Note: This article is the latest in a series highlighting resources for classrooms and local churches. For information on God Owns It All, including a free copy of Session 1, check out the website of the Ron Blue Institute, located at ON partner school Indiana Wesleyan University.
I once heard a Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, say, “There are no inspiring stories of accumulation, only inspiring stories of sacrifice.” The comment arrested my attention. I pondered it, was inspired by it, but still wondered if I really agreed with it.
Howard Hughes – aviator, investor, film-maker, business tycoon, engineer, hotelier and entrepreneur – was one of the wealthiest men in American history. He was both eccentric and troubled and during his life, he amassed a fortune of over $2.5 billion. Despite this tremendous wealth, he suffered terribly with his physical and mental health. He pushed everyone who was close to him away and became a recluse. By the time of his death, he was nearly unrecognizable as a result of his suffering and he died miserable, sad and alone. In many ways, his wealth had become his prison.
George Muller is one of the most well-known Christian missionaries of all time. After beginning life as a deviant, he became a Christian and set out with a mission to serve God. He and his wife became affected by the plight of the orphans in Bristol, England and so they opened an orphanage. In this beginning, they determined that they were not ever going to ask anyone for money. They resolved simply to pray. The stories of God’s provision are legendary and the Mullers were able to care for over 10,000 orphans as God provided them with more than $1.5 million in donations during their lifetimes. Whenever an orphan would reach adulthood and leave the orphanage, George would sit down with him and place a Bible in his right hand and a coin in his left. He would tell him to cling tightly to what was in his right hand, and God would always make sure he had something in his left hand.
Howard Hughes is remembered as a man of great vision, wealth and power. George Muller is remembered as a man of great faith and impact. I want to be remembered like George Muller, but too often live like I want to have the wealth of Howard Hughes. So why don’t I order my life in order to live like Muller?
This question brings me to what troubles me about Nieuwhof’s quote above. For, if Muller’s sacrifice inspires me, why don’t I live an inspired life? What I would add to Nieuwhof’s quote is that we are not inspired merely by raw sacrifice. The key to being inspired by a sacrifice is understanding what it is that is inspiring us. Sacrifice alone can impress us, sure, but not inspire us to action. It is what underlies the sacrifice that inspires us to action.
Muller was inspired by God’s grace. Just like the Macedonians from 2 Corinthians, Muller was moved to serve orphans because he understood the grace he had received. The Macedonians were said to have received the grace of God and in it, “their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty…overflowed in a wealth of generosity.” Can you even fathom such a statement? Their “extreme poverty” overflowed into a “wealth” of generosity. I have a hard time even comprehending such contrasts. The only explanation is that they understood the grace they had received and out of it were able to sacrifice.
Howard Hughes did not know the grace he had received and it ended up sentencing him to a life of loneliness. He had a lot of wealth, but he was not wealthy. George Muller knew the grace he had received and it ended up leading him to a life where he experienced God’s miracles daily. He did not have any wealth, but he was wealthy Muller’s understanding of God’s grace, which enabled him to sacrifice so much, is what inspires me.
Last year, I had the great privilege of working with my father, Ron Blue, to write a six-week Bible study curriculum called God Owns It All. In this study, we explore stories like those of George Muller and the Macedonians. We uncover the truths of scripture with regards to our finances. Participants in the study walk together to learn to order their financial lives in such a way that frees them to experience the contentment and confidence that comes from living in accordance with God’s word.
God Owns It All is broken up into the following six topics:
- Perspective – do you believe that God is the owner of all that you have?
- Principles – how do you apply biblical principles to your daily finances?
- Live – what does your lifestyle tell you about your highest priorities?
- Give – where is your treasure?
- Owe – how do you approach debt and taxes and honor God in them?
- Grow – how much is enough?
When participants walk through these six sessions together, they have the opportunity to determine whether their lives are marked by grace or by the allure of wealth.
None of us can fake stewardship, and the greatest revealer of our hearts is where we spend our money. I hope that many will join us on this journey to explore God’s truth and God’s riches as they are revealed in God’s word.