verse in his own words: “Aim at heaven and
you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” 2
That’s a pretty strong statement. If you give your life to God—all of it, unreserved—you
are aiming for heaven.
And then you are amazed by what is “thrown in.” Sure, your path may still take you over
some major bumps in the road. But you find yourself happier and more energetic than
you’ve ever felt.
You have deeper love, for God and for people. You have stronger hope in everything—
even the current state of our world—because you know it’s all in God’s hands. You feel a
true peace, because you understand this truth: You are no less than God’s investment
capital in his creation. He invested you in this world, and you’re here to make a
difference for him. He put you here to bear fruit (John 15:5).
When you make your life an investment for the
kingdom, you feel the deepest joy there is. How do I
know this? I am experiencing it! It’s the reason I feel
a deep calling to share what I’ve learned through this
book. There’s nothing more important to me than
helping others to learn the liberating truths that God
has for us through KingdomNomics.
For the first thirty years of my life, I had no conception of such things. In a chapter to
come, I’ll tell you a little about my journey and how I finally came to the truth that turned
me around in my tracks.
But first, we’ll discuss the three kinds of lives that we see believers following today.
You’re likely to be surprised by what we’ll reveal about our common assumptions about
God and money.
Then we’ll visit some key principles of KingdomNomics. I try to use simple illustrations,
as well as a few life stories, to keep things clear and relatable.
In the end, of course, what matters most is that God speaks to you and shows you that
your life will be invested, one way or another. It all comes down to your time, your
talents, and your treasure, and where you expend them. These are the most important
decisions you’ll make. Will you be consumed by the temporary and unsatisfying things of
this world, or with the passion of living for Christ?
I pray that the answer will be as clear for you as it’s been for me.
is seeing ourselves
as God ’s stewards
for the strategic
use of resources— great and small.
Three Kinds of Believers
et’s begin by breaking down your life to the lowest common denominators.
We’ll start with God—the one who made you.
Then there is you.
Then there are your resources—everything you can use or interact with in this world,
including time, talent, and treasure.
So we have three entities. And we can think about each one of these entities as being a
circle. The questions are: How do they relate to one another? Do they overlap, or does
each one stand alone? And if they overlap, which circle takes precedence? How do you
relate them to one another? You relate to God and to your resources, but do those circles
relate to each other?
Do you approach your resources based on your beliefs about God? Or do you approach
God based on your resource needs? Or do those two circles never even inter- sect, having
nothing to do with each other?
As we discussed in the last chapter, Jesus said that one of these “circles” will actually
become the master of the other—you will serve God or money. It’s clear, then, that how
you relate to these questions will make a far-reaching statement about who you are, how
you live, and who you are becoming.
I’m something of a student of human behavior, including my own. I’ve watched my
family, my friends, and my acquaintances. I’ve read biographies of other people. And
I’ve come to some conclusions about how most people in the world relate to God and his
gifts. With regard to those who do make some kind of attempt to serve God, I’ve come to
the conclusion that there are basically three kinds of people in this world and they are
defined by how they relate to the God-circle and the resources-circle.
1. Earthly--minded Believers
The first category of people I’ve identified is a large one, perhaps because it requires the
least thought. It’s the basic human nature.
These believers accept what God has given them and use their resources for their own
comfort, pleasure, and personal gratification. In other words, these people see God-circle
and the resources-circle as separate spheres that very rarely overlap.
For example, when it comes to the stewardship of treasure, studies indicate that while
Americans give $40 billion annually to churches, they spend the same amount on their
pets. Very few Christians give one tenth of their income to church or spiritual causes. Do
a large number of believers “put something in the plate?” Of course. Do they do so under
the guidance of deeply considered Christian thinking? That’s another question.
Meanwhile, half or more of our church members rarely or never give at all.3
The Earthly-minded Believer sees money the way nearly everyone else does. He wants to
keep as much of it as possible, and use it for his own personal enjoyment of life.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the financial fruits of our labor. God wants us to do
so. The important question is this: Are you spending completely on things that pass away
like a vapor – or are you investing significantly in the things of God, which do not?
The biggest danger to this category of people is that Earthly-minded Believers usually
have no idea of what is happening to them, because materialism is so seductive. People
believe they’re simply living the good life and pursuing the American Dream. They may
be attending church, studying the Bible, and following Christ in many ways. But they’ve
compartmentalized the sphere of all of their resources, whether time, talent, or treasure.
They haven’t brought these under the Lordship of Christ. Their resources-circle is not
intersecting with their God-circle. “Their mind is set on earthly things” (Philippians
Needless to say, we need to be spiritually alert and far more perceptive about eternal
matters as they touch earthly ones.
2. Christian Philanthropists
The next category of believers is one that gives more attention to giving.
These are believers who have come to the conviction that God has blessed them, and they
should give back a portion of what they’ve received to help support ministry and
missions. For them, this is somewhat of a duty, an obligation to fulfill, like paying taxes
There’s an “oughtness” that guides them. They write a check or volunteer in some way,
but there is no joy or purpose in it. Perhaps it’s the way they were taught by their parents.
Perhaps it is motivated by the sense of duty of “chipping in” so that the church can fund
some project overseas, or pay its budget, or provide some program. Perhaps it’s giving
out of guilt. The important distinction is that it is “doing what I have to.” As a result, it’s
not something particularly pleasant or enjoyable. Just like paying taxes, it’s seen as a
Again, to provide an example related specifically
to treasure, George Barna’s research tells us that
the average Christian gives no more than two
percent of his income to the church or other
ministries. 4 What does that suggest to us? It tells
us that people are giving as little as possible, and
they are giving without joy.
As we’ll see later, sums of money aren’t important. What we’re discussing here is the
attitude in the mind of the giver, and we know that when people love doing something,
they do it more frequently. If people show great hesitancy to do something, then we know
it brings them little or no satisfaction.
Giving of treasure in the New Testament, particularly in the book of Acts, is something
that happens as a natural, spontaneous overflow of the spiritual adventure. People are so
thrilled to see what God is doing, and to be a part of it, that they give all that they have to
support what is happening. No one talks about “percentages,” because they’re so busy
talking about the greatness of what the Spirit of God is doing.
Paul, however, presents another approach to giving when he addresses the Corinthians.
This approach is what we might call proportional giving:
Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told
the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week,
each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with
your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections
will have to be made.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
“In keeping with your income” is a common-sense measurement that tells us that each
person should give as he or she is able. We give proportionally.
We also see in this passage that Paul is telling people to be diligent about giving in
preparation for the time when the funding is needed. This is the principle of
intentionality. But it’s always an act of joy and participation with God—there are never
set requirements or limits.
In KingdomNomics, we ask ourselves over and over: Are we seeing ourselves as God’s
stewards for the strategic use of resources, great and small? Or are we giving
haphazardly, without thought or plan, or out of some sense of legalistic obligation?
Where is the sense of gratitude and joy?
Some givers of the Christian Philanthropist type actually do enjoy their giving, in a
certain sense. It is sacrificial, but they wear their sacrifice as a kind of badge of honor. “I
gave until it hurt.” Sometimes we do give in a deeply sacrificial way, but what we’re after
is giving until we feel not hurt, but a deep sense of fulfillment, in partnering with the
eternal work of god.
3. Kingdom Investors
There is one other kind of Christian giver and, as you
might predict, this one is harder to find among us.
The Kingdom Investors are people who grow in
Christ, who dig deeply into his Word, and who come
to see their resources in a brand new way. Never
again will they look upon their assets as mere money
or mere things, but as part and parcel of what God is
doing in this world and through their lives. They
bring the circle marked “resources” into the greater,
all-defining circle marked “God”.
Kingdom Investors see all that they have and all that they own as their sacred trust, theirs
to use strategically for the advancement of Christ and his eternal purposes. Their time,
talent and treasure is no longer an end in itself, but a medium, a palette to be used in the
beautiful art of serving God.
Who are these people? You’ll find them across the spectrum, from those who have a
great deal of money, to those who don’t have much at all. From those who have a great
deal a time, to share to those who can only give a little. And those who have a great deal
of talent, to those who only have a little. Some of these believers are led to invest in
missions on the far side of the globe; others give themselves to the work of God just
down the block. Many diversify, insisting on having a hand in God’s work in every place
possible. They follow their hearts, finding joy and exhilaration in the specific areas and
needs where the Holy Spirit leads them.
The Kingdom Investors deploy whatever time, talent, and treasure they have available,
and it’s a pleasing truth that while not everyone can invest great sums of financial wealth,
everyone can give their time and their personal talents. These are all things that God has
given so that we might find the unique joy of giving them back.
We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule. In most churches, it’s probably true that 80 percent of
the giving and 80 percent of the hands-on ministry is done by 20 percent of the people.
But even fewer are those who truly discover the KingdomNomics principle of the all-out
maximizing of our resources for God’s kingdom.
Jesus talked about a man who finds a treasure buried
in a field. This man goes out and sells everything he
has in order to raise funds to buy that field. He
believes he has nothing that isn’t expendable toward
gaining the precious treasure he has glimpsed. (See
Matthew 13:44.) That’s how it is for the Kingdom
Investor. He has caught a glimpse of a treasure
nothing on earth can match—an eternal treasure. All
that he has must be invested toward that treasure.
Jesus also told stories about masters who gave their servants sums to invest. The workers
were held account- able not for using their resources and not for preserving them, but for
multiplying them. (See Matthew 25 and Luke 19.) The master, of course, is Christ. And
why does he take time to give us sums to invest? His work is the work we were made to
do! Christ wants us to know the unique thrill of bearing fruit in his name; taking what he
has given us, and giving it back in multiplied amounts.
Kingdom Investors live in this world but see into the eternal one: “Since, then, you have
been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at
the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians
Does that lessen their caring about the here and now? No, it’s just the opposite. Their
eternal values give them a deeper concern for others: “Not looking to your own interests
but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:4). And they seek “the good
of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24).
Kingdom Investors are also motivated by the rewards that the Bible promises. The New
Testament often speaks of rewards given to believers in heaven, based upon the right
kind of behavior in this life. Jesus often said that hypocrites and those with empty
religion have already received their rewards. It is constantly taught that those who obey
Christ can look forward to wonderful things in eternity.
More About Kingdom Investing
The heart of the Kingdom Investor is quite different from the one motivated simply by
guilt or sense of obligation. Kingdom Investors have found their treasure—their pearl of
great price. It’s not as if they throw away all that they have to pursue it; they actually use
all that they have to enhance it.
That’s the adventure of this life. Kingdom Investors see it as a matter of sowing and
reaping, which is a simple principle that is true in every aspect of life in this world:
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap
sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap
generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in
your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for
God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you
abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you
need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:6–8
The Kingdom Investor, of course, wants to reap
generously. He knows that God loves a cheerful giver,
but he’s a cheerful giver because he knows God. Why
have only a little fulfillment, a little satisfaction? He
wants as much of it as possible, because no other joy on
earth can match the joy he feels when he knows the
kingdom of God is being served.
The Kingdom Investor also begins to experience the favor of God in his life, which is a
reward of service. The life of generous giving is a life that God blesses. Have you
ever met a truly godly giver who is unhappy? Again, the Kingdom Investor says to
himself, I must have more of this! I must know God even more deeply. I must multiply my
time, my talents, and my treasures even more so that I can serve him better.
And never is there a thought of comparing his giving to that of others. Never does he seek
personal credit for what he does, because those things are not the source of the joy. When
God is glorified, that when the Kingdom Investor is energized. That’s when he receives
his reward. “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend
themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with
themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
KingdomNomics teaches us that kingdom investing is a privilege, a pleasure, and a deep
reward on many fronts, in this world as well as the world to come.
There are those in this world who know and understand the financial markets, at least
from a worldly point of view, and they are making money. Others dabble in the markets,
not truly comprehending how they work, so that they lose what they have. But whether
they make or lose fortunes, none will find real meaning in life until they discover the
ultimate goal of investment. Resources are the tools God has given us to get us involved
in the great story of what he is doing. Purposed for this world alone, time is simply a
commodity, talent is often used for personal recognition, and money is mere paper or fine
metal. But when invested for God’s purposes, it can be so much more—it can be a
touchstone to the eternal world.
begins with a genuine relationship
with Jesus Christ.
The Greed Factor
hil, could you come in for a minute?”
I’d heard the door of the study open, and my father wanted to have a talk with me. Had I
gotten into some kind of trouble? No, my father wanted to teach me something about the
I sat across from him as he produced an impressive sheet of paper and placed it in my
hands. “Phil,” he said, “this is what we call a stock certificate. It’s very, very important.”
He went on to explain that as long as he held this document, he had proof that he owned
something: some piece, or “share,” of a business concern that was engaged in the earning
of money. Whenever that company made new dollars, he would get his share, paid out in
This was all new information for me, but I could already see how powerful the concepts
were. I could earn money by going outside, mowing the lawn, and getting paid for it—or
I could pay someone to give me a percentage of what they earned when they did it. I
could buy into the work of others.
When my father saw I understood that much, he said, “There’s more, son. And this is
where it gets exciting.
When you receive your dividends—your earnings—what do you do with them?”
I thought I had the right answer. “Put it all in the bank? Save them?”
“Not exactly. You have to buy groceries, right? And pay your bills. So you do that with
some of the money. Then, you take the rest of it and look for more shares to buy.”
“Oh-and that’s how you could get rich!” I was seeing the light.
“Yes, Phil, if you’re smart about how you do it. You will generate a stream of income
that continues to grow larger. Sort of like running a dairy farm.”
He laughed, and took back the stock certificate. “Let’s say for a minute that this is the
deed to a cow. It produces milk, and you sell the milk, right? With the proceeds of that
milk, you buy another cow. This one produces milk, too, and now you have two streams
of revenue. You never sell the cows—until they grow old and stop producing. Healthy
cows are your money-makers. You sell the milk and buy more cows.”
I looked back at the certificate, and he said, “Whether
it’s milk or oil or cars—anything people can produce
and sell—you want to keep buying these shares of
their business. They give you leverage to buy still
more shares. So, if you get a bad cow occasionally,
that’s all right, because you have other cows to cover
This talk changed the way I viewed the world. I thought about lots of cows giving lots of
milk, and making lots of money. Why, everyone could be rich!
No, that wasn’t exactly right. Only buying the right cows, my father explained, would
make that possible. So education was critical when it came to equipping myself to enter a
highly competitive world of people with the same dreams of cows, cash, property, and
natural gas wells. I would have to do my best in the classroom to get the edge, so I could
start earning wealth as soon as possible. That wealth would generate greater wealth.
That was the extent of my thinking. I wanted to make money. Why? To make more
money. Why? The theme of my life was mostly thinking about the accumulation of
wealth. I thought that was the American Dream. Because when you have enough money,
you can do what you want, when you want.
And it was working, too. I discovered that my father had told it to me straight. The cow
theory of investing was as effective as it was simple, and I was on my way to becoming a
On the Inside
I learned other lessons, too—some of them unexpected and unwanted.
I had wondered what happened if the farmer simply kept buying cows. Wouldn’t he end
up stuck with too much milk to sell?
Ordinarily, it seems logical. But an economist from the 1800s, J. B. Say, put forward a
different theory. Say’s Law basically said that supply creates its own demand. Build it
and they will come. We know it works out that way in our economy: Active buying and
selling creates more buying and selling, new markets, and that’s good for overall
But is it necessarily good for us if that is our only concern? And by us, I mean who we
are, deep inside.
Here’s a law no one has named: Increase the supply of money, and it will change you.
Yes, build it, and they will come. But just who or what will come? Greed, lust, and every
form of desire. Deep down, I realized that accumulation had changed me on the inside,
and I didn’t like how. I had perceived myself working in a vacuum, happily growing
wealthier on the outside while remaining the same old Phil within. But I had changed.
None of us believe that the desire for “more” will overpower us, but it happens every
time. You simply don’t hear many people say, “I’ve made more money than I can ever
spend. Now I’m going to enjoy it.” No, they seem to work even harder. They make even
greater investments. Millions aren’t enough—they want billions. And they lack any
semblance of contentment.
The Bible, as if peeking into the twenty-first century, nails it:
Whoever loves money never has enough: whoever loves wealth
is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As
goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what
benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on
Note that it’s not whoever has money; it’s whoever loves money. Love is reserved for
God and his children, not things. Also note that Say’s Law is reiterated in verse 11. It’s
the love of money that is “a root of all kinds of evil,” as Paul writes (1 Timothy 6:10).
The real issue is: Can you keep a proper relationship with what you own?
Oh, you’ll have the best of intentions. “I can handle it,”
you’ll say. But greed and selfishness – which are among
the roots that silently coil into the cellar of the wealthy
person’s life— will grow. It happened to me; I wanted to
invest more and more money rather than simply what was
ordinary or healthy. I saw myself as a consumer, but I
was the one being quietly consumed.
We talked earlier about the why questions: Why more money? Why still more after that?
There comes a time when these questions rise to the surface, when we look at ourselves
and say, “What’s the point of all this? Where does traveling the trail of more eventually
lead? And what price am I paying to take that path?”
There are other questions too—questions about what’s inside us; questions about the
soul. Where is God in all this pursuit of more? What is it that he wants me to pursue? We
have a spiritual instinct that tells us that we’ve wandered far from God when life becomes
only a great quest for finance.
One night I turned on my TV set and saw Billy Graham speaking to a great crowd. I
respected this man; I was curious about what he was saying. He was explaining that many
experts on the Bible believed we were coming to the end of history, and that soon we
would each have a personal reckoning with our Creator.
God uses precision timing. Certain words and messages come before us because we’ve
arrived at the moment he has prepared for us to hear them. And I heard. It seemed as if
Billy Graham was speaking to me person- ally. He was teaching me about the biggest
issues of life just as surely as my father had taught me the economics of cows and cash.
He asked what would happen to my eternal soul if I were to
die that evening. And I had no answer.
Maybe I wouldn’t die that night. But it was going to happen,
and it was probably going to be a surprise when it did, and as
things stood, I wouldn’t be ready. My heart was in disarray.
I struggled with what to do. My first instinct was to go to church. But my childhood
impression of churchgoing was that when you went to church you put on a coat and tie,
and I couldn’t see what that had to do with anything today.
This was a crossroads moment. I came very close to making some weak excuse, and
moving on with my life.
However, something inside me wouldn’t let me walk away and discard that confrontation
with eternal truth. In the end I found a church, and there I heard about what it means to
live as a true follower of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t enough to for me to intellectually accept
Christ’s reality. I had to know him in a genuine relationship. I had to let him have all of
me, so that every sin and imperfection within me could be cleansed in the way that only
he could accomplish.
There wasn’t anything I could do. I could only come before him in humility; but that was
all right, because he could and would do the rest. He could cleanse me, forgive me, and
make me a new creature.
I came to understand what it meant for Jesus to die on that cross—that he did it to pay the
penalty for all that was wrong about me. A perfect man was punished so that a guilty one
could go free: me.
And best of all–it was a gift! With my orientation in financial transactions, this was hard
for me to believe. There was no dickering or bargaining here. All I had to offer was my
flawed and broken heart, worthless to anyone but the One who created it; what I had to
gain was deep joy, indescribable peace, and full forgiveness now—and eternal life later.
What wise investor would reject such a deal?
I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life, trusting only in him and nothing else to
make me right with him. And I meant it.
My first action was to find a bookstore and make two purchases: a modern translation of
the Bible, and Halley’s Bible Handbook, which helped to give me some idea of where to
find what I needed in the pages of Scripture.
Taking a cue from Dr. Graham, I turned quickly to Revelation, the final book of the
Bible. Much of it was hard to understand, but this much was clear: the world wasn’t
going continue forever the way it was. God was going to bring history to a close, and I
wanted to be spiritually ready for that.
I learned what it meant to pray daily, to share my
faith, to enjoy Christian fellowship. But I was
shocked to discover how much the Bible had to
say about my money. I had always simply
assumed that this was a book about matters of the
soul. Well, it was. But as it turns out, there is no
dichotomy between what is in the heart and what
is in the hand. The heart governs how we use our
possessions, and, in turn, our use of possessions impacts the heart.
I now had to overhaul all my attitudes and beliefs about money, right down to the cow
principle, and rethink all of my financial theory from the biblical perspective.
For example, Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life
does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). This verse forced me to
see the first 30 years of my life for what they were. I would never have described it that
way, but life for me had indeed been all about how much stuff I could accumulate. I
didn’t simply need to see money in a new light; I had no idea about the true meaning of
I knew now that I lacked wisdom. But that wasn’t discouraging at all—it was energizing.
I knew that, in Christ, all the news was good, even if it meant tearing down my old walls
of self and building something new. Jesus loved me; he wanted what was best for me, and
I was more excited and eager than I’d ever been. I had that hunger that new believers
often have in which I couldn’t get enough of God’s Word and I couldn’t hear enough
good teaching. My appetite for God’s Word became almost insatiable.
What was money all about, if it wasn’t simply about more? What was my goal, if it
wasn’t simply more cows and increased sales of milk?
I was getting the milk of the Word, and it tasted very good. I began to grow and to see the
world through new eyes.
is using all of our resources
to glorify God.
Who’s the Boss?
s I moved deeper into a life of following Christ, I made an observation. There were a
number of believers who were very casual about their faith. Perhaps they hadn’t had
the eye-opening experience of coming to grips with their own spiritual danger, as I had. I
knew I had a real desperation to truly know God and to please him in all that I did, while
some people weren’t as eager to grow spiritually.
In my business dealings, I had found some Texan people to be colorful and entertaining.
They had a saying about some people being “all hat and no cattle.” (Cows – again!) I got
their point. There are some people who can make a good appearance with nothing to back
it up. I didn’t want to be a Sunday pew cowboy—I wanted to be authentic.
So I thought about who I was and what God had given me to work with. Finances, of
course, had been at the center of my life. What changes did God want to make in how I
approached money? Should I just give it all to the missionaries? Put it in the bank and
forget about it? Burn it with the backyard leaves?
I thought of another Texas saying, this one from
Humble Oil. That forgotten company, from Humble,
Texas, was the precursor to Exxon. Some of their
execs used to say, a bit tongue-in-cheek, “We aren’t
very smart, but we have a lot of money.” Again, that’s
just who I didn’t want to be—a guy with a lot of
dollars and no sense.
Jesus once said we should be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew
10:16). Actually, the Bible has plenty to say about being common-sense smart in
everyday life. The book of Proverbs is packed with encouragement to handle money
wisely. I had done that, for the most part. What needed to change was my attitude toward
I realized that I needed to begin seeing money in terms of God’s kingdom. God hasn’t
given us time, talent, and treasure just so we can hoard it or spend it on ourselves. All of
our resources can be used to glorify him. So where to start?
I kept coming back to that powerful command from Jesus, given in the Sermon on the
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and
love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the
other. You cannot serve both God and money.
That verse became a new foundation for me, and it is the foundation for this little book.
At first, the words seemed very cut and dried to me – as if one must choose to love or
began to study it carefully. I learned what I could from sermons and Bible studies, and
the truth began to come into focus for me.
When Jesus made this statement—and several others on the subject—he used the word
Mammon for what we translate here as money. This word means “all that one possesses
apart from his body and his life.” In other words, things—stuff, whether it’s money or
what it buys.
The word Mammon also comes from a root word that means entrust. That’s a serious,
heightened version of trust. Similar to today, people of that time would give their money
to a banker, and they had to place all their faith in that banker to take care of their worldly
wealth. Jesus is saying that we can’t fully entrust ourselves to both God and possessions.
We can’t divide it all up and invest 50/50.
But Jesus did a little more with this word Mammon. He could have simply talked about
money in the way most people think of it: capital, coin, currency. Instead, he breathed life
into the concept. He spoke of “serving” Mammon, making Mammon the name of a master
who can lord it over his slave. In his day, of course, there was genuine slavery, and the
word he used in this verse for serve was associated with that kind of servitude. So this is
serious trust and serious service.
Ultimately, here is what Jesus meant: As a human being, you can’t help but serve
something or someone. You will serve God, or you will serve things and stuff. You’d
better make that decision carefully, because one of these will win, and it will win all of
you. You’re entrusting no less than your heart and soul—your eternal destiny. Jesus says
I must choose one master, and everything else must be in submission to that decision.
Choose a Lane
Ultimately, I came to understand that Jesus was
talking about idolatry. Idolatry? Well, that word
makes us think about strand statues and exotic
sacrifices. What could that have to do with money?
When Jesus talked about Mammon, he was making the point that whether you realize it or
not, you are in service. You may live under the illusion of total freedom, that you think
what you want and do what you want, beholden to no one. But true freedom is indeed an
illusion. You are always pursuing, or you wouldn’t be a human being. Pursuing what? It
could be money or comfort. It could be power or pleasure or acclaim. But something
drives you, it drives you down its own road, and Jesus says that it’s impossible to travel
on two roads at the same time.
Since you and I were made to honor and serve God, we become idolaters when we honor
and serve anything or anyone else. That’s what I came to understand: I had clearly been
walking down a certain road, and it was the endless road of pursuing more. But it
ultimately had no real destination other than chasing a mirage ending in heartbreak. I
wasn’t enjoying the journey.
As I’ve said, it’s a crossroads moment when we realize this. However, we can take a
detour. It’s a very hard and deliberate choice. Have you ever watched a driver
undecidedly swerve from lane to lane before a fork in the road?
You want to shout, “Pick a lane!” You can’t drive in two directions at one time.
That’s what Jesus was saying. You have to determine which road to choose. You must
decide who or what to pursue.
In the Bible, God’s people once found themselves at this crossroads. They knew they
were moving into a new land, and they were going to create a new life. Their leader,
Joshua, challenged them to make their choice of whom to follow:
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... But as
for me and my house hold, we will serve the LORD.
Joshua was recognizing that the people of Israel, through all their travels, had collected a
wide assortment of gods, all of whom were now competing for the hearts of the people.
Some were the pagan gods of the days before the true God had revealed himself. Others
were the gods of Egypt, where the people had been slaves. And still others were the gods
of the present moment, in the place where the Israelites were camping.
They had served and were serving all these gods, because people are easily influenced.
Rarely do we make hard and fast choices about what ultimately matters. We copy those
around us, or do what we were raised to do.
Joshua called the people to be more alert than that—to know the choices, make one, and
live with it. And he and his family were choosing to serve the Lord.
I wonder if you’ve ever had a Joshua moment, as I did. Have you ever stopped and
realized that it was time to choose your own path, rather than to simply follow the crowd?
If we’ll only stop and take a hard look, the choice isn’t very difficult. A favorite verse of
mine says, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs”
(Jonah 2:8, NIV84). You can look at the world around you and at history to see the fate
of those who build their lives around the pursuit of worldly wealth. It’s a cruel and
merciless master that drives and drives, without ever giving satisfaction, without ever
Yet Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you
rest” (Matthew 11:28). I never found true rest until I went back to that banker called
Mammon, withdrew everything, and deposited it within the Bank of Heaven.
I’ve chosen my road, I know where it leads, and I feel perfect peace about it.
Choose Your Water
Why does life work this way? Why must it be such a dichotomy? Why can’t I neatly
compartmentalize my life—like I do my luggage, for example—with a neat little
compartment for spirituality, another for career, another for family and friends? Then I
could pursue what I wanted when I wanted, as easy as reaching into the suitcase for a
The answer, I’ve found, is in the human heart and how it works. The heart is like a
sponge that soaks up everything around it. When you squeeze the sponge, you’ll get out
exactly what you’ve let that sponge absorb. The sponge doesn’t have neat compartments.
It has a lot of empty space ready to be filled. The heart is the same way, and you decide
how to fill it.
So if your heart soaks in the dirty water of bad
ideas in this world, that’s what fills it. You begin
to think and feel accordingly. I spent three
decades of my life taking in bad ideas about what
constituted life, and I had to do a lot of squeezing
to empty them out. I had to review the thoughts
and assumptions and values that had guided me
for all of that time. Occasionally, I still have to battle vestiges of that former life.
Most of all, however, I needed to do some more sponging—in the right places. It was
time to take in the pure and living water of the gospel. Jesus once came to a village where
he met a woman drawing water at the local well. He knew every drop of the “dirty water”
in her life, and he compared it to what he had to offer. Pointing to the well, he said,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but
whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed,
the water I give them will become in them a spring of water
welling up to eternal life.”
That’s what it means to stop following the wrong master and begin following the only
one who will love you and give you all the joy and peace you’ve been longing for.
When I only pursued wealth, the deep thirst inside me was never quenched. No business
deal, no new possession was ever enough. It was like drinking salt water; my thirst just
The things of this world aren’t designed to give lasting purpose and contentment. They
never have and they never will. Serving mammon is trusting things and self rather than
trusting the one who made them. It’s handing over your precious life to an untrustworthy
banker who doesn’t want your prosperity and happiness, but your ruin.
I use the sponge principle to help me remember that I must constantly be renewing and
refreshing my soul with that living water; I must also
be squeezing out the impurities that I’m sure to take
in just by living in the world. Watching some things
on television allows dirty water to enter. Being with
certain people can do that. Even left to my own
thoughts, I take in dirty water because I am a fallen,
flawed human being. Jesus has forgiven me, but the “old me” is always hanging around.
He wants his place back.
So by the power of God’s Spirit, I soak in the truth found in God’s Word. I spend time
each day talking with Jesus in prayer. I pay attention to what kinds of people I listen to,
what kinds of cultural influences I award with my attention.
One other fact about sponges: Have you ever seen what happens when an old sponge is
put aside and left unused? It dries out. It becomes brittle. Once your heart belongs to
Christ, you need to soak it in the living water daily. Salvation happens in a moment in
time, and it can never be taken away from you.
What you can lose is the fresh joy of your walk with him, so don’t let your spiritual
vitality run dry. The more often that happens, the more you’ll find it losing its natural
absorbency, like the sponge. Spiritual growth must be a constant pursuit, a way of life.
The good news is that there’s nothing more delightful or encouraging. We’ll say more
about “soaking it all in” later, but for now, know this: It’s your life’s greatest joy.
is serving God and God alone.
Aiming at New Targets
s I thought about the God vs. mammon issue, I realized I had to topple the idols in my
life. I had to start walking a new path, never looking back, never letting the “old me”
make a comeback.
When I was in school, I took it for granted that there would be tests and examinations
occasionally. That was the proving ground for whether I had really learned anything. I
found now that God hands out a test every now and then, too. It’s one thing to say, “I am
going to devote my life wholeheartedly to God from now on. I will entrust everything to
him.” It’s another thing to live that out in a moment of crisis.
One of the big exams for me came when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer some years
ago. Nowadays, we hear a lot about this health threat,
but when I was diagnosed, many of the treatments
were just being developed. I had no idea whether I
had been handed a death sentence, or, if I did survive,
whether there would be debilitating effects that would
drastically change life as I had known it.
Because of the surgeon’s schedule, it turned out that I would have a period of waiting for
a particular nerve- sparing procedure that was then new and rare. And so the waiting
Have you ever had to wait for an ominous, frightening event? It tends to bring life into
focus. It sorts out the trivial from the significant. God had my full attention during this
time, if only because of the fear that came over me. I would love to tell you that I had the
heart of a lion, but I got myself all worked up inside. I ended up aggravating an arterial
fibrillation problem in my heart.
What a mess. I can remember telling my wife Ruth Ann that I wondered if I’d even make
it to the surgery, and never mind the aftermath. She wanted so badly to comfort me, to
encourage me, but fear had an icy grip on my spirit.
What I did have, of course, was my faith. I prayed. What now, Lord? What should I do?
What should I feel?
I walked back to my study one day and had an honest heart-to-heart talk with God. I
poured out my feelings, my questions, my pleas. And as I did so, I felt his presence in a
genuine way. I had an urge to take a sheet of paper in hand and write the word CHRIST in
large letters. And as I looked at that powerful name, I felt his comfort begin to flow
through me. He promised us that he would walk with us even through the valley of the
shadow of death.
A New Vision
The six letters in the name—CHRIST—began to suggest an acrostic to me. I opened up
my Bible and wrote:
C is COMPANIONSHIP—“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake
you.’ So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to
me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
I knew that nothing could separate me from him. Suddenly and physically, I felt an
incredible flow of peace course through me as I wrote the words for that verse—a very
clear physical feeling of a great burden of a spirit of oppression being lifted from my
back. Wow! What just happened? I had to sit for a moment, catch my breath, and let it all
sink in before I could take up the pen and write again. When I did, I wrote furiously,
verses coming to me from years of teaching Bible classes and doing my own study:
H is HOPE—“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the
grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (1 Peter 1:13).
Now I had a target for hope: for him to be real to me in this situation. That meant so
R is RECEIVE—“Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save
your souls” (James 1:21, NKJV).
I realized I needed God’s Word, which holds awe- some power. It is living and powerful
I is I—“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The
life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave
himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
This isn’t the old me! I’m a new creature! Christ would live in me, empowering me to go
through this experience.
S is SUBMISSION—“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2
Corinthians 10:5). “The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
I should set my thoughts on eternal things, letting the Spirit of God watch over them. This
enabled me to reject fearful thoughts and replace them with his promises when fear raised
its ugly head.
T is TOTAL TRUST—“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this
... Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:5–7).
In this verse I began to experience total trust. Being still and experiencing God’s presence
changed everything. He makes things happen.
It was very clear to me that God had prepared me for this moment; that he was now
unpacking years of my study of the Word, and using it to empower me. I was too excited
to sit. I leaped to my feet and ran to tell Ruth Ann all about it. We looked at each verse
together, and we realized the impact this would have on our lives.
I had felt as if I’d been in a little boat stalled in the middle of the ocean, waiting for the
hot sun and deep thirst to finish me off. I’d never felt more alone. But then the wind of
the Holy Spirit filled my sail and brought me to safety. He provides the power to move us
through life, and without him, we have no hope. I felt fresh and powerful encouragement.
Whatever controls your mind—whether it’s God or money or something else—controls
you. I made up my mind that for the rest of my life, nothing but the power of Jesus Christ
would be the wind in my sails.
Christ Over Self
Once we begin to follow Christ seriously, all the targets change for us. We’re walking
that new road, and therefore we look for different landmarks. And as we are changed by
the Holy Spirit, our goals change too.
The greatest target change of all, of course, is whom we live to please. In our human
nature, we believe that life is all about self-help and self-emphasis; everything is me
oriented. Advertisers build all their campaigns on the vanity and self-absorption of people
in general. Next time you’re in the grocery store, glance at the check- out aisle
magazines. What articles are being pitched? I believe you’ll find an assumption that those
in the grocery line are self-absorbed. People drop out of churches or marriages simply
because “this isn’t meeting my needs anymore.” And the world sees that as a perfectly
justifiable point of view.
The choice to serve God and God alone means that we live to please him rather than
ourselves. There’s no way to overstate how great a leap in perspective that is. Our flawed,
sinful human nature keeps pointing us toward the self-driven life at every turn: “Look out
for number one!” “You have to toot your own horn.” “You
have to do what’s best for you.”
But Christ beckons to us, saying, “Whoever wants to be
my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross
daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
That may not sound like the best marketing plan: Deny yourself! It might not go over well
in the check- out line, but it’s a message made by God for the human heart.
As it turns out, the way of self-absorption—attractive as it initially is—leads only to
brokenness and despair, while the way of following Christ leads to deep joy and
fulfillment. This is why Jesus said, in the very next verse following his statement about
denying oneself, that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses
their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). You find yourself by giving yourself away.
I know—it takes a while to wrap your mind around that one. It’s counterintuitive. It
seems like a paradox. But I’ve found it to be true—the more you try to please yourself,
the less you’ll be pleased. The more you focus on Christ, the more pleasing life becomes.
The “Me First” life is a dead-end street.
Faith Over Action
Another target change is in how we live. The old target was performance, the new target
is faith. For thirty years, I felt as if I needed to keep running, keep working long hours,
keep chasing after worldly goals. Even after I became a Christian, some of those goals
were simply replaced with other goals, more Christian but still performance-based.
This represents another very difficult paradigm for us to take in. All over the world, all
through history, people have built their religions around action—earning the attention of
the gods, earning forgiveness, earning blessings. Christianity is unique in that it says that,
as good as good works are, they can’t do a thing to earn us God’s love or forgiveness.
This comes from grace, through the work of Christ on the cross for our behalf. And then
we please God through faith—a living relationship of trusting him.
A favorite verse of mine is this: “And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those
who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Life before Christ is like hustling to serve a slave-master or a boss you can never please,
a harsh taskmaster. Life in Christ is a relationship of love and friendship and grace and
acceptance. As a result, you want to give, to serve, to do things for God and others—but
out of the overflow of joy rather than a way to buy approval.
Years ago, a member of our board pointed me to a corporation that was important in his
life. There were shares of this company’s stock available at a certain price. I did my
homework, liked what I saw, and called my friend on the phone to let him know I wanted
to purchase the stock, if it was still available.
It was such a simple, ordinary chain of events that I couldn’t have imagined the good
things that would result. A long-term business and personal friendship began. Without
my knowing or expecting it, my friend began to open doors to new companies and new
relationships for me which provided me with new and expanded opportunities. I
experienced something very rare and special in our business. I had shown interest in what
mattered to him, and he wanted to respond in kind. It was a grace relationship.
My point is that I wasn’t seeking his “blessings” to serve myself; I was simply doing
what a good businessman would do. But it opened a relationship, a friendship, not just a
cold business transaction. This is what God does when we show interest—as we do
through faith—in the things that matter to him. He begins to bless us. He begins to open
new doors of opportunity, new possibilities.
If we approached him selfishly, it wouldn’t work this way. If we tried to earn his favor
through service, it wouldn’t work this way. Living by faith means we experience
wonderful relief from living a performance-based life. God responds to the grateful heart.
He is relational, and he loves to bless his faithful children. “All these blessings will come
on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28:2).
Giving over Taking
Another new target is that we stop looking for ways to get things out of life, and we
become more interested in giving things. This is a guiding principle of KingdomNomics.
We need to be “givers,” not “takers.” This, of course, is bound up in both of the previous
two target changes. We want to please God instead of self; we want to please him with
faith rather than works. And so our spirit begins to change; we become more interested in
what pleases him, and we discover that what pleases him most is to help advance his
kingdom. We can do this through giving—all kinds of giving.
The natural human tendency is to take. We don’t see ourselves as selfish, or think of
ourselves as takers. But our fallen human nature causes us to “look out for number one.”
And when we live in a world of countless people all looking out for themselves, all
competing for the same things, all wanting to take, then the world is full of conflict. It
becomes an ugly place.
But what happens when people begin to see
themselves as serving a common goal? What
happens when we serve not ourselves, but Christ,
and as a result, others? The world is transformed.
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The word blessed has
the connotation of happy, of being favored in life. It’s not just that God is pleased when
we give; we’re pleased, too. It’s fun to be a giver.
What has meant more to you—receiving a nice Christmas present, or giving one that you
really thought about and planned? God designed us to be givers, and once we find that
out, we discover, Wow! I had no idea that would feel so good.
I’ve observed how the church often brings out that old Bible verse, “God loveth a
cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, KJV) every year during budget-pledging time. It
seems as though the message is “Get out your wallet, and you’d better do it with a smile
on your face.”
That’s not how it is at all! Doesn’t God already own it all? Does he really need us to
give? I believe that God doesn’t really need us to give, he desires us to give, because in
the next few chapters, of the joy it will bring us and the work it will do for his kingdom.
Giving pleases God, and it pleases us, too. It sets into
of kingdom giving, kingdom
logistics, kingdom investment, and a whole world of
joy that comes out of doing exactly what God created
us to do.
In the next few chapters, we’ll explore a little of that world. We’ll discuss exactly what
life becomes as we begin to apply the principles of KingdomNomics to our lives.
is dependent upon
the Holy Spirit’s power.
f you can understand and apply to your life the following sentence, then you’ll be
among the wisest and best informed of Christians.
All of our spiritual power comes from the Holy Spirit.
Simple enough, right? And yet somehow, after two thousand years of Christianity, a great
many believers do not understand this. As a matter of fact, they don’t even grasp who the
Holy Spirit is! That’s like having no idea you have a heart pumping blood through your
system, or that your house is wired with electricity. The matter of your power in the Spirit
of God has incredible implications for every day of your life.
The Holy Spirit is Christ living within us. He offers us guidance and just the right words
when we face various crises. He comforts us. He strengthens us. He administers the
special gifts given to us for ministry. It is through him that we live as new creations in
Christ. On the day you began to believe in Jesus, his Spirit took residence within you.
And he began the great work that will continue until either you die or Christ returns to
earth—the power of transforming you into the living image of Christ.
And how does he do this? Over the years, I’ve developed an understanding of the process
by which we are changed. I think of it this way: We soak, we sow, and the Spirit flows.
First comes soaking our hearts and minds in the Word
of God. There’s no substitute for this, no shortcut. We
need to immerse ourselves in the Word of God until
as much of it as possible is engraved on our hearts.
I hear some people say that they struggle to read and understand the Bible. There are a
number of guides and study Bibles to help us do that, but what’s important is that we
must read the Bible itself—not just a good book, but the Good Book. The Holy Spirit
within us reveals its truth. He interprets and he applies the message of God to our
thoughts and our issues.
If you’ve ever struggled to stick with Bible study, hang in there. Ask God to bring the
words to life for you, as he has done for thousands of years. One of my all-time favorite
verses is from the psalmist: “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for
the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer” (Psalm 45:1). The composer of this
verse had dipped his mind into the lovely depths of Scripture. Note that he “recited” his
verses before the king. This means he had committed them to memory.
I can’t count the many times my life has been blessed because of a verse I hid in my heart
on some earlier occasion. Every verse you memorize gives the Spirit a ready tool to use
just when you need it. Soon, he can do some major work on your insides!
The heart is stirred when we look deeply into Scripture and meditate on it. So much
power is contained in these heaven-sent lines. Nothing expresses the great issues and
principles of life the way the Word of God does.
The psalmist’s heart is stirred as he soaks it in the Word. We’ve used the sponge as a
word picture for this, with its absorbency, filling up with living water.
And then, as we read or recite our verses, we sow them to the Spirit, and he begins to flow
through our being, so that we feel the power and presence of God. I’ve enjoyed this
dynamic experience countless times. We come to the Word of God anxious, and he gives
us peace. We come with anger about someone, and he gives us love and patience. We
come dry, and he fills us to bursting with the refreshment of his goodness. It’s a daily
reality check with a sweet fragrance.
This is one of the primary ways that kingdom attitudes begin to grow within us. Crisis by
crisis, worry by worry, relationship by relationship, the Spirit of God, speaking to us
through his Word and his personal guidance, transforms us into the people he has always
intended for us to be.
A genuine “spiritual chemical reaction” takes place when we soak our hearts and minds
in the Scriptures, and let the Spirit flow freely through us. Life, health, power, and hope
surge through us like medicine from heaven itself. This is one reason that so many studies
show that people who pray are physically and emotionally healthier than those who do
not. The life-giving power of God flows through those who pray and who recite their
verses to the King.
So we soak, we sow—reciting our verses, and the Spirit flows. Soon, we’ll need to repeat
this process. The sponge (heart and mind) can be filled over and over, and we can’t let it
become dry and brittle. It’s a repeat process. However, the more we do it, the more we
find that our attitudes are changing in a remarkable way. It works the same as with any
form of nutrition: You must eat daily, but eating the right foods begins to bring you a
residual health. You are stronger and healthier.
The Mixmaster Concept
I often explain the soak, sow, and flow process with the illustration of a Mixmaster and
three steps in using it.
First, I drop the ingredients into the bowl to soak. I compare this to memorizing the living
and powerful Word of God. It will work in the heart of the believer if he receives and
trusts it as divine. It is sitting in your heart and mind, waiting for something to happen.
Second, the Mixmaster stirs the ingredients. I compare that to sowing to the Spirit. As we
recite our verses, the Spirit stirs the Word, mixing himself with it, causing our hearts to
be stirred with a noble theme as we focus our thoughts and eyes on Jesus Christ, the
fountain of life.
Finally, the mixture is ready to be poured out. The Spirit flows, imparting his life into our
mortal body. Now we can go into our day with Christ, the power of God “who is able to
do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work
within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV84).
Our worldview and our value system take on a whole new perspective. We become
ambassadors for Christ, constantly engaged in calling
people to be reconciled to him. My wife can see the
difference in me when I emerge from a time of
soaking. I can see the difference in her as she does it.
There is a stronger contentment, a peace about the
worries of the day, a confidence in the direction we’re
heading. And I find that I want to keep memorizing God’s Word, so that it is a living,
working presence in my heart, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.
Most of all, I gain a renewed sense of connection to the things that God cares about. I
sow my verses to him, and I reap what I sow; he imparts truth and conviction and peace. I
also fend off temptation and bad decisions more effectively. My life is radically different
because of what happens when I soak in the Word, sow to the Spirit, and let the Spirit
Paul captures what this is all about when he writes, “May the God of hope fill you with
all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of
the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Flowback from the Spirit
One of the simplest truths known to humanity is that we reap what we sow. Flowback
from the Spirit is the phrase I use to describe what I reap when I sow to the Spirit by
reciting God’s Word. It is manifest in many different ways: the secrets that God imparts
to us; “light bulb” moments when we suddenly and clearly see something God has been
trying to tell us; specific areas of guidance; and simple gifts of encouragement, strength,
and power just when we need them.
We’re recalling and meditating upon the Word of God, affirming its truth, and in doing
so, we’re “putting on Christ” (see Galatians 3:27), setting the Spirit free to have his way
with us. I’ve made specific kingdom investments and other life decisions that I knew
were the result of flowback from the Spirit.
Perhaps my most vivid example of flowback in my life was when I was in a serious
automobile accident. It was amazing enough that I even survived it. I totaled my jeep,
fractured my sternum, broke my tibia, and lacerated my forehead with many tiny bits of
In short order, I was in the intensive care unit of the
hospital, and I was discovering what physical pain was all
about. The doctors were concerned about possible fluid
buildup around the heart, due to my chest injury. It hurt
almost beyond endurance if I coughed—which I kept
needing to do—or even moved. The doctors couldn’t give
me anything for my pain other than simple
acetaminophen, because my heart had to be monitored.
When they changed the sheets on the bed, they had to lift me by a small crane because I
lacked the power to move myself. Yet with all that pain, it was for the best that I wasn’t
“dosed up” with some strong medication. I was alert enough to recite my verses to God.
All my years of study brought Scripture passages to mind, the most prominent one being,
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are
fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
There’s so much power in these words. I knew the eyes of God were upon me, and I felt
his strength even in my terrible pain. But I concentrated on making sure my heart was
fully committed to him in that awful moment. I sowed to the Spirit, and “my heart [was]
stirred with a noble theme” (Psalm 45:1). No, the physical suffering did not go away, but
the Spirit imparted contentment, peace, and (I believe) health to my physical body.
Being spared pain is fine; triumphing over pain is far more exciting, far more of an
investment toward wisdom and strength in the Lord. That’s what he was doing for me.
He loved me enough to let me grow through that trial, and he was there with me every
A nurse smiled at me and said, “Someone must have really been watching over you
during that accident.”
One of the doctors said, “We’ve studied the accident report, and wonder how you did not
die and managed to come through it without real damage to your heart. With auto
accidents, most fractured sternums are vertical. The heart is punctured, and death is
instantaneous. Yours was a lateral fracture. Tell me,” said the doctor with a grin, “exactly
what did you do to deserve surviving an accident like this one?”
“Nothing,” I said. “I fully deserved to die on that dark road. But I was saved by the grace
of God.” And I prevailed through the worst of it by flowback from the Spirit,
experiencing his incredible presence and encouragement and healing power fixing my
thoughts on his Word.
In a book with so much discussion of giving, we explore a lot of truths that have to do
with how we behave and the importance of obedience to God. But there are many gifts of
sheer grace, many rewards that come just because God wants to bless us.
Yes, we want to fulfill the Great Commission. We want to go all over the world to serve
him. But there are also aspects of all this that are, simply stated, wonderful moments of a
loving Father saying, Look what I have for you. I want to show you great things that so
few others have seen. You are my child, and I love you.
In those moments, he’s not a boss. He’s Abba, Father —a daddy.
Call on his name, and you’ll understand.
Turning on the Power
All of the principles discussed in this book are wonderful and supernatural ... and they’re
not our work. They come through the power of God, dispensed by the Holy Spirit.
Otherwise, we might as well be flashlights without batteries. Nothing could be more
frustrating than finding a flashlight when the power goes off in your home—only to
discover you have no working batteries.
That is an image of your life apart from the process of soaking, sowing, and flowing that
comes through the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t matter how much you want to be a “good
Christian,” or how many times you attend church, how much money you contribute, or
how many good deeds you do—you will be as empty a vessel as the battery-less flash-light
apart from the living Word of God flowing through you and empowering you by the
God wants each of us to shine in a dark world. He has
told us we’re the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
What a tragedy when the light of the world has no
batteries! With a power source, that flashlight can
light the way through a dark tunnel; without that
source, it’s a useless piece of plastic. And let’s
remember who owns the flashlight, and who decides
where to point it. Our heavenly Father, the same one
who placed his Spirit within us, will shine us in the
If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you need not do anything special to invite the Holy Spirit
into your life—he is there, just as sure as your heart was pumping blood through your body
long before you learned about it in school. As you experience his presence, you can learn to
cooperate with him, through reading the Word of God and asking him to illuminate it for
you; by asking him to give you the right words during important conversations; and by
relying on him to show you how to serve God as you go about the day. In time, you’ll be
more and more aware of the Spirit and how he works in your life. When you stumble, you’ll
feel his very gentle whisper of admonishment; when you are worried, you’ll feel his word of
encouragement; and when you’re mourning, you’ll feel his comfort. The Holy Spirit is more
than just a power source; he is a friend in every need.
requires a Christ-centered mentality.
ingdomNomics is looking at all of our resources in light of eternity. As we begin to
make intentional decisions about our time, talent, and treasure, our attitudes about
life begin to change as well. When we reflect upon the Scriptures, it’s not long before we
recognize that we see the world in a way that contrasts sharply from those who do not
have God’s view.
This is incredibly important because attitudes determine thoughts; thoughts govern
feelings; and feelings guide actions. Those actions, of course, reinforce our attitudes, so
that what we have in KingdomNomics is the opportunity to break negative cycles of
behavior and begin positive ones. People, of course, try to do this every day, but it’s
simply not possible through the limits of human effort. One of the greatest insights of the
Scriptures is validated through our simple observation of this world: No matter how hard
we try, we fall into the same ruts. We make the same mistakes. We can’t break the cycle
of human sin—unless we allow Christ to break it for us.
So we’re talking about a new set of attitudes, but attitudes that don’t originate in our best
intentions. They must come from the Spirit of God, living within us as believers.
Each one of us who accepts Christ as Savior will find that the Holy Spirit is now within
us, and is working each day to reinforce these kingdom attitudes. Let’s examine some of
the major ones.
Submission: Yielding to God
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s
mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and
pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
In the passage above, we’re encouraged to present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice.
A sacrifice is something costly that is offered
fully and without reservation. In the time of Paul,
who wrote these words, animals were presented
for sacrifice to God. But God had come in the
flesh, through Jesus, to present himself as a living
sacrifice for people. And in response, we present
ourselves to him.
This means that no longer are we slaves to legalistic, obligatory sacrifices. We are free to
be joyful givers for the sake of righteousness. We don’t make empty gifts with our hands,
but full and loving gifts with our hearts in an “I want to obey” attitude toward God
(Romans 6:17). It’s the end of empty religion and the beginning of loving relationship.
We are like the sailor who sets sail on the waters to take full advantage of the wind, not
trying to force his own direction; we follow the wonderful winds of God’s Spirit.
Hunger: Consuming God’s Word
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be
transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be
able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good,
pleasing and perfect will.
This verse immediately follows the passage we just discussed, and the principle follows
as well. As we are submissive to God’s will, we find ourselves hungering for the
nourishment that only the Word of God can bring us. The Word renews the mind. You’ll
notice that we really have two options: conformity or transformation. In conformity, we
become one more product of a hope- less world; in transformation, we become more and
more like Christ every day—more and more the person he has designed us to be.
We hunger for the Word once we see the power of its truth and its amazing effect on the
life we live. Again, it’s an “I want to” thing in that the more we experience the power of
the Scriptures, the more of them we want. We actually develop a yearning for the only
truth that can make such a difference, and we find ourselves committing it to memory,
using it throughout the day in times of need. It’s like putting on a special pair of glasses
that show us our world as God sees it.
It can only happen as we soak our hearts in God’s Word. David, the king, said that God’s
Word was more valuable to him than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (Psalm
19:10); Job said that he treasured it more than food (Job 23:12); and Jeremiah said that it
was his food, he consumed it and let it become his heart’s delight (Jeremiah 15:16). And
Jesus said that his words are spirit and life (John 6:63).
Never think of the Bible as a book, or as paper and ink, or as word and paragraph. It is
the living, eternal Word of God, a thing with no equal. It is as essential to life as oxygen,
as healing as medicine.
Heaven-Driven: A Forever Mindset
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts
on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of
God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Most people live completely in the here and now. As a matter of fact, it’s a challenge for
them to. even plan for anything in the future. The principles of KingdomNomics don’t
stop with the future things on earth—those who practice KingdomNomics are motivated
by eternity itself. As Paul writes, the things we see are temporary; they pass away, no
matter how strong and real they seem at the time. But unseen things never pass away.
(See 2 Corinthians 4:18).
This kingdom attitude, then, is a mindset. We should have a
predisposition toward eternal reality. What does that mean? It
means that once we look through the lens of how God sees this
world, we act accordingly. We do things that the rest of the
world may not understand at present, but that we know make
sense in heavenly terms.
An earthly attitude is likely to be, I would like to be comfortable today. An eternal
attitude would be, I would like to be useful to God today, regardless of comfort. An
earthly attitude might be, this new acquaintance is unlikely to be someone who can
further my personal ambitions. An eternal attitude will be, this new acquaintance is
beloved by God. What can I do to be his or her servant?
Others cannot see past the visible; we seek to see what is invisible.
Love and Compassion: The People Factor
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that
one died for all, and therefore all died.
2 Corinthians 5:14
As we study the life of Jesus, we can’t help but see that people came first for him—all
kinds of people: the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the righteous and the
wicked. He loved them first and foremost because God loved them.
This attitude involves finding more room in our life for others.
We are measured not by the love that comes most easily to us, but by the love that is
sacrificial. Who is it hardest for you to love? Have you prayed to see that person as God
In KingdomNomics, we expect to grow in love and compassion with every day that goes
by. Jesus said that this was how the world would know we are his people. We become
less angry, less provoked than we once did. We are more willing to give. How?
Compassion. Loving service brings us joy.
Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Spirit
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on
the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no
food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the
stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my
Savior Habakkuk 3:17–18
Habakkuk’s thought is irrational in the eyes of the world. Why rejoice over barren crops?
Why thank God after a bad day at the office?
In KingdomNomics, we cultivate an attitude of gratitude in all things. “Rejoice in the
Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Paul speaks of—and
personally demonstrates—an attitude that has nothing to do with circumstances and
everything to do with eternal reality. We rejoice because we’re grateful for the goodness
of God. The eternity-driven believer understands that life at its worst is filled with the
blessings of God.
The Bible offers us a great abundance of reasons for rejoicing, and the more we soak our
minds in them, the more we are changed. For example,
gratitude keeps anxiety at bay (Philippians 4:6).
Thanksgiving helps us put away foolish talk and coarse
joking (Ephesians 5:4). Above all, rejoicing helps us see
reality in eternal terms—filled with the goodness of God
(1 Timothy 4:4). God responds to a grateful heart, and
our gratitude overflows to God’s glory (2 Corinthians
People allow their resources to become burdens, when all that we have should be seen as
blessings. When our spirits are transformed, and we begin to see life and the world
through God’s eyes, we feel truly free, truly joyful. We can’t help but rejoice over
our great God, over what he has done for us, over what he allows us to do for him. We
develop a kingdom attitude of gratitude, and it captures the attention and curiosity of
Contentment: Genuine Satisfaction
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have
plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and
every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in
plenty or in want.
This kingdom attitude comes from the profound realization that God owns everything. If
I own nothing, and he owns everything, why should I lose any sleep over the realm of
“mine”? As Job observed, we are reduced to dust and ashes (Job 30:19). Physical things
ultimately matter little in comparison to spiritual ones.
Thus, with that realization, Paul learned to be content in all things, whether in times of
plenty or of want. He could sit under Roman house arrest and be filled with joy and
gratitude, and therefore with utter contentment.
For him, to live was Christ—in all things, in every
moment— and to die was gain. To live meant that
Christ came to be with him; to die meant that he
would go to be with Christ. From the realization
of that came a deep sense of well-being that the
Roman rulers could not take away; that declining health could not take away; that nothing
Contentment, then, is an overcoming kingdom attitude. It’s total victory over the prison
of circumstances. We aren’t the owners, only the stewards, of our lives and possessions.
We have nothing to lose but our chains, and that feels very good indeed. Our bodies
themselves are not our own, and we can be content knowing that everything is on loan
from God; the real joys come from eternal realities.
The contented believer even has a resilient spirit through the ups and downs of the state
of the world. He knows that in all things God works for the good of those who know him
and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28), and therefore current events
cannot snatch away his joy either. Nothing that can happen is a surprise to God. No
governments, no catastrophes, no dark trends are outside his power.
Expectancy: Future Faith
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if
anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the
sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what
they say will happen, it will be done for them.”
This verse describes the attitude of faithful expectancy that God is at work, and that, at
every moment, he is about to do something new. We know that God never sleeps; he is
always working, always moving people and events toward the culmination of his great
purposes. Yet most people today don’t believe in the miraculous. They might say they
accept that God acts in the course of natural events, but if they ever recognized it
happening, they would be totally taken by surprise. Most Christians don’t live with a
sense of godly anticipation.
And what happens? Faithlessness is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The New Testament tells
us that Jesus saw the lack of faith in his hometown, and “he did not do many miracles
there because of their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:58). We don’t have because we don’t
ask; we don’t expect.
So much of the joy of our life is in finding ourselves caught up in the great story that God
is writing. Our daily time with him fills our spirits with a readiness to see him in action. It
helps us see issues of eternal significance playing out in natural circumstances. And
we’re led to pray even more, asking God to let us be a part of what he is doing.
There are many more attitudes, all outlined in the Scriptures, but we’ll stop here for the
sake of brevity. The life of KingdomNomics is a life of daily faith that something
wonderful is just around the corner. With God, this is always true. He “is able to do
immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work
within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
requires an investment in God’s plan.