The Poverty “Gospel”

Reading Time: 16 minutes


Turn on Christian TV today and you’ll likely see well-dressed tele-evangelists begging for money and promising that if you give you’ll be given more in return. This “Prosperity Gospel” is false, but it is largely obvious. The ostentatious display of selfish love of money makes the mature believer able to easily spot the lie and avoid it (we’ll still be discussing “The Prosperity Gospel” in more detail in my next post).


By contrast, there is an equally false gospel that has been preached for centuries. It is more dangerous by “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5). It embraces asceticism and extreme giving. It relishes the doctrine of suffering as something to be pursued, not endured, and equates being poor with being holy. This is what I’m calling the “Poverty Gospel”.


This post is designed to confront the Spirit of Poverty and Pride behind the Poverty Gospel head on. We’ll define what it is, why people believe it (all good lies have an element of truth), and signs you may have it. We’ll also discuss what the Bible really says about Poverty and what you can do to move forward if you’ve believed the Poverty Gospel.



What is the Poverty Gospel?

Galatians 5:9 says “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”. The Poverty Gospel is a powerful deception since it is surrounded by truth, but has just a little bit of a lie. This lie (leaven) has created an entire movement that has swung too far on the pendulum, rejecting wealth and embracing a doctrine of hardship, poverty, and suffering. When believers are deceived to believe that wealth is evil and that our reward is only in heaven, the needy here on earth suffer.


The Poverty Gospel is the belief that being poor is holy, wealth should be avoided because it is dangerous to our faith, or material belongings are inherently bad.


It is usually accompanied by a fear of never having enough, demonstrated through hoarding and guilt over spending.


Having read that summary, you’re probably not thinking that you’ve believed this lie, but let’s take a more focused look at some common Poverty Gospel teachings so you can identify if there’s a hint of any at work in your spirit.


Being Poor is Holy

There is no doubt that Jesus had a heart for the poor. In Luke 4:18 He enters the synagogue and quotes from Isaiah that He is here “to proclaim good news to the poor”. Many other scriptures address God’s heart for the poor and needy.


What people seem to forget is that just because Jesus has a heart for the poor doesn’t mean that He wants them to stay that way! The rest of that passage talks about all the other bad things that He came to free us from, but somehow many have decided that He wants us to stay poor.


We must also be careful to note the difference between being poor and having a spirit of poverty. The poor that Jesus referred to were poor because they were sick, widows, outcasts, etc. The fact that they were poor was not indicative of a poverty mentality, but rather the brokenness of sin in our world.


The Bible speaks out continually against poverty caused by laziness (Proverbs 6:10-11), greed (Proverbs 11:24), rebellion (Proverbs 13:18), daydreaming (Proverbs 14:23), and speculation (Proverbs 21:5). Choosing to be poor simply because you do not want to be hardworking, generous, submitted, actionable, and wise does not put you in the same spot as the poor that Jesus came to minister to.

Lastly, Jesus commends the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) and says that “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. When we see the word poor, we automatically assume wealth. Yet, being of a poverty spirit isn’t supported elsewhere in Scripture. Just as 2 Corinthians 8:9 is not talking just about physical riches when it says “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”, it is unlikely that the “poor in spirit” refers to physical wealth.


Being “poor in spirit” is recognizing our own inability to earn salvation. It is a humbleness of heart that allows us to accept salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is not being of a poverty spirit, which has an unhealthy view of money and wealth.


Being financially poor does not make one sinful or spiritual. Many are poor for circumstances outside their control and should be viewed with compassion and not judgement. However, choosing poverty as a pursuit of holiness or due to a lack of Biblical character is sin or the product of sin and should be treated as such.


God wants us to be poor to be dependent on Him

The Bible often talks about how difficult it is for the rich to remain close to God. Two places this appears is when David prayed that he wouldn’t have so much that he’d forget God (Proverbs 30:9) and in the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19) where God commands the man to sell all he has and then tells the disciples that is “easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than a rich man to enter in to heaven”.


However, if we continue on with the story of the rich young ruler, the disciples are very confused as the “eye of a needle” statement. They wonder how anyone could make it in to heaven with that criteria, and Jesus responds in v. 26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”.


Given the difficulty of being rich and staying close to God, it seems logical that God would prefer us to be poor. After all, this avoids the issue completely!


Embracing poverty as a way of life is the easy way out of spiritual development and may actually be the opposite. As we spoke of in the last section, willful poverty is the output of sin. While “living by faith” may seem to equate more to someone who doesn’t know where their next meal if coming from, a higher and rarer calling is to continue to serve God in our abundance.


Living in abundant wealth and remaining close to God is the ultimate test of faith. It is literally impossible without God! If you want to live by faith the answer isn’t to avoid prosperity, but to be wholly dependent on God regardless of what your physical and financial condition is.


We are supposed to give away everything, all the time

There are two primary places in Scripture that we see people giving away much or everything. One is the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 that we’ve already referenced. The other is with the early church in Acts 2:45 where we see that “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”.


Many have taken these examples and developed a teaching that our responsibility is to live on a minimal wage and give the rest. This is not a new teaching, as John Wesley famously lived on the equivalent of about $30k a year even when his fame brought him income of over $160k a year (both in today’s dollars). This idea is resurging today, with many feeling that they should cap their income and give everything above away.


These ideas certainly have an appearance of Godliness and may be exactly what God is directing some to do. However, we must be careful establishing this as a doctrine that should be followed by everyone.


With the rich ruler, the key isn’t that God wanted to have everyone sell everything, but just this man. God saw that he had riches above his ability to manage. He needed to remove this barrier in order to be able to trust in Christ. Jesus targeted the one stronghold this man still had in his life just as specifically as He did the woman at the well who’d had 5 husbands. The story here isn’t that everyone should sell everything, but that we need to surrender the areas of our pride and sin to God completely.


For the Acts story, we first need to realize that the Word doesn’t say they sold everything they had, but their goods and possessions. This may indicate what they had with them at the time. Most of the people in this story were traveling to Jerusalem and hadn’t planned to stay and start the early church. It was a unique time where for a moment there was a need. This could be more like the story of the loaves and fishes where the boy gave his lunch for that day, which was all he had at the moment, but not necessarily all he had forever.


Should we be willing to part with possessions where there is a need? Absolutely! However, thinking that we should never hold anything and always give everything is not a Biblical teaching. Many early believers held their possessions and were able to use them to support the growth of the church. Even the disciples who walked away from their nets and boats don’t appear to have sold or given them away, as they were back to fishing and living in their homes within days of Jesus’ death.

If you are led to give generously or “above your ability” (2 Corinthians 8:3) be sure it isn’t coming out of a spirit of guilt or wrongly developed doctrine, but out of a free relationship with Jesus. Let it not be an expression of burden, but of joy.
We should only have enough for our basic needs
One of the most popular verses in the Bible is Matthew 6:33, which reads “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The “things” that Jesus refers to are the clothing, drink, and food in v. 31. The point is that God doesn’t want us to be anxious about our basic needs but to focus on the Kingdom and His righteousness.


Assuming that because God promises to provide for our basic needs means we are not to pursue anything else is misunderstanding what pursuing the Kingdom looks like!


The Kingdom of God is where God reigns and provides abundance and good things. Do you imagine that when Jesus prayed for “your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (the Lord’s Prayer), He was imagining a Kingdom of barely enough? No! Jesus was praying for God’s magnificent Kingdom that is currently in Heaven, where there is no sickness, poverty, strife, want, etc. to come to earth!


God has given our basic needs as a starting point so that we can set our “minds on things above”. Having our basic needs met doesn’t mean that we should stop pursuing the Kingdom, but that we should be free to go above and beyond our needs to do all that God has called us to. For many that may not be wealth, but for others it may be starting a successful business or becoming a highly paid physician.


The thought that we should avoid material things is rooted in a concept called Dualism. Dualism says that that which is spiritual is good but what is material is bad (also known as Asceticism). It doesn’t allow room for material things to be good as well.


Of course, when God created everything He called it all good, so we shouldn’t think that anything God has provided is inherently bad.


1 Timothy 6:9-10 says “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”


This verse is all too often misquoted as “money is the root of all evil”. Money isn’t inherently good or bad! It is just a medium of exchange and can be used for good or bad things. God wants us to rule and reign here on Earth (Genesis 1:28), which means we need to have Godly control of our money.


What Paul is warning Timothy is that people shouldn’t pursue riches because they love money. If we pursue the Kingdom and God provides wealth so that we can give generously and do Kingdom work, we must not shy away from that.


Martin Luther said “If silver and gold are things evil in themselves, then those who keep away from them deserve to be praised.  But if they are good creatures of God, which we can use both for the needs of our neighbor and for the glory of God, is not a person silly, yes, even unthankful to God, if he refrains from them as if they were evil?


Be careful not to avoid money because you think it evil!

“But the Apostles were Poor!”

A common support for the Poverty Gospel is that the Apostles were poor. After all, if the very men who walked with Jesus didn’t live in wealth and riches, isn’t that the perfect model for us to follow?


While it is true that they were likely not made rich for their ministry, but it doesn’t mean that they lived in poverty or that everyone is to just have enough.


Paul wrote to the Philippian church and thanked them for their offerings as he closed the epistle in Chapter 4. In this, he noted that he had a time of need but now had abundance, thanks to their gifts.


From this we can note two important things. First, the apostles may not have always been poor. Paul had his own business (tent maker) and others owned homes and businesses. More importantly, when they had need, God provided! Paul even says that he had more than enough.


Secondly, the people in the Church at Philippi had enough to give as Paul had need. If all had been poor, then who would have supplied the need of those working in full-time ministry?


We must always be cautious when we take specific examples in the Bible and assume they apply to everyone. God has many people within the Church to serve multiple functions. Many, if not most, are called to build the Kingdom through working diligently and wisely, building wealth through Godly principles and using it generously as others have need.
God sends Poverty

1 Samuel 2:7 says that “The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.”. Since we love to focus on one half of a single verse, many have taken this to mean that we may be in poverty because God wills it.


Of course, when we read Verse 8 we see a focus on Him bringing us out of poverty!

He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.

Is it possible that Verse 7 is just a sequence? That God brings people low in order to prepare them for being exalted? It seems obvious in 8 that His intent is to lift up the poor and give them power and honor. God owns it all and He controls the world. It doesn’t seem that this God of abundance delights in leaving the poor in poverty “just because”.

In the book of Daniel, we see a story where King Nebuchadnezzar is reduced to living as an animal for 7 years. God humbled him by giving him the mind of an animal and stripping him of all he had. However, God didn’t leave him that way. Let’s look at Nebuchadnezzar’s own testimony in Daniel 4:34-37:

At the end of that time I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven. My mind became clear again. Then I praised the Most High God. I gave honor and glory to the One who lives forever. His rule will last forever. His kingdom will never end. He considers all of the nations on earth to be nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven. He does what He wants with the nations of the earth. No one can hold His hand back. No one can say to Him, “What have you done?”

My honor and glory were returned to me when my mind became clear again. The glory of my kingdom was given back to me. My advisers and nobles came to me. And I was put back on my throne. I became even greater than I had been before. 

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, give praise and honor and glory to the King of heaven. Everything he does is right. All of his ways are fair. He is able to bring down those who live proudly.


God didn’t just restore him, but made him greater than before! God had to humble him so that he could be used for greater works. While God may bring a person to poverty for a period, we have no reason to believe He wants to leave them there. God is always in the business of preparing people to steward more, not less.


God’s Promises are just for Heaven

Timing is perhaps the most difficult aspect of God’s reward and blessings to understand. Assuming you have agreed that God is not a sadistic father who wants to leave us in poverty to draw closer to Him, you may still have questions if the reward, honor, and wealth He promises are for this life or the next. It’s a very fair, albeit difficult, question.


The story of the rich ruler in Mark 10 ends with Jesus giving the famous 100-fold statement.

“Truly I tell you,” said Jesus, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and to receive eternal life in the age to come. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”


While this is often maligned by the Prosperity Gospel to encourage a give to get equation, there is no getting around the fact that God replied to Peter’s statement that “We’ve given everything to follow you!” with this statement. It is almost as if He encouraged Him that His sacrifice would not be in vain. That he would receive back whatever he had given up, albeit with persecution.


Looking at the rest of the life of Peter, it appears this was true! He was surrounded by new family as the church grew. He had no shortage of resources as He did the work of the ministry. Yet, he was persecuted for this blessing and ultimately martyred for his faith.


God’s blessings are for now, but they aren’t always what we expect. Could it sometimes be finances? Absolutely. Is it always? No! Sometimes the reward for financial giving may come in a non-monetary way. Yet, it is clear that the reward is for here and Heaven. A poverty mentality assumes that all rewards are for later, while a prosperity mentality (an unhealthy one) assumes that we can give money now and get more money later, usually for our own benefit.


Signs you may have a Spirit of Poverty

If you still haven’t identified yourself with any of the above characteristics of a poverty mentality, let’s do a double check by looking at some of the outcome of a poverty spirit. If you are experiencing some or all of these, the root may be a poverty spirit.


Lack (of resources)

Paul said “My God shall supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19) as he encouraged the Philippian church that their giving wouldn’t be met without reward. If you are living with an inability to meet the needs of others or accomplish the work that God has called you to, you may have a poverty spirit.


God does not intend that you struggle on a daily basis to meet your needs and are unable to seek His Kingdom. Whether this means working two jobs to make ends meet, not starting a ministry for fear of financial provision, or not giving generously because of fear of lack. God owns it all and His desire is to give us (in accordance with our ability) all we can handle to steward well.


Jealousy (of wealth)
I’ve often heard those who are in poverty due to their own sin (see the list of Proverbs from earlier) detest those who are wealthy.


Do you tend toward a “socialism gospel”? Did you rail against the 99% with the Occupy Wall Street movement? Did you nod in agreement when Bernie Sanders talked smack about the “millionays and billionays”?


If you have found yourself in this situation, you may be in poverty. Note I said “in poverty”, not “poor”! You could have little money but not be jealous of others that do and not be in poverty. However, a poverty spirit assumes that everyone who has money got it through ill-gotten means and doesn’t deserve what they have. It has seen the opposite of a “love of money” as a “hate for money and those who have it”, rather than a love for Jesus and His Kingdom.


Fear (of loss)
God does not want us to live in fear (Check out all these verses about fear!). Yet, many are in fear of losing their money. It doesn’t have to do with how much you have, for many who are rich and poor have this fear.


A while ago, I purchased a full set of Wusthof kitchen knives. These are very nice, high quality knives and one of my most valued material possessions. Part of this set includes 8 steak knives. When I first got these, my first thought was to get another, cheaper set of steak knives for everyday use. After all, I didn’t want to have these ones dulled, stained, or chipped.

My girlfriend, Emma, (wife as of March 18, 2018!!) confronted this gently by asking “Why wouldn’t you want to enjoy these every day?”. It made me realize that I have this symptom of a poverty spirit that keeps me from enjoying God’s blessings because of a fear of loss. We still take care of them, honing them often and hand washing and drying after each use, but rather than focus on a fear of loss we’re rejoicing in God’s provision every day that we use these.


A fear of losing our money, job, house, etc. is rooted in a failure to understand the abundance of the Kingdom. God owns it all and we are His ambassadors! We must walk in the confidence of knowing the full might and resources of the Kingdom are behind us. He has promised to meet our needs and encourages us to pursue His Kingdom. Additionally, “your” money and possessions aren’t yours anyhow, but God’s! He owns it all and even gives you the ability to make money. Why would you be afraid of losing it when He is in control?


Guilt (over spending)

While saving is good and Biblical, we shouldn’t be having guilt over any spending on ourselves. Of course, this could be in excess, as the Rich fool who saved for himself and wasn’t generous toward God demonstrates (see my other post on balancing saving and giving for more), but if we feel guilty every time we buy something for ourselves, we are in poverty.

Did you click on the link to the Wusthof knives in the last section and do a double take at the price? When I wrote that section, my first reaction was to explain how I bought them on Craigslist for much less than the $2,000 price they normally go for. Again, this is a symptom of a poverty spirit! When we feel the need to justify our purchases and explain to others how little we actually spent, we are not living in the freedom of God’s provision. When we feel guilt ourselves or silently judge others for spending, we likely have a poverty spirit somewhere inside us.


When we understand that God has provided all we have need of, we won’t be concerned about using some of those resources for our own needs and pleasure. If we do, we’re in poverty (regardless of how much money we have). We cover this more in the discipline of joy in our 3rd post of this series.


Joylessness (in giving)
Some give, but do so with no joy. Every dollar is done begrudgingly and with a sorrow that we are losing a part of ourselves that we can never reclaim. It is this view that the money is ours and whatever we give is less for us to meet our needs that is rooted in poverty.


We should have joy when we give because we know that God is using us and trusting us! He has it all anyhow and we’re just managing, so being able to give is a measure of how much ability we’ve built in the Kingdom! If we’re still struggling with giving, our ability hasn’t been fully developed. Yes, we should stretch it by giving, but more importantly we should root out a spirit of Poverty so that we are able to be cheerful givers.
What to do if you’ve believed the lie of the Poverty Gospel

If you’ve identified with any of the above, you may have a bit of poverty leaven in your heart! I know I have. The Bible says that “narrow is the road that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). It is difficult to stay on a narrow road, as we tend to drift to the wide roads on either side (poverty or prosperity). If you now realize that you are on either one, here’s how to get back on the right road!



Acknowledge that you’ve been wrong in your thinking and simply start thinking differently. Just correct your direction. Don’t wallow in shame, but rejoice that the truth has been revealed!


Be Thankful

Thankfulness drives out a spirit of poverty. Be thankful for the blessings you already have and you’ll find yourself rejoicing in the prosperity provided by God’s goodness!


Be Generous

Generosity breeds thankfulness and builds character. Don’t start waiting to give, give now! In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul recounts how the Macedonian church gave even while they were in need. He encourages the Corinthian church to give out of their abundance so that everyone’s needs would be met. Don’t use being poor as an excuse to not be generous.


Live in His Presence

Psalms 16:11 says “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”. God’s presence is a wonderful thing. A transforming power. Live in His presence and you’ll find fullness of joy and pleasures. It is difficult for poverty to coexist with joy and pleasure, so seek His presence!



The poverty spirit is so dangerous because it is so subtle. So much of it appears good. Humble, not of the world, suffering for Christ, etc. Yet, when we look closer we see that God is full of riches and blessing and His Kingdom is one of abundance. While our next post will dig deeper in to the danger of seeking the provision over the Provider, don’t make the equally bad mistake of forsaking the provision from the provider!






This is the 1st of a 3-part series. Stay tuned for my second post on the “Prosperity Gospel” and 3rd post on “The Provision Gospel”!

How to Give Like Gates

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Imagine having access to a near limitless fortune and being tasked to dispense it for the good of humanity. Billions of dollars are at your fingertips to start universities, cure diseases, and whatever else your heart desires. Whatever you can dream can be accomplished. Sounds incredible, right?

When we think of someone with this capability, perhaps none is more prominent than Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who’s personally worth is nearly $90 Billion dollars. He’s pledged to give away half of this fortune and is making strides toward his goal with astounding progress.


But this article isn’t about Bill Gates.


This is about another Gates. Frederick T. Gates. A man who was perhaps the greatest philanthropist of all times and yet was nowhere near as wealthy as Bill Gates.

You see, Frederick T. Gates was the steward to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil fortune.

In the early 1890’s Rockefeller had become one of the wealthiest men in the world and was feeling the strain of his fortune. He was beset by hundreds of begging letters, everyone wanting him to fund their special project. Feeling this burden, he turned to a former minister whose acquaintance he had made while considering a gift to start a Baptist seminary.

“I am in trouble, Mr. Gates. The pressure of these appeals for gifts has become too great for endurance. I haven’t the time or strength, with all my heavy business responsibilities, to deal with these demands properly. I am so constituted as to be unable to give away money with any satisfaction until I have made the most careful inquiry as to the worthiness of the cause. These investigations are now taking more of my time and energy than the Standard Oil itself.

I think you are the man. I want you to come to New York and open an office here. You can aid me in my benefactions by taking interviews and inquiries, and reporting the results for action. What do you say?” (American Heritage)

In a moment, Gates was elevated to steward of a fortune that he had not earned. For the next 30+ years he would be a pivotal figure in Rockefellers legacy. He shifted the face of a nation through systematic giving and creation of large institutions and foundations, including the University of Chicago, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, the General Education Board, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

In his life, Gates oversaw the dispensing of what would be tens of billions of today’s dollars. He was also a mentor to Rockefeller Jr., who would inherit his father’s fortune and become an even greater philanthropist than Sr. himself.


So how are we to give like Gates?


The first lesson we can learn from Frederick T. Gates is how a steward must be humble. I know that I myself would struggle with the feeling that I wasn’t giving away “my” money, so it wasn’t as meaningful. After all, I want to be remembered like Rockefeller or Bill Gates, not just heard of from an obscure blog post like you likely just learned about ole’ Frederick!

As Christians, whether we’re Gates or Gates, we’re stewards of God’s resources. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” That pretty much covers everything!

The idea that money is ours to do with as we please is not a Biblical one. God owns it all. This isn’t just the tithe, which is the first 10% that we’re asked to return to Him (Malachi 3:8), but also our offerings and every other aspect of our budget. It is all God’s and He’s entrusted it to us to steward well. This doesn’t mean we need to give it all away, but it does mean that we need to make Godly decisions with every dollar, whether spending, investing, saving, or giving.

When we realize this, we suddenly become humble about our position. Whether we’ve been entrusted with much wealth or little, we cannot boast. It is God who brings the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7) and we can’t brag any more than Frederick could brag about his wealth. While he had great power and authority as given by the one who owned the wealth, he always understood his position as a steward.

The second lesson we can learn from F. T. Gates is to steward what you have right now. Gates was a Baptist minister turned fundraiser when Rockefeller met him. The reason Rockefeller entrusted him with his fortune is because he recognized his integrity and passion. He saw a man of deep faith and conviction that matched his own and knew that he would diligently steward his fortune as if it were his own.

As believers, God is looking for the same in you. God owns it all but has chosen to co-labor with believers to use it for the good of the world. Sure, He could magically make money appear when there’s a need, but most of the time He chooses to go through Christians who understand their positions as stewards and are willing to hear God’s voice and act in obedience to it.

This leads to the third lesson we can learn from Gates. We have unlimited resources.

Most people have thought at some point of what they would do if they won the lottery and suddenly had millions of dollars at their disposal. Now they would give generously and wisely! They’d do incredible things for sure. It’s a pity that they just don’t have the resources right now….well, maybe someday, right?

I’m here to tell you that as a Christian, you DO have the resources right now! You’ve been entrusted as a steward to the riches of the Kingdom of God!

Luke 16:10 says “”Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”. The biggest thing limiting your resources is YOU!

Now please don’t mistake what I’m saying as the “Prosperity Gospel”, which preaches that you should give to get. This is a perversion of the truth and I’ll be posting an article in March digging in to the topic in more detail. A good steward is not focused on getting more for themselves as much as they are being wise with what they have. It is only in this that they are able to handle more.

When we think that we don’t have enough to meet a need, we limit God. Imagine if the boy who gave the disciples his loaves and fishes had said “No” because he didn’t imagine it was enough to feed 5,000+ people. What an opportunity he’d have missed to be part of a miracle! Instead, he was willing to give from what he had and an impossibly large need was met.

God is a God of multiplication. He isn’t limited by our resources, but by the lack of understanding most Christians have of their position as Kingdom stewards. I’m not saying that you should give on a credit card with no plan to repay (that would go against all the Bible says about debt!), but you must learn to hear the voice of God and respond to needs with what you have now before He’ll be able to break it and use it.

We must learn to function as stewards of a great fortune. Rather than living in poverty, thinking we must hoard and guard what we have while we slowly accumulate more, we must learn to think like Frederick T. Gates must have thought. Free from the fear of lack and focused on being in tune with the owner’s heart. Giving generously and wisely and seeking an eternal impact while focusing on the here and now.

What’s even more, we are not only stewards, but sons and daughters of the King. We have the full resources of the Kingdom of God at our disposal and are tasked with using them to destroy the works of Satan. Focus on this and suddenly you’ll never find a need you can’t meet!


And that is how you give like Gates.


Should Christians Buy Bitcoin?

Bitcoin and Christians
Reading Time: 8 minutes

While I titled this article “Should Christians Buy Bitcoin?”, the fundamentals we’ll discuss will apply to other cryptocurrencies (Litecoin, Ethereum, Monero, etc.) as well as high risk/high return, volatile, and speculative investments in general.

Also, I realize there is a movement afoot that suspects cryptocurrencies are somehow part of the end-times “one world currency” or “mark of the beast”. I am not covering this theory as to a reason Christians should or shouldn’t buy Bitcoin, but focusing on the question of how a good Christian financial steward deals with high-risk and/or speculative investments.

For those who haven’t read up on the recent news of Bitcoin, let’s give a brief overview to begin. Bitcoin is the largest of a slew of digital cryptocurrencies that have been created in the last several years. They exist purely in the digital realm, with no tangible “coin” that you can hold.

However, they do hold characteristics similar to other currencies, such as gold and silver. By design, there are limited amounts of any given cryptocurrency. This makes them a limited resource. In the case of Bitcoin, there will never be more than 21 Million created and in circulation.

All currency is just a medium of exchange that represents value of some other asset. The concept of currency itself goes back to ancient times and is affirmed in scripture. In Deuteronomy 14:24-26 we see the Israelites instructed to sell their tithe (10% of their increase) in exchange for Silver if the place they must go to give their tithe is too far away. Normally, they would bring their actual goods (grain, cattle, wine, etc.) for the tithe, but since it is difficult to transport these a long way, they were allowed to use currency (silver) for their tithe.

Just as Silver represents the value of something else and is in limited supply, making it easy to value, cryptocurrency is the same in the digital realm. Given the way the “blockchain” works, there is continual redundancy and security to ensure each cryptocurrency is only able to used once for a given transaction, making it secure and scalable.

When Bitcoin was first created in 2009, it was worth pennies for each unit (a single Bitcoin). Over time it started to gain ground, reaching over a thousand dollars through the 2014 timeframe before dropping back for a period. 2017 proved to be the year of Bitcoin, however, with rapid growth starting in the Summer and peaking (so far) with gains of over 50% in a single week in early-December (the time of this writing). It peaked at nearly $20k per Bitcoin before dropping back to around $15-16k as of 12/10/2017. Below is a chart of the performance since inception from

Bitcoin Chart Christian

This rapid growth has made some who invested a few thousand dollars early on into millionaires. Many have seen smaller returns and the Winklevoss Twins became the first Bitcoin Billionaires off of their initial $11M investments.

There are few examples of investments that have yielded such incredible returns in such a short period for so many. Much of the recent spike in growth is likely due to “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) causing everyone and their brother to buy in. Of course, this has fueled speculation that Bitcoin is just a bubble, as there is no inherent value behind it (like a company). It is only valuable as a currency.

Given the volatility and speculative nature of cryptocurrencies, many have wise investors have advised again allocating any of your portfolio to this “scheme”. Rather, they say, stick with proven investments (index funds, real estate, etc.) that will grow slow and steady over time.

This “tortoise and hare” strategy has backing in Scripture. Proverbs 21:5 says “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty.”. Sounds pretty simple! Open and shut case that Christians shouldn’t invest in speculative, risky ventures, right?

Not so fast…

In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27) we see common themes regarding Christian investing.

The Master (God) has given the servants (Christians) stewardship over some of His possessions and asked them to put it to work for Him. In both stories, some invested well and earned praise and reward. However, one did not and laid away the money in savings (no interest or return at all). This was the servant who was chastised and the little money he had was given to the servant who had invested best.

Here’s a few principles we can learn from these parables:

  • Investment Requires Risk
    If there wasn’t an element of risk with the investment options, the servant who buried his money wouldn’t have been so afraid to invest. He was afraid to lose the money so he chose to save it without yielding any return. The other servants were ok with taking some risk in whatever ventures they put the money to or else they wouldn’t have earned returns!
  • High Returns Require Greater Risk
    It is a proven fact that higher risk yields greater returns. We can see this in something as simple as interest rates in lending. Someone with poor credit (higher risk) has to pay higher interest (higher return for lender). This is because some of the loans the lender makes won’t get paid back at all. There is risk of losing a lot on some, so others must make a higher return in order to compensate for that risk. The lenders average return is not the interest rate that all of these poor credit borrowers is paying because they must also factor in their losses on the defaulting loans as part of the equation.
    Given the great returns the servants achieved for their master, they must have taken some risks! Perhaps they started new businesses, made high risk loans, or traded futures contracts on grain prices. Surely some of those failed, but the overall return was strong as they weren’t afraid to try.
  • Speculation for one may be Investment for Another
    The Bible says in the Parable of the Talents that “each was given in accordance with his ability” (contrast the Parable of the Minas where each was given the same amount). Part of this ability was likely their skill in investing. Perhaps one of them was a skilled vintner (wine maker). Maybe he went out and bought the best plots of land he could find for vineyards in the choicest regions and then proceeded to interview and hire the best vineyard managers out there. Because he knew what to look for, his vineyards were incredibly successful!Now what if another servant, who was perhaps a great shepherd and knew all about selective breeding to get the best flocks, tried to do the same vineyard strategy? He didn’t know much about wine so if he went out and bought vineyards his chances of success would be much less! What was a wise investment for the vintner would be speculation for the shepherd.

Bringing the above back to Bitcoin, we can learn a few things.

First, just because an investment is risky doesn’t immediately disqualify, but qualifies, it! However, it must have potential returns that are proportionate to that risk. If we take a high-risk investment that doesn’t have the potential for high returns, we’re not being good stewards.

Second, investing in Bitcoin may be speculation for one and not for another. Most of the people who bought Bitcoin in the last week have no idea what the underlying technology is, what technical indicators show, or what the valuation models predict. They haven’t read up on the tulip mania and are jumping in purely on hopes that it will keep climbing like it has. These are speculators, not investors.

Contrast this with someone who has studied all of the above points and is making a conscious and deliberate investment. True that no one knows the future for sure, but they have limited their risk since they’ve thoroughly researched the investment. This is wise stewardship and should apply to everything we allocate our money to.

If we don’t know everything ourselves, we should have experts help us. This was largely what the Master was doing in the parables. Likely he wasn’t a better investor in each respective investment than all of his servants. He gave them according to their ability so they could work in that function. I use this strategy by using a fee only Financial Advisor that helps me allocate my portfolio to various investments. He does this full-time and I don’t. Listening to him is much wiser than me trying to become an expert in everything I invest in.

The second point to consider with speculative, high-risk investments is diversification.

Ecclesiastes 11:2 says “Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.”. What the writer is saying here is that we shouldn’t have “all our eggs in one basket”. It is wise to split up your investments since our ROI isn’t guaranteed.

Any good investment portfolio manages risk by diversifying to different assets. Some allocations may be deliberately counter to one another, meaning that one is expected to go up if another goes down…of course, this means one will always be losing if the other is winning, but it ensures there is protection in either direction. This lowers overall return, but does so while reducing risk even more so. The key to investing isn’t just getting the best return, but getting the best return for a given risk.

So how do we apply this to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?

If you are looking to “get rich quick” and throw 80% of your net worth in to a high-risk investment, you aren’t investing…but gambling. This is foolish and should not be done by a Christian steward. Even if you are successful, you have likely skipped over the character development to handle wealth that God builds over time and will not be successful managing your quickly gotten wealth.

However, it is wise to have some high-risk, high-return assets in your portfolio.

I personally decided to allocate about 1% of my net-worth to a mix of cryptocurrency this past Summer and have seen good very good returns. Because of the rapid growth, this investment now accounts for about 5% of my overall net worth (the rest is a mix of cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, alternative investments, metals, etc.). If crypto continues to grow, I will likely sell some and reallocate it so I don’t get more than 5-7% of my overall net worth in this volatile investment. The rapid 500% returns on my 1% helps offset other investments that are lower return and lower risk. They provide a stable base to allow more speculative ventures. However, if I had lost (or lose!) some or all of the 1%, it won’t have a devastating effect on my portfolio or overall returns.

For someone who is more skilled in crypto, this allocation may be higher (due to their knowledge/ability lowering the risk). However, I would still be hesitant to recommend anyone go over 10-20% total portfolio value due to the inherent unproven nature of this new asset class.

Conversely, someone who has very little understanding of cryptocurrency or needs a lower overall risk profile (nearing retirement, has little savings, etc.), 5-7% may be too much. 1-3% of their portfolio is likely more responsible in this type of investment.

Taking this to the extreme, I’d even say it isn’t inherently wrong for a Christian to buy a lottery ticket! Now I know this is controversial, but I want to reinforce my point above. The lottery is a ridiculously high-risk, high-return investment. Your chances of winning a big jackpot might be one in 300+ Million. However, the potential return is also there! You might win $200M on a $2 “investment”!

So how does this play out? If a Christian were to be making $100k a year and investing 15% ($15k) in long term investments, but decided that half of that ($7k) was going to be used to buy Powerball tickets, they’d be very foolish and a poor steward! However, if they decided to allocate $2 a week ($104 a year, or 0.0066667% of their portfolio, to lotto tickets, it wouldn’t be wrong. The impact on their overall return would be negligible, but there is also an opportunity for them to see an incredible return, greatly increasing their overall portfolio’s return in ways it never could otherwise. This is the extreme, but demonstrates the point well.

Investing in high-risk, volatile, and even speculative investments like Bitcoin isn’t fundamentally wrong for Christians. However, it must be done with the above factors in mind. Only do so if you have a level of understanding that limits the speculative nature of the investment and only allocate a portion of your portfolio that is appropriate for your risk profile. Apply this to all of your investments decisions and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a “10 talent servant”!



Balancing Giving and Saving: A Biblical Rule of Thumb

Giving vs Savings
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Today we are exploring a question that I often get asked (or ask myself) from those who have a heart for Biblical Stewardship.

“How do I balance giving/generosity with saving/retirement?”

It is a difficult question, but an honorable one. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25), we see that each servant was given “in accordance with his ability). I once wrote on how this ability was perhaps largely a measure of their faith, but I have little doubt that even the “5 talent servant” still had to wrestle with questions of what to do with the resources entrusted to him. The balance of giving vs. saving is one that all Christians will eventually have ponder.

This article is not for those who at the beginning of their financial stewardship journey. This is for the “5 talent servants” who have moved beyond the basics and are exploring deep, hard questions about the balance between generosity and saving. If you are following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, you will find the most value here if you are already at Baby Step 4, “Invest 15% of Household Income Into Retirement” or above.

A note to those just starting out in stewardship

Having said that, if you are earlier in your journey, I’ll give a couple quick pointers to help you out. Often people ask if they should tithe while still paying down debt or trying to build up savings. In these cases, I usually encourage people to begin tithing right away, but don’t give above the tithe till they get the rest of their financial house in order. The tithe is God’s money and you are not giving, but returning it to Him. Always tithe with no exceptions.

Giving above the Tithe are free-will offerings. While these are great and I would encourage you to hear the Holy Spirit on His urging for you to give, generosity must always be coupled with stewardship. Scripture speaks about Debt and Savings so we must ensure we have those in a Biblical position before we give above the tithe. Pay off your non-mortgage debt first, then build your emergency fund (3-6 mo living expenses), then build up your retirement to 10%, and then increase giving and savings. There are sometimes exceptions (I always encourage people to contribute up to their employer 401k match right away, as that is “free money”), but these are good principles to follow. Read the rest of this article once you’ve arrived to this point!

Back to you 5 talent servants!

Now back to those who are already tithing, have paid off their debt (aside from mortgage), have a 3-6mo emergency fund, and are investing at least 10% in to their long-term retirement savings. Congratulations! You are in an excellent position. God has blessed you as you’ve followed many of His principles of stewardship.

….but now you are struggling to know what to do next. Perhaps you’ve asked these questions:

  • “Should I give more money or save more for retirement?”
  • “Should I decrease my retirement savings to give more generously?”
  • “Should I pay more down on the house (or toward a down payment), give more, or invest more?”
  • “I want to be generous, but is it better to give now or give later once I’ve invested the money and its grown?”

These are hard questions! I recently re-read Randy Alcorn’s book “Money, Possessions, and Eternity” and found that even he spoke to the struggle and “tension” found in these questions. While it was discussed at length, I feel this is one weak area of an otherwise excellent book as he never really gives a good answer.

My intent is to give one answer to these questions. It may not always the best answer for everyone and I’m not saying it is the only Biblical truth, but it has helped me to strike a balance in my own giving vs. savings.

One of the primary verses in the Bible regarding Retirement savings is the Parable of the Rich Fool, found in Luke 12:13-21. Here’s the story:

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Many have found fear of saving for retirement in this story, even to the point of some discouraging any long-term savings. Often they’ll couple this with verses on the difficulty of a rich man entering heaven (Matthew 19:24) in the story of the rich young ruler. I don’t believe this is the intent of the parable at all.

What I believe is one of the key verses here is v. 21 where Jesus qualifies the story with “whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God”.

The Bible talks much about the value of saving and investing. Proverbs Chapter 6 speaks of the ant that stores up in Summer for the Winter months. Ecclesiastes 11:12 encourages us to divide our investments to 7 or 8 portions for we “know not what disaster may happen on the earth”. God is not against savings! Savings are one way that God provides for our needs. When he blesses us abundantly it is wise to use that surplus to prepare for years of less, just as Joseph did in Egypt. There is no less faith in God to live off of savings that He provided and we wisely stored up than being broke and relying on Him to provide for us!

Ok, now that we (hopefully!) agree savings is good and Biblical, how do we not become the Rich Fool with our retirement savings?

The key is to be rich toward God.

The rich man was a fool because he saved without being generous. We have no indication from the parable that he increased his giving in proportion to his increased savings. This isn’t what we want to do!

What I’ve found as a balance to this struggle is this simple rule of thumb.

Give as much money each year as you invest in long-term retirement savings.


At a basic level, you should be giving the tithe (10%) and investing 10% for long-term savings. As your resources allow you to go above that, I would encourage you to increase both at equal rates. If you have an extra 10% in your monthly budget beyond your other needs (spending, medium-term saving, etc.), rather than increasing your retirement savings to 20% and keeping your giving at 10%, increase both to 15%.

Now what about other questions such as paying down the house early or increasing lifestyle spending? Perhaps you are even thinking about cutting some lifestyle spending to free up more for investing/giving.

You’ll still need to ask those questions. I’d encourage you to prioritize this way:

  1. Determine your monthly spending and medium-term savings with a solid annual budget (2-5 year expenses, like cars, appliances, etc.).
  2. Set a retirement goal and target % to reach this (likely 10-20% of income, depending on your current savings and age). Use a retirement calculator to help with this.
  3. Set both your giving and retirement savings to the above percentage
  4. Revisit your monthly budget (Step 1) and allocate at any more “excess”. Pray about increasing lifestyle spending, paying down the house early, or continuing to increase giving or giving/retirement together. At this point I don’t think you can really go wrong with any of those and have freedom to move as the Spirit leads.

What if you find you don’t have enough in your budget to meet your retirement goal and also give the same amount? For example, let’s say 15% is your retirement goal but if you do that you can only do 10% in your giving. In this case I would still encourage you to do equal percentages and make both 12.5%.

While it may appear this isn’t wise as it doesn’t allow you to meet your retirement goal, I wouldn’t want to be in a place where I am being rich toward myself and not toward God. We don’t know what the future holds so we should be generous with what God has entrusted us today and not put it off for the future. There is an element of faith here, but I believe God will reward your heart and provide for your future, either by providing later or by increasing your resources now to allow you to increase both to 15%.

I have found much freedom in this approach as God has blessed me to be able to give above and beyond the tithe. This year I was able to give 20% of my income and invest another 20% toward long-term savings. In the coming years, I may decide to lower these down to 15% and 15%, as 15% would still be enough for my retirement goals and the 10% it would free up could be used toward another big goal (paying cash for my next home). Eventually I hope that I have more than enough going toward retirement to meet my retirement goal and would begin increasing giving above the percent going toward retirement.

Again, I understand that many are a long way off from asking this question. I always want to be sensitive to those who are still at the beginning stages of their journey. If you are one of those, look to this as an encouraging goal and not a discouraging challenge!

However, for those that have been given much, much is required (Luke 12:48). As you move up the ranks of your stewardship responsibility and God continues to bless you, you need to challenge yourself to learn more and steward these greater resources. Otherwise you will eventually stagnate in your growth.

God owns everything and He is looking for people who have grown in their ability so they can manage these great resources for the Kingdom. Ask these hard questions and pray about the answers. God cares about your Finances! They are powerful in directing your heart toward or away from God. Make sure you are always being rich toward Him and not just yourself and you’ll find that you won’t fall in to the trap of becoming rich and no longer relying on God, as Solomon lamented in Proverbs 30:9.

There is much more I would love to write on this, but we’re already at nearly 2,000 words so those will wait for another day! Be sure to subscribe for my email updates below and I’ll notify you when I post new content on questions such as “Is Retirement Biblical?”, “Is God Against Wealth?”, and more!



5 Character Traits Every Millennial Leader Must Learn

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Millennials, those born from the early 80’s to mid-90’s, are one of the largest demographics alive today. Their impact on business, culture, and economy will be profound, as shown by a few statistics provided by Brookings:

  • Millennials will comprise more than one in three of adult Americans by 2020.
  • Millennials will make up as much as 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025.

With such a large generation taking center stage in America’s history, it begs the question of what character traits will be essential in Millennial leaders.

Every generation has had their leaders.

Our nation’s founding was birthed through the leadership of a relatively small group of extraordinary leaders. Men and women of gifted minds and deep resolve.

Our nation’s growth was piloted by another group of visionary leaders that harnessed the power of our rich heritage and resources to create a powerhouse of influence. Men and women of boundless optimism and relentless energy.

Our nation’s survival was protected by leaders who refused to let fascist and communist ideals subvert what those before them had created. Men and women of fierce determination and selfless sacrifice.

The generation that led us through the first half of the 20th century is all but gone. The second half of the century already showed the weakening of their influence, as leadership was replaced with conformity and chaos. We entered the age of the Millennial with more questions than answers and gave birth to a generation not only responsible for their own leadership, but having little inheritance in that respect.

Despite these easily spotted trends, little focus seems to be given to Millennials’ leadership development. According to a 2016 Forbes article by Karen Higginbottom:

The study found that just 20% of organizations identified the Millennial leader segment as critical for development over the next 24 months. Neither are organizations invested in coaching and mentoring of Millennial leaders. Millennial leaders crave advice particularly from senior leadership yet on average, just 7% of organizations invested in offering Millennial coaching, mentoring and dedicated time with their chief executive and other senior leaders.”

The discrepancy between the need and the action is glaring and alarming. We must learn how to develop young people in to leaders if our economy and culture are to survive.

My intent in writing this article is to not leave the earlier question of what traits are essential to Millennial leaders, but rather to help shape the answer with Godly Wisdom. My hope and prayer is that aspiring leaders in my generation will read this, adopt these principles, and rise above the weakness surrounding them to develop in to leaders the generations to come will be proud and thankful to have had before them.

So, without further prelude, let’s discuss 5 leadership traits that any Millennial aspiring to leadership must learn, embrace, and practice.

  1. Perseverance
    By definition, a millennial is someone in their 20’s or early-30’s (as of the time of this writing in 2017). This means that they are early in life and have many years ahead in order to achieve the level of success they envision. This is something common to all young people throughout the ages and can be frustrating to those with big dreams and boundless ambition.While we’ll discuss the importance of Patience as our 5th attribute, I now want to emphasize the importance of Perseverance in a young leader’s life. None of the rest of this article will be of any good if one does not apply each trait with consistent perseverance.Hebrews 11 is known as the “Hall of Faith” chapter in the Bible and talks about the legacy of generations past created by their strong faith and hope. In Hebrews 12, the author continues with:

    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, (2) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (3) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3

    This is a powerful image of the motivating impact of a “great cloud of witnesses”, the leaders of past generations, watching and cheering as we run the race. Even more importantly, we have the picture of Jesus before us, encouraging us to run the race that He charted for us and giving us the power to do so through His own journey and resulting Grace.

    A race by definition will be hard. It is important that in all we endeavor, we do “not grow weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9) but persevere in the calling we have before us.

    As we run this race, we are expected to grow in maturity and wisdom. This is not a factor of age, but a result of deliberate discipleship under Godly authority.  In Ephesians 4, beginning in v. 9, Paul speaks about the “fivefold ministry” and its place in growing the church. He wraps up with a vision of the end result:

    “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” – Ephesians 4:14

    This result of mature confidence, rooted in strong doctrine and sound in faith, is not the byproduct of age but of discipleship. Millennials, being young, should not wait for age to bring wisdom. They must place themselves under Godly authority in order to grow in wisdom. This concept may seem too “Christian-eze” for my secular readers, but it is not unlike good mentorship or simply honoring and respecting the authority (bosses, parents, etc.) that are currently in your life.

    The road to leadership is long. Leadership is not something given, but earned. Anything of value that is earned takes time to cultivate. Walking with perseverance is critical to achieving greatness.

  2. Humbleness
    As Millennials are young, they are beset by a plague common to many youth; Pride. Granted, this does not magically disappear with age, but life has a way of humbling most. Rather than waiting for life to knock down one’s pride, the wise pursue Wisdom and learn humbleness before their fall. George Washington, perhaps the most impactful and remembered of the Founding Fathers, was a young man during his first opportunities for greatness.In Ron Chernow’s biography, Washington: A Life, we find a story of a young man riddled with insecurity and anxious about his future. During his time as an American officer in the French and Indian war, Washington was constant in his griping of not getting the recognition he deserved. He constantly angled for honor and sought a commission he felt worthy of at every opportunity.This picture is surely not one we have come to know of the composed Washington in later life. His pursuit of recognition is likely attributed to the deep insecurities and unbounded ambition often found in those of their early-20’s. Thankfully, in time he shed much of this and became servant to greater causes than his own, allowing him to walk fully in his calling.

    The best leaders are those who are not pursuing leadership itself, but service. I wrote about this last year and still feel strongly that it is one of the defining characteristics of great leaders and those who only see leadership as a path to more.

    Leadership is rare and, therefore, valuable. It is easy to conflate the results of strong leadership (position, authority, money, power, etc.) with leadership itself. Many young people find themselves in the position of thinking they are noble in pursuing leadership, when they are really only pursuing its benefits.

    Being CEO of your own tech startup is not leadership in and of itself. Having 100k Twitter followers isn’t leadership either. Those that pursue these are the definition of irony as they are often doing so in pride or misplaced ambition, thinking they are leaders when they lack true leadership’s most important attribute; humble service.

    Romans 12:3 says “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”.

    Each of us is simply a member of the body, called to run the particular race that God has set before us. Internalizing this truth will breed great humbleness, which allows God to exalt a leader and use them in ways we could never imagine or achieve on our own.

  3. Resolution
    Humbleness is a critical characteristic of a leader, but it must not be confused with frailty. A leader must be just as confident in what they know as they are aware of what they don’t.  Asking questions is good, but it isn’t an end to itself.Rob Bell, in his book “Velvet Elvis”, opened himself up to asking many questions. It could even be said that his doctrine became founded on not having a doctrine, for who are we to ever stop questioning?When I first read Bell in college, I detected the danger of his questioning. There was no leadership here. He stopped short of throwing away fundamental doctrines, but opened himself up to asking if they were important. Years later, in his book “Love Wins”, Bell showed the dangerous progression of this lack of resolution through his rejection of the fundamental nature of God’s justice. He essentially became a heretic because he refused to have resolve of belief.A leader must ask questions with the intent to obtain answers. Once those answers are achieved, they must be held to confidently. This resolution is like a lighthouse light cutting through the dark confusion and chaos of a questioning generation and giving clear guidance and protection. Those who are able to stand confident in their belief will be elevated in leadership, regardless of whether that belief is right or wrong.

    Unfortunately, the Millennial generation is often told not to have strongly held beliefs because of their youth. Perhaps it is intimidating to see people walk in confidence. Perhaps conviction is automatically equated with pride. Perhaps it is a byproduct of the death of truth and reason. Regardless, resolution is punished in the younger generations.

    Thankfully this is not a new phenomenon and we see it addressed in two places within Scripture. In Paul’s letters to both Timothy (1 Timothy 4:11-12) and Titus (Titus 2:15), we see him instruct them to let no one “despise their youth” but to be examples and walk in authority. Teaching, exhorting, rebuking. Steadfast in deep resolution of what they know and the gifts that had been given them, by God and through His appointed authority. This function was even extended to those that were older than them in years, but younger in the faith. As each member of the body is there to serve one another, God is no respecter of age.

    This true resolution is also accompanied by quiet confidence. In Matthew 5:33, Jesus teaches on oaths, or vows, and reminds us to avoid them but answer with simple confidence of a “Yes” or “No” (v. 37). This carries with it an air of perseverance, in that we do not walk in questions and doubt, but with a quiet confidence that is spoken for with a simple Yes or No, and no more. This should be the habit of a confident and resolved leader.

    Let no one despise your youth. Be humble, but also be confident. Speak clearly and succinctly. Walk in authority, study well, live a Godly life, and don’t waver from the truth you know.

  4. Focus
    In a recent sermon by Bill Johnson of Bethel church, he expounded upon a particular verse in the Parable of the Sower, found in Luke 8. The focus was on the impact that “cares” can have on allowing the Word of God (the seeds) to grow in a Christian’s life. These cares are not sin, but other voices than God’s that drown out His voice. Cares literally means a “divided mind”.Johnson encourages us to have our eyes be “single”, as spoken of in Matthew 6:22. This idea of “single” conveys being of undivided mind. Complete focus on Christ and His Kingdom.The millennial generation is one of the most distracted to ever walk the face of the earth. The barrage of messages created by the explosion of internet and social media has made for tattered minds, hopelessly divided in their attention and pursuits. How many of this generation have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD? One has to ask if this is merely the symptom of a divided mind.In order to achieve anything of significance, focus on that thing must be complete. In the case of the Christian, we are told to be 100% focused on Christ and His Kingdom. We are to seek it first, trusting that everything else will be provided as we have need (Matthew 6:33).

    The difficulty most of us have is knowing what His Kingdom looks like for us. If it were a standard path, even a difficult one, at least we could make a clear decision on whether or not we’d take the journey. Unfortunately, as we are members of the body each designed to fulfill a particular function, our pursuit of His Kingdom will be different for each. Some it may be teaching and others doing. Some may be full-time ministry while others full-time business.

    The key is hearing His voice. Our single-minded pursuit should be simply hearing His voice, believing what He says, and acting in obedience.

    Once we listen for His voice, our focus must be undivided to believe and obey it. We must not allow the cares of the world to overwhelm the power of His voice, but run with perseverance the race ahead of us. We must “write the vision and make it plain” (Habakkuk 2:2) and remind ourselves daily of what our purpose is.

    We must also hearken back to our Resolution and be immune to meaningless things that carry a resemblance of importance. Again, Paul warned both Timothy and Titus of this (1 Timothy 6:20 and Titus 3:9-11) in encouraging them not to be distracted by “chatter” and “foolish controversies”.

    As a younger man, I often feel prey to this and would gladly argue with anyone on fine points of doctrine. Through my 20’s I matured, but this is still something I must constantly remind myself not to fall into. I encourage you to do the same.

    Be focused and do not get distracted by idle people and their many words. Do not let the cares of life divide your mind. Cut out the clutter and focus 100% on His voice.

  5. Patience
    As we discussed earlier on our section regarding Perseverance, young people usually have the challenge of being far away from their fulfilled destiny. Due to the length of this journey, they must walk out all of the above with Patience.While delayed gratification is something that every generation has had to deal with, few have become so accustomed to instant gratification. Millennials have grown up in an on-demand economy, with everything from information to credit readily available. They expect to have success not just later, but now. This trend is likely to blame for everything from the explosion of consumer debt to the lack of company loyalty among our generation.If you’ve made it this far in this article, you are someone who aspires to leadership and has great ambition. I speak from personal experience that balancing strong ambition with patience is not an easy thing. It is easy to become anxious as we wait for God to lead us in to our destiny. It was out of this angst that I wrote on “Finding Your Donkeys” a short while ago. If you’d like further encouragement and direction on this topic, I encourage you to check it out.

    Paul again addresses this as he encourages Timothy in his final words of his first letter to not be drawn away by a pursuit of financial gain. Rather, in Chapter 6, verse 6, he says “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

    Being patient requires contentment in our present state, whatever it may be. We must not pursue the benefits of leadership (in this case, money) if we are to become good leaders. Rather, we must be 100% content with God’s provision. This alone will allow Him to work with us, as a potter molds the clay, to create a perfect vessel for whatever use He sees fit (Jeremiah 18). This may not be “leadership” as you imagine, but it will be exactly where you are supposed to be and position you as the greatest of leaders in His Kingdom.

While I have concern about the broader trends among the Millennial demographic, I am encouraged in knowing that leadership has always been rare. While the culture of the masses has a strong force in determining the direction of a Nation, this culture is not the limiting factor in producing leaders. Leaders by definition are counter-cultural. They must stand above and out front. It does not take a great many leaders to influence change, but a few great leaders to cause great change.

Will you rise up to become a leader within your generation? If this is your aspiration, I encourage you to prayerfully evaluate where you are with each of these 5 character traits and seek to grow in each as you walk out your destiny. The stakes are too high not to.



Find Your Donkeys

Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you care at all about finding your “call” or “destiny”, you need to read this. Finding your donkeys may be the single most powerful thing you can do right now to achieve your specific, God ordained calling.

At some point, to some extent, you have likely worried that you are going to “miss it”. Somehow you’ll take a wrong step and not end up where you were supposed to. It is a scary thought. You only have one life, and to waste it because of a few wrong turns is an overwhelming thought. Whether you are making decisions about a professional career, education, ministry, or just life in general, all of us have to figure out what God wants us to do.

I’ve often been faced with this fear. One of my top five strengths is being “Futuristic”. I can rarely go for more than a few minutes without thinking about the future. It is difficult to live in the moment when I am so focused on what’s ahead. This is a blessing and a curse. Strong vision is an asset when it comes to strategy and planning, but a liability when it comes to focusing on what is given today. Combine this futuristic mentality with a dream and drive to achieve great things and the worry of somehow missing “it” can become near debilitating at times.

Thankfully, God showed me this truth that helped put my anxious heart at ease.

In 1 Samuel chapters 9 and 10 we see the first story of Saul. In chapter 8 we see where Israel wanted a king so they could be like other nations and after trying to convince them otherwise, Samuel took their requests to God and He told them He’d give them a king.

While all of this was happening, Saul was not on the top of anyone’s list for greatness. Yes, he was tall and handsome, but he was from the least of the tribes, a Benjamite.

Saul was also not looking to be king. All he was seeking to do was take care of what he was given day by day. One day, that task was finding the donkeys.

Saul’s father lost some donkeys and he asked Saul to take a servant and find them. They searched for a few days and were about to give up when the servant suggested they go ask Samuel for guidance. Initially Saul didn’t want to as he didn’t have any gifts for Samuel, but the servant had some money on hand. He finally agreed to go.

Saul and Samuel had never met and yet God had told Samuel to expect Saul that very day. He even had dinner prepared for him. Samuel revealed that God wanted him to be king, anointed him with oil and laid out exactly what would happen in the coming days.

Saul did as Samuel asked, but on the day he was to be crowned before the people he chickened out. He hid but God revealed where he hid (among the supplies) and the coronation went on as planned.

There is much we can learn from this story about your destiny and I want to highlight a few of those lessons here.

  1. God Calls You to Steward Today
    When we try to achieve our destiny, whether it is God ordained or our own, we usually fail to steward what we’ve been given today. Saul was not trying to become a king. If he were, he’d be out making political connections or fighting grand battles. All he was doing was what his dad had asked him to do.Jesus says in Matthew 6:34 to “not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”. We often think of this a way to just plod along and get by, eking the best we can out of each day till we die. In reality, this is the recipe for greatness in the Kingdom! God is looking for those that are faithful in little so He can give them much (Luke 16:10). All we should “worry” about is what we’ve been given today.Also, notice that it was Saul’s father that had asked him to go look for the donkeys. At that time in his life, his father was his authority. Sometimes we can even worry about what the right thing to do each day is. An easy answer is to look for the things the authority in your life (your boss, parents, etc.) have asked you to do and start with those. If you get outside of what they’ve asked, be very cautious!Be like Saul and don’t try to find your destiny. Just find your donkeys.
  2. God Is in Control of Your Destiny
    Saul made a couple missteps that could have easily cost him the meeting with Samuel and changed the course of his entire life. First he didn’t want to keep looking for the donkeys and wanted to head home. When his servant tried to convince him to go ask Samuel, he still didn’t want to. Lastly, he tried to hide even after God had confirmed what Samuel promised.It is pretty hard to mess up a plan that God puts in place. He will put the resources and people around you to make it happen. The servant was persistent and provisioned. God gave him exactly what he needed to make the meeting with Samuel happen. Saul couldn’t mess it up although he tried!If we read on in the story of Saul we see that eventually he allowed rebellion in to his life. He spoiled the destiny that God had placed on him not because he missed it, but because he stopped doing our first point (stewarding today). You don’t wander in to rebellion. It’s a choice.If you are focused on stewarding today, God will bring you exactly to the point He wants you. You’ll know if you mess it up.
  3. Your Destiny Doesn’t Need to be Achieved, but Received
    Proverbs 20:21 reads “An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end”. When we go try to achieve our destiny on our own, we usually make it happen too quickly with disastrous results. This is exactly what happened when Abraham had Ishmael. Rather than waiting on God, trusting His promise, and receiving the blessing in time, Ishmael became a burden forever.Notice that God often honors the promise even when we rush ahead. If He has put skills and abilities within in you for a certain task they will manifest themselves in some form. If you do it in our own time, it is usually for bad. Perhaps you get anxious in your current job and go look for another rather than waiting for a promotion. While you may be “successful”, that rushing often leads to sorrow and difficulty along the way, rather than peace.Proverbs 10:22 reads “The blessing of the Lord brings Wealth, without painful toil for it”. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have wealth without painful toil! Work is great, and encouraged by God, but painful toil is something I want as little of as possible!What is another way to know that our destiny is of God and not our own doing? Destiny is almost always given by authority.

    Saul did not achieve his kingdom by force. It was given to him by Samuel. Prior to Saul, Israel was a theocracy, ruled by God and administered through prophets and judges. As such, it was God’s prophet, Samuel, that anointed Saul. It was clear that he was chosen by God and (almost) all the people saw that. He came to his destiny in peace.

    Wait on the Lord and receive your destiny rather than trying to achieve it.

  4. Your Promotion Often Comes When You Least Expect It
    The Bible is replete with stories of ordinary people that were propelled to greatness in mere moments. Gideon was hiding in a wine press threshing wheat when an Angel appears to him and told him he was going to deliver his people from the Midianites (Judges 6). Abraham was 75 years old when God told him to leave everything he knew and go start a nation (Genesis 12). Joseph was in prison one day and 2nd in command of Egypt the next (Genesis 41).God has a tendency to prepare for a long period and then promote in a short time. The difficult period is the waiting prior to the promotion.Sometimes He reveals the destiny in advance. This can be encouraging as it gives something to hold on to in the waiting, but also can make us tend to become anxious and attempt to achieve the destiny in our own time. Abraham gave up on God’s promise of a nation and had Ishmael.  Joseph almost gave up on the dream of ruling and asked the cupbearer to put in a good word for him and get him out of prison early. It is even more difficult to bear the years of waiting when you have such a clear vision of your destiny.If you are in the place of waiting, be encouraged to know that the promise of your destiny may be closer than you think. Saul went from looking for donkeys to being king in just over a week. Just because you aren’t seeing the gradual build-up that you’d expect toward success doesn’t mean that you won’t end in the same place. Hold on to hope and don’t rush. Rapid promotion often comes when you least expect it!

If you have ever been like me and felt overwhelmed with trying to achieve the call you know God has placed on your life, I hope you find rest and peace in this truth. Stop asking what next 10 steps you need to do to achieve greatness and start asking what your lost donkeys are. They are likely right in front of you and someone in authority has already ask you to go find them.


Go find your donkeys.

Why Diversity Matters

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Last week’s media buzz surrounding James Damore’s infamous “Google Memo” has already slipped quietly in to the background. #GoogleMemo isn’t trending anymore and we’ll soon forget who Damore was, if we ever really knew. This week brings new hashtags and the 24-hour news cycle continues.


In these tumultuous times, it is hard to discern who and what is right or wrong. Many well-meaning people are confused and have difficulty knowing how to act and react. I’ve waited till after the dust settled from the Google Memo before I commented because I didn’t want to add to the din, but present a clear solution for Business and Community leaders. This is what I hope I have presented here.


We as Americans, business leaders, corporations, communities, etc. pride ourselves on both our diversity and equality. In many ways, the words have become synonymous with one another. We have special groups and names for all the diverse people. We have laws and HR surveys, all designed to promote and encourage diversity and ensure no one is left out.

Yet, in this pursuit of perfect diversity, we have achieved the exact opposite. We have mistaken diversity for equality, and in doing so lost our ability to see the beauty of true individual diversity.


This is Jason Witten. He’s a tight end for the Dallas Cowboys and is 6’ 5” and a solid 260+ lbs. Jason goes to my church so I’ve passed him in the hall a few times and can attest that a guy is absolutely massive in person.

This is Simone Biles. She’s an Olympic gold medalist and is 4’ 9” and barely 100lbs. I haven’t passed her in the hall, or perhaps I have and I just missed her because she’s so tiny.



The height difference between Jason and Simone is nearly 2’. The weight difference is a factor of 2.5x. There are both tremendous athletes and yet they are completely different.


Now suppose Mr. Jerry Jones decided that he wanted more “diversity” on his team (not talking about race, but physical makeup). It isn’t fair that people are different. He wants to ignore those differences and not talk about them. He wants to celebrate inclusion and fairness. Equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity. So Mr. Jones calls up Simone and says “Look, Jason’s been great but we want to have some diversity so I want you to be our new tight end. I saw what you did in Rio and I know you’re going to be incredible here in Dallas.”


Now Simone is a real go getter and loves Texas so she says yes. Two minutes in to the regular season the entire nation is mourning the end of her athletic career after the first snap leaves her in physical rehab for two years.


Now we all know what went wrong and how ridiculous this example is. It is easy to see the difference in ability and how these two athletes are built for their respective sports but would do horribly if they swapped positions.


The issue we face in our organizations today is we do things that are just as ridiculous as swapping Simone Biles in for Jason Witten. Rather than viewing the individual and assessing their own skills, desires, abilities, and experiences, we force diversity and promote equality over individuality.


Don’t hear me wrong when I talk about equality. I am all for equality of opportunity. However, equality of opportunity does not equal equality of outcome. When we, as leaders, begin to focus on promoting equality of outcome for all our employees, we do them a disservice in not recognizing their individual diversity.


Albert Einstein is famously credited (albeit most likely wrongly) as saying:

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This is often shared on LinkedIn and quoted by those who would like to appear wise, but it is often not followed in corporate settings.


James Damore’s memo went viral not because it was so well reasoned and written, but because it went contrary to our belief of what diversity means. To state that people have differences of abilities or desires based on their gender is absolute blasphemy in our PC culture. We readily recognize the difference between Witten and Biles but close our eyes to the possibility of physical and genetic differences that would give unfair advantage or tendency toward people in a corporate setting. We don’t want to acknowledge that some people and people groups are inherently better at certain tasks due to their genetic makeup.


The brilliance of Damore is that he became a proof of his own hypothesis. [tweetthis]The brilliance of Damore is that he became a proof of his own hypothesis[/tweetthis]. He set out to write about how Google’s echo chamber has devalued individual diversity in exchange for perceived value of group diversity. He predicted that Google will become a consequence of its own policy, weakening until the point of collapse due to their lack of true diversity. In Google’s pursuit of perfect “diversity”, they lost a great mind. If I were Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), not only would I have kept Damore, I would have made him my head of diversity for the company. In failing to recognize his talent, ability, insight, and courage, they lost a brilliant mind and weakened their organization.


America was founded on the concept that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”. These words, while 100% true (or, “self-evident”, as John Adam’s wisely suggested), are often misinterpreted. The truth is, all men are not created equal. [tweetthis]The truth is, all men are not created equal.[/tweetthis] If that were the case, I should be playing tight end for the Dallas Cowboys right there with Mr. Witten. Instead, I’m 6’ and 185lbs and am happy when my squat is higher than my bench press (#dontskiplegday).


What all men (and women) are created equal in is their inherent worth in the eyes of their Creator God. Regardless of race, color, sex, intelligence, physical attributes, birth (pre or post), or anything else that we can see or measure, their soul is absolutely priceless. Each life is worth as much as the next. No exceptions. Because of this, all have rights. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit (equality of opportunity) of Happiness. When we lose sight of this truth of equality is when humanity goes to the dark places of racism, segregation, subjugation, slavery, and other evils.


So how do we balance the equality of the human soul with the inequality of human ability?[tweetthis]how do we balance the equality of the human soul with the inequality of human ability?[/tweetthis] For this, we must go back to the (alleged) Einstein quote.


If we take a fish and decide that because of equality we are going to put it on land so that it can enjoy all terra firma has to offer, it will not only do miserably, but will quickly die. Poor little guy.


If we take an employee who is not suited for a certain task and decide that because of equality we are going to put them in that task so they can enjoy all the rewards it has to offer (say, the great careers available in the STEM fields), they will do miserably. It won’t be good for them, for the organization, or anyone else. In our desire for equality and diversity, we actually created suffering and inequality of outcome. No one was able to achieve happiness here.


James Damore, in his memo, made an observation that women, on average, have more:

“Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally

also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also

interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).


These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social

or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even

within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both

people and aesthetics.”


Damore cites this as a reason why there may not be as many women in coding. He does not say this is the case for all women, but that this is a tendency for women on average.


When dealing with social and organizational issues on a large scale it is easy to speak in generalizations and averages. “There aren’t enough women in STEM fields! We need to fix this! We need to get more women in and close the wage gap too!”. This is certainly well intentioned, but if we force equal numbers of women in to STEM with no regard for the general tendency toward more artistic fields, we will end up with a bunch of poorly performing and unhappy workers. The wage gap grows as women in that field don’t do as well as their male counterparts. Not because they are less, but because we’re trying to make fish climb trees. We fail to recognize the diversity of the individual and therefore weaken our organizations as a whole.

So what is the alternative? How do we encourage equality and harness the strength of individual diversity?


We must treat people as individuals. We must value true diversity. Not diversity for the sake of saying that we have an equal or even representative mix of people in our organization and in all fields. Yes, we should give equality of opportunity, but we need to focus more on a person’s inherent strengths, desires, and abilities. We need to develop our employees as individuals and encourage everyone to understand who they are. What is their own pursuit of happiness. We need to be ok that for many women that may be taking lower paying jobs in artistic fields while men continue to gravitate to STEM. It is only by encouraging and celebrating this that we’ll see the beauty and success of artistic intelligence.


Diversity matters. Diversity of the individual. [tweetthis]Diversity matters. Diversity of the individual. [/tweetthis]We must value differences. Not by forcing equality everywhere, but celebrating the differences between races, cultures, men and women, upbringing, aspirations, personality type (Myers-Briggs), strengths (Gallup Strength Finder), and everything else that makes us human.


Individuals are unique and those differences must be recognized, encouraged and celebrated. This is where strength comes from. If you want to a weaken a society and control it (Communism, Socialism, Fascism, etc.), you generalize. You promote “equality” and the benefit of the State over the liberty of the individual. Ultimately this leads only to destruction, violence, and at worst, horrible crimes against humanity. While not as egregious, making the same mistakes in our corporations will lead to a weakened, discouraged, and unhappy workforce and organization.


We must never stop caring about diversity, but must reclaim the true meaning of the word and use it to lead, and lead well.




The Coming Crisis: Will 2017 See Another Housing Crash?

Reading Time: 10 minutes

I haven’t posted much here lately as I’ve been working a lot on preparing Propsee for launch. However, today I felt prompted through to take a break from all the other things I’m working on to write about what I feel is an impending crisis for the housing market and US Economy that may begin in 2017. Please take the time to prayerfully read this and take time to consider your own personal situation in preparation.

Executive Summary

Housing prices are not only inflated, but supported by a weak consumer base that is borrowing more than they can afford. Demographics are a ticking time bomb with baby boomers aging out of the workforce and millennials in dismal shape. Consumer debt exceeds pre-2008 levels and the default rates are increasing on the two highest growth sectors (auto and student loans). The “recovery” is a house of cards and a correction is overdue.

Wise consumers will prepare now by reducing debt loads and diversifying incomes and investments as much as possible to weather the storm.


Our last financial crisis in 2008 had its roots in a massively overvalued and poorly underwritten housing market. Housing values in 2006 hit a peak of $23.9 trillion, which was accompanied by mortgage debt of $10.3 trillion, yielding equity of just under $14 trillion. Surprisingly, 2017 looks very similar with total housing value exceeding 2006 levels at $24.3T, debt holding steady around $10.3T, and equity rising to just over $14T with the positive difference.  (Source:


While this data alone seems eerily similar to pre-2008 levels, it is often dismissed as signs of a healthy recovery. It is not till other factors are considered that the gravity of the situation is fully realized. Let’s discuss some of these here:

What is driving home values?

Housing has long been seen as a fundamental growth engine of the economy. In efforts to spur recovery following the 2008 crash, the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates to record levels. Below is a graph that shows rates over the past 10 years (Source: Trading Economics)

Low interest rates have encouraged people to buy homes, which is why we saw the bottom of housing values around 2011-2012 with a phenomenal recovery since then (see first graph). In addition, they have increased home prices substantially.

There are four main factors on the market side and three main factors on in the buyers side that go in to the value of a home in a given market. These are based on the assumption that people buy homes based on the monthly payment they can “afford” (read, “be approved for”). Let’s start with the market factors.

Market Factors

  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Interest
  • Home Value


Depending on the state, municipality, etc., taxes will represent a varying level of burden on the homeowners monthly payment. Areas with high property tax rates, such as NY state, traditionally see less volatility in home prices as this proportion of monthly payment acts as a buffer against the other three factors’ impact. Areas with low taxes tend to see more impact on home value, but we’re jumping ahead.


This remains fairly steady but does have an impact to a lesser degree. If an area has low insurance premiums, less of the payment is based on this “fixed” factor, leading to more impact when the other factors change.


This is a big one. When interest rates are low, the buyer can afford more home for the same monthly payment. This is perhaps the biggest single driver in starting the run in housing prices seen from 2011-2017. (Note I said starting, because eventually other factors, such as speculation, take over).

Home Value

The output of the other three factors is home value. When you consider the equation, if taxes and insurance are low, then interest rates drop, the home value will increase to accommodate the same monthly payment from a buyer.

Buyer Factors

The above factors are predicated on a buyer with a certain amount of money to spend each month on housing. Unfortunately this is based less on good personal budgeting and more on what banks will approve. The factors here are pretty simple, as it is based primarily on debt to income ratio and lending viability.

  • Income
  • Debt
  • Lending Viability


How much a household makes is fundamental to everything else. So what has happened to incomes since 2008?

Much of the growth in incomes has been unevenly distributed among classes. This is not an article on the value or injustice of income inequality, but the reality remains that actual wage growth of the middle and lower class has been stagnant over time.


Banks loan based on debt to income ratios. We’ll talk about how lending practices can influence this in a moment, but for now suffice to say that income alone isn’t a great indicator of lending viability but rather income after paying other consumer debts.

We started by referencing the mortgage debt and showed that it is essentially at the same level as pre-2008. What this doesn’t take in to account is the rise of other consumer debt, specifically auto debt and student loan debt. Viewed holistically, you see that the American economy is under as much debt load as pre-2008 levels, just in different areas.  (Source: MarketWatch)

Household debt has surpass pre-2008 levels, and consumers are defaulting more and more on the two areas that have seen the biggest increase of debt growth, student and auto loans.

Student Loan Defaults

The WSJ recently reported that student loan repayment rates are far worse than recently reported, with half of students either defaulting or not paying a single dollar toward their loan balances 7 years following graduation. This is bad, really bad. Student loan debt far surpasses credit card debt at $1.4T and the default rates are about to go through the roof.

The growth in student loan debt is especially disturbing, given how it impacts that portion of a vital demographic, as we’ll discuss soon.

Auto Loans

The auto industry has been doing great since 2008. As with everything, what is driving that? Debt. Lots of it. Auto loans are much higher than 2008 and default rates are on the rise. 17% of borrowers are likely to default in the next year. This is on another ~$1T in outstanding debt. (Source: 247wallst). The worst portion of this is sub-prime auto lending, which is nearing 20% of total lending and experiencing default rates over 5%,

Lending Viability

All of the above items are great, but the other big factor is what the banks will (or are allowed to) lend. Credit scores are a big factor here as well as debt to income ratios. Government programs and how these factors are calculated also play in to the mix.

In 2015, Fannie Mae rebooted the HomePath program (Source: Fox Business), which not only allows buyers to purchase a home with little documentation and only 3% down, but allows multiple income sources to be counted on the application (aka. multiple family members). This was an effort by the Obama administration to help recent immigrants buy homes. What this has done is increase values of entry level homes to unsustainable levels for the actual population buying them, and little data is known on the actual viability of these borrowers.

Debt to income ratios are also being relaxed in several areas in the past few years. A key one to watch is around student loan treatment. Fannie Mae is now allowing people who are in adjusted repayment programs count the lowered payment toward their debt ratio without consideration to the total outstanding balance. In addition, they are encouraging people to refinance to pay off student loans, which will only shift debt from student loans to housing. Lastly, people that have parents helping them on debt or repayment do not have to count that toward their qualifications. (Source: Chicago Tribune).

So in an effort to spur growth in the entry level and middle class segments of the population, we are just taking new tactics to bring in unqualified borrowers, which is inflating prices and encouraging poor financial stewardship.

Has there been a real recovery?

“But what about unemployment?!”, you say. “Haven’t we seen job growth?”. Yes and no. The reason that the federal reserve had a slight interest rate hike this Spring and is expected to increase rates again in June 2017 is based on this metric. Here’s a chart to give basis to their thinking:


What this doesn’t take in to account is the labor force participation and employment rates.


You can see here that while unemployment has decreased, so has the overall % of people in the workforce. What is happening to all of those who are no longer seeking employment and how do they impact the unemployment values?

Another way to look at this is the overall employment rate, which has not recovered to pre-2008 levels even as unemployment has dropped.


The population is aging. Baby boomers are aging out of the workforce in record numbers. Rather than being replaced with a strong generation of workers, we are seeing a very weak segment of millennials struggling to get a start on life as they are crippled with student loan debt.

Based on the most recent census data, over a third of people from ages 18-34 are living at home with their parents. This is up from 25% in 2005. In addition, real wages have dropped for men in this demographic since the 1970’s. (Source: The Hill). To make matters worse, about a third of those living at home aren’t even working or in school.

While more people have college educations, the value of these degrees is dropping. Here’s a chart that shows earning for recent college graduates (Source: EPI):

An entire generation that should be coming in to the workforce, buying homes, starting families, etc. are living at home, burdened with debt, struggling to find jobs, taking bad jobs when they can find them, buying homes they can’t afford, and being subsidized by their parents in countless ways.


All of this artificial demand and price increases have led to speculators seizing the opportunity and artificially driving prices even higher. When people buy at high prices with anticipation to sell to someone else at even higher prices, prices are no longer an indicator of actual value. This is why average home price to income (PTI) ratios has increased to record levels in many markets. A “normal” national PTI is expected to be 3.5, which means the average house cost 3.5 the average income. In 2005-2006, national PTI was up around 4.7, just before the bubble burst. Where are we headed now? North of 4, which is dangerous territory. (Source: Freddie Mac).

When values get too out of line with incomes, it is usually driven by speculation (investors aren’t real buyers), dangerous lending practices (see above), or a combination of both. In the current case, it is likely the latter.

Another metric that is interesting to watch as an indicator of investor activity is the % of homes being flipped. In 2006 it had risen to 7.3%. Now it is over 6% and climbing. (Source: ZeroHedge)

“A rising tide carries all boats” is an appropriate axiom here, as everyone is making money on flips. Heck, by the time a property undergoes a 3mo flip, it has probably already appreciated 5% these days! People are paying not only over asking, but over appraisal as there’s a mad scurry to pick up houses and make a quick buck.

So what’s going to happen?

Another tide saying that bears repeating is “When the tide goes out, you can tell who’s skinny dipping” (Warren Buffett). Based on all of the evidence above, there is a very good chance that the tide is soon going to go out, and unfortunately there’s a lot of people skinny dipping. So what’s going to trigger a correction?

Rising Interest Rates

We’ve already talked about how the Fed’s low interest rates have been a primary driver in growth. So what happens when those rates go up? Since incomes are already strained with high PTI ratios and consumer debt, there is no room for monthly payments to increase to accommodate a higher interest portion. This means that home values will need to come down for a real buyer to afford a purchase. While this won’t impact current home owners who have fixed rate mortgages (thankfully ARMs are not as prevalent as they were in pre-2008), it will cool the market. This cooling will start to slow investor activity as well as demand slows down. If all goes well, then we will simply see a reduction to normal appreciation from the 10-20% annual increases we’ve been seeing. This is the plan and why the Fed has been so slow to raise rates.

Of course, it is possible that a big rate increase is enough to send housing prices in to negative territory. This alone likely won’t be enough to cause a 2008 level event, but it will be rough for people who purchased with low equity.

Other Consumer Debt Defaults

As referenced earlier, people are already starting to default on some types of consumer debt, such as student and auto loans. Even though these segments have grown to $2.4T total, they are still not big enough to singlehandedly cause a 2008 level event, when over $10T in mortgage debt was suddenly exposed by a 25% drop in housing values. If consumer debt is to be the culprit, it is because it triggers a series of events and defaults in the mortgage debt.

The demographic issue comes in to play here, as a big question remains of how the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations will interact. Since so many millennials are subsidized by baby boomers, there fates are likely inextricably linked. If a baby boomer wants to sell their home, but there is no millennial to buy it, how will that impact housing prices? If that baby boomer can’t cash our or downsize, how will they retire? What happens to the millennial at home when the baby boomer does retire, if they are able? What happens if the millennial tanks the economy with their student loan debt and now the baby boomer can’t retire?!?

A combination of many factors

Almost 10 years later, there is still much debate of what led to the crash in 2008. Housing was definitely the large part of it, but these things are complicated and it is rarely one factor. Usually it is a combination of poor practices and then someone gets spooked, causing a panicked selloff.

So what should you do?

“So if you’re right, what do I do?!”. Don’t get scared, just get prepared. Pray about some of these things.

Get Rock Solid

Cut or avoid debt as much as possible. Start with simple consumer debt like credit cards, student loans, or auto loans. Do everything you can to drop these or avoid them. Sell the BMW, go to community college, or take a part time job. Get rock solid so you can survive the storm.

Evaluate Your Housing

Are you renting? Consider staying that way. It may seem scary watching prices go up and wondering if you will ever be able to afford a home, but even if I’m wrong about a major price correction (5-20%), it is very unlikely that you’re going to see 10-20% appreciation in 2018 and 2019. Don’t make the mistake of jumping in at the top of the market with a low down payment out of FOMO.

Do you own? Consider selling. This isn’t for everyone, but if you are in a position where you can downsize for a while, either to rent or buy a lower price home, consider doing so. This may not be for everyone depending on your family situation.

If you already have substantial equity in your home, you’re probably ok to stay. It might suck if prices go down and you missed the timing, but at least you aren’t going to get foreclosed on if you already have 30-50% equity in your home at current values. Just stay where you’re at and focus on paying off any consumer debt and/or building your savings.


This is typically used when talking about investing, and that applies here as well, but also consider diversifying your income streams.

From an investment standpoint, there is no one right answer. Someone who is in their 20’s could stay in a high stock’s ratio and even if we do have another 2008 will have plenty of time to recover. However, I’d encourage even this person to consider shifting at least some of their assets to safer investments to counter or buffer a stock market correction.

Income diversification is more here and now than your investment portfolio. If you are like most people and get all of your income from 1-2 sources, consider adding a little to that. Can you pick up freelance work or start a side business? Even if you don’t get to where this is a major contribution right now, at least it is available so that if you lose your primary income you have something else you can ramp up to replace it.


My intent with writing this was not to instill fear in anyone. I could be wrong about all of this, as there are people smarter then me that could easily dispute all of my points and data. However, from my view as a Stewardship junkie, I feel strongly that we are not able to survive as a nation addicted to debt forever. It is like someone who lost their job but just kept living it up on credit cards for a few years…eventually the party has to stop. I simply advise you to prayerfully consider what I’ve said and perhaps take some steps to prepare for the possibility that I’m right.



Pursuing Less, Stewarding More

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Growing up in rural Western NY where the average income was less than $40k a year was a great place to start my life. In this beautiful country of backroads and family farms, a BMW 3-series turns head. Here, a 7-series won’t get a second glance. Going to college isn’t a given back there, and those that do often end up leaving to pursue opportunities elsewhere. If you’ve wondered at all why Trump won, I can give you some good perspective….but that’s a post for another day.

By contrast, Texas is a veritable sea of comparison! Looks seem to be everything and the parade of big homes and expensive cars never end. You can be an up and coming manager with a 6-figure salary, slightly used car, and decent home and still feel like a failure as soon as you step out the door. The bar is set so high that it can feel like a constant struggle just trying to keep up.

Given this backdrop of two worlds, I often find myself torn between being a simple country boy and an up and coming Fortune 500 executive. I am concerned about how I will ever reach the level of success I see all around me. While I am doing extremely well by almost any measure, I see the end of my 20’s fast approaching and wonder if I could have made “Millionaire by 30” status if I had done some things differently over the last 10 years. Many will point to my mild successes and encourage me by comparison, saying that very few are the true wunderkinds and all in all things are going well.

I am grateful for what I have, but I feel a constant self-imposed pressure to do more, achieve more, and find a way come hell or high water to achieve the grand destiny I have pictured in my mind….

…but what if the only way to get true success is to pursue “less”? [tweetthis]what if the only way to get true success is to pursue “less”?[/tweetthis]

Matthew 6:33 says “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”. What are the things Jesus is talking about here? Backing up to verses 31 & 32 shows that He is talking about our needs. Now, what is referenced is the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. However, don’t you think that God has more than that in mind for us and that He will provide everything we need to accomplish that as well?

God designed us to be partners with Him on earth. John 14:12 says “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”. He left us here on earth with the work just beginning. He came down and patiently waited 30 years before starting a 3 year ministry. That time was enough for Him to accomplish everything needed to put the Church in motion. After His ascension, there were only 120 believers gathered in the Upper Room, waiting to receive the Power promised to expand the Church. It was this power that grew the Church by 3,000 in a single day, and continued to take it to literally every part of the known world.

Imagine if the disciples and the rest of those gathered that day had decided to pursue “more”? What if in their zeal they headed out to far away cities to spread the news of Jesus’ glorious resurrection, rather than waiting as He had commanded (Luke 24:49)? I have to admit that I’d have been tempted to do just that. I’d have dusted off my MBA, put together a team, and built a strategy for reaching the world with a 5-year plan. I’d have been so focused on the future, I’d have missed the present. I’d be so busy seeking the promise, that I’d have missed the Presence.

The work that God called us to is far greater than anything we could do on our own. On our own we may accomplish some good things, but we will not accomplish Good things. Satan loves to use this trick, lulling people in to a false sense of success by having them do just enough good that they miss the big picture. He allows them to go unharmed as they seek everything but the One who gives it all.

Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” We often ask God to give us wisdom, and it is right that we do (James 1:5), but how many who lack wisdom have gone back to its beginning; the fear of the LORD? What if we chose to pursue the fear of the Lord alone? How do we come to fear Him? Simply by knowing Him! Paul writes in Ephesians 3 that his heart’s desire is simply that the Church would come to understand the “breadth and height and length and depth” (v.18) of God’s love. It is remarkable that he didn’t pray that they would bring more to Christ, baptize more, or pray more. Paul knew that all of those things would follow if people would just begin to understand who God is.

Lately I have been trying to focus on simply knowing God more. Worshiping Him, hearing His voice, obeying His commands. These are simple things that anyone can do, but they are so much harder than the “great” things. In this, God gave me a picture recently that I believe applies to my own life.

Hiram was king of Tyre and a friend and ally of David prior to Solomon’s reign. In 1 Kings 5 we see that he congratulated Solomon on his kingship and Solomon replied by asking for timber to build the Temple. Hiram was able to gladly supply the cedars of Lebanon to allow Solomon to complete the Lord’s work.

What struck me about this story is that Hiram did not plant the cedars. These massive trees had likely lived hundreds of years before he entered the picture. God had taken care of the planting, watering, and growth of the forests, but Hiram was the one who was stewarding them and able to deliver them for this project at that time. In the same way, I realized that the work God has called me to is much greater than what could be accomplished with things that I could plant and grow in my own lifetime. He has been preparing and growing something for me to steward long before I came on the scene. My role now is simply to hear and obey, rather than seek to build and grow.

He has the same things for you. If you have felt overwhelmed by a desire to do good works, I encourage you in this: God has not called you to accomplish Good things alone. [tweetthis]God has not called you to accomplish Good things alone [/tweetthis] He has called you to seek the Kingdom. Knowing Him is the wellspring from which every Good thing flows. I implore you to stop seeking the promise and to start seeking the Presence. You don’t want the promise anyhow if you don’t have Him

As I’ve though about what is most important in life, I’ve realized that the only thing I really want is to know Christ and be known by Christ. If at the end of my life I put all of myself in to this one task and fail at everything else, I will have been a success. If I succeed in the world’s eyes, I will know it is because of Him, not me. I am not perfect in my pursuit, but I am pursuing. I encourage you to do the same. Take your eyes off of the good things around you, and seek His presence. He’s worth it.

Is a lack of Faith limiting your Ability?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I stood on the edge of a 300′ canyon, palms clammy and heart racing as I looked down through the narrow walls and in to the raging river below. Hesitant, I visualized the steps needed to make a successful jump, thinking through each piece to make sure I wouldn’t mess it up. After a few long seconds, there could be no more delay. I stepped off the edge in to free fall…..

My younger brother, Benjamin, and I took a trip of a lifetime through Europe this Summer (2016). We began in Italy, spending time in the Tuscan mountains and Ligurian coast, before a short weekend in the French Alps, followed by several days in Switzerland. It was here in a land of surreal alpine views, countless waterfalls, and pristine lakes that the above adventure played out.

Benjamin has always been more of a risk taker and adrenaline junkie than I. The one thing he wanted to do more than anything while in Switzerland was a canyon swing. This is certainly the place to do it, with one of the highest and most daring swings in the world. Canyon swings differ from bungee jumping in that they allow for true free fall for a long distance before catching the arc of the swing and rushing along the ground and back up, before eventually coming to a stop. The proximity of walls on either side, combined with the unrestricted free fall leave most people saying it is more of a thrill than a bungee jump.

After thankfully surviving the canyon swing, the next day led us to an even more challenging adventure of canyoning one of the most intense and difficult commercial canyons available. Canyoning sounds simple in that it is essentially working your way down a canyon through a series of jumps, slides (think a natural water slide carved in to the rock), and rappels. Sounds easy until you’re standing on the edge of a 40′ waterfall being told to jump in to a tiny pool of water below, this time with no rope attached. O, by the way, make sure you swim out of the pool as soon as you land or you may get swept over an even bigger drop….

Opposed to the canyon swing, which was a big thrill that lasted mere minutes, canyoning was 2 1/2 hours of frigid water, rushing slides, and those big jumps over waterfalls and rock ledges. Physically it was a challenge, but mustering the courage to face each feature left me pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone again and again.

Swiss Waterfall

I am naturally very risk adverse. I tend to only take very calculated risks after weighing the options and risk/reward for a long time. When I do embark, I tend to proceed cautiously, feeling for a secure foothold before I release my last one. I saw this on the edge of the canyon as I carefully visualized each step, holding on to the rope and taking the least risky position for the plunge. By comparison, some of my fellow adventures took flying leaps, headfirst and spread eagle, with seemingly no concern for the consequences. One canyon swing participant ended up with a close call as he did a full 360 rotation on the way down, narrowly missing the rope entangling him and leading to a nasty end. The canyoning was similar, although more controlled, as I saw my careful visualization before each challenging jump, compared to the other’s carefree jumps.

Taking a risk that requires you to get outside of your comfort zone shows you a lot about yourself. The same way you approach the edge of a cliff is likely the way you approach a business deal, or new relationship. When you come through one of these experiences unscathed, it also teaches you that getting out of your comfort zone likely isn’t going to kill you, and instead you’ll have a great story and memory! After the trip I found myself thinking a lot about these concepts. In hindsight, these were some of the best memories we made, and I wouldn’t have done them if not for my brother’s prompting.

God spoke to me clearly in the days following our time in Switzerland that my fear of risk is holding me back from achieving the potential He has placed inside of me. He has given me gifts and talents that are currently being invested for a meager return due to my hesitancy and fear (lack of faith) to step out in to the unknown. For example, I know I have abilities in business, speaking, and leadership that are best in class, but currently they are used in exchange for a comfortable salary rather than launching out with my own business and potentially limitless returns in finances and influence.

It isn’t pride to acknowledge that through God’s grace He has placed certain talents within you that must be carefully stewarded. God expects us to fully use our ability. Even demands it! The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 talks about how the Master (God) gave each servant in accordance with his ability (v.15). Upon His return, He was not upset that they had varying levels of ability, but that they did not all invest in accordance with the ability they had. The servant who had buried his talent was severely punished for not at least taking a level of risk in giving it to the bank to earn some interest! Note that the Master didn’t expect that servant to go out and start a business, invest in futures, or undertake some other type of daring, high risk investment. He just asked him to do something in accordance with his faith. At the end of the story we see that the servant who had the most received the talent that the other servant didn’t invest wisely. I imagine that the other two servants weren’t born with a level of ability where they could be trusted with their two and five talents, but rather it came through a series of tests that challenged and built their own faith.

In the Kingdom, faith is the currency of ability. God isn’t just looking for those with the most natural talent, but those who trust Him enough to let Him use them fully. God can do more with someone with seemingly small talent but tremendous faith than someone with the reverse. Faith is the ability we need to do great things for God, not natural talent. Yes, God gives us that too, but it is through faith that we can exercise those muscles of talent. Talent without faith is not ability.

How often do you get outside of your comfort zone? Is your return being limited by your lack of risk? I encourage you to embrace things that challenge your fear and build your faith. It is only by pushing those boundaries that our faith is grown to the point that we can do all that God has planned for us.