What is a Living Will?

In previous articles we have taken an overall look at advance directives as well as two of the most common and important advance directives, the Durable Power of Attorney and the designation of a Health Care Surrogate.

Now we look at the third type of advance directive, the Living Will. This is a controversial document and some oppose the use of a Living Will as a form of euthanasia. See also Living Wills—On the Edge of Euthanasia?

Despite that opposition, a Living Will is a common advance directive. It is a document that sets out the type of medical treatment or life-sustaining treatment the Maker would want if he or she were seriously or terminally ill. The Maker makes the decisions. A Living Will is not like designating a health care surrogate in that it does not allow the Maker to delegate decision-making to someone else. A Living Will allows the Maker to clearly document his or her specific desires for receiving or withholding medical treatments when the Maker is terminally ill, has an end-stage condition, or is in a persistent vegetative state. In most states, including Florida, a Living Will only goes into effect if the Maker meets specific medical criteria and is unable to make decisions

A Living Will can be general, very specific, or somewhere in between those two extremes. A common statement in a Living Will is to the effect that if the Maker suffers from an incurable, irreversible illness, disease, or condition and that the Maker’s attending physician determines that the condition is terminal, the Maker has chosen and direct that life-sustaining measures that would serve only to prolong dying should be withheld or discontinued.  If that is all that is said, that is a very general and non-specific Living Will.

But that leaves a great deal to the imagination and determining the Maker’s specific desires in particular circumstances may be difficult. More specific Living Wills may address the Maker’s wishes in very specific circumstances including the following or more:

  • Use of a feeding tube,
  • Artificial (intravenous or IV) hydration,
  • Use of medication or other treatments for relief of pain,
  • Use of any or specific antibiotics,
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR),
  • Life-support equipment, including ventilators,
  • A do not resuscitate (DNR) order,
  • Acceptance of surgery of more than a specific number of hours, often two, or refusal of surgery of more than a specific number of hours, often two.

With those specific examples (and many more are possible), a Living Will can get into fine detail as to what the Maker does or does not want in terms of medical treatment if incapacitated. But life can present strange and unanticipated challenges.  No one can think of every possibility.  So, you may want someone to be ready to help make decisions when hard decisions must be made.  That person is your health care surrogate. As a result, it is often wise to have both a Health care Surrogate designation as well as a Living Will.

The Florida Bar and the Florida Medical Association have offered
a form for a Living Will, Florida Statutes Section 765.303. This form can be downloaded here. This is a very general form and is not recommended if you have any wishes that differ in any way from this form.

If you have any questions, give The Idlewild Foundation a call at (813) 264-8713.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What is a Health Care Surrogate Designation?

In addition to what was written about Health Care Surrogate designations in the previous article on Medical Powers of Attorney, there is much to be said about this second very important advance directive, a Health Care Surrogate Directive, also known as a Medical Power of Attorney of a Health Care Proxy.

Any competent adult (Maker) in Florida has the right to designate a health care surrogate or surrogate health decision-maker, a person who can make health care decisions during of the Maker’s period of incapacity. This is a legal right a wise person will exercise by making the selection and filling out a Health Care Surrogate Designation form. The person designated as a health care surrogate has the duty to consult with doctors and other health care providers and decides on the course of treatment provided to or withheld from the Maker. The surrogate makes health care decisions that are believed to be what would have made by the Maker if there had been no incapacity. If there is no indication of what would have chosen absent incapacity (such as a living will), the surrogate may consider what is believed to be in the best interests of the Maker of the health care surrogate form.

This is a form that everyone should have without exception. Someone will be making the decisions when you can’t! If it is determined that a person is unable to make medical decisions and there is no existing and available Medical Power of Attorney or health care surrogate designation, Florida law (F.S. §765.401) determines who will be the health care surrogate. The designated person is typically a close relative or friend, however, if there is no suitable or available relatives or friends, the health care surrogate who will be appointed will be a social worker or other person unknown to the incapacitated person. That is “taking pot luck” on decisions that can dramatically change a life.

Absent a living will or other expression of a Maker’s wishes, the surrogate will make decisions based upon the Maker’s perceived best interests. The health care surrogate has the same rights to request or refuse treatment that the Maker would have if capable of deciding and communicating decisions. Complete trust for the health care surrogate is essential, because the health care surrogate almost literally holds the Maker’s life in his or her hands. 

Therefore, it is obvious that the person selected should be wisely and carefully chosen after prayer and careful thought.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a versatile part of an estate plan. It gives another person the legal right and authority to make selected decisions, decisions chosen by the Grantor of the POA.

There are different things a POA can do. Let’s start with the most fundamental feature, whether the POA continues to work when the Grantor is alive but incapacitated. A general POA terminates when the grantor becomes incapacitated or dies. A Durable POA remains in effect even when the grantor becomes incapacitated but does terminate upon the Grantor’s death. Thus, a Durable POA is useful for allowing family members to handle certain aspects of life when a person is incapacitated, such as operating a business or maintaining a household. The selected person has the power and authority as chosen and expressed in the POA.

A POA can be a very flexible advance directive. It can include some or even all of the functions of a Health Care Surrogate designation and a Living Will. A Durable POA may even be limited to medical decisions and such a POA is often called a Medical POA.

For POAs signed in Florida after October 2011, a POA is always active and does not become active in a period of incapacity. Before October 2011, there had been something referred to as a springing POA that became active only when the Grantor became incapacitated. That proved to be difficult to administer so springing POAs are no longer permitted in Florida.

A Medical POA may apply more often than a Living Will because a Living Will is limited to near death decisions. A Living Will is used to declare a person’s desire to not have life-prolonging measures be taken if there’s no hope of recovery. A Medical POA applies in more circumstances than a Living Will, not just in end stage circumstances.

To make matters even more confusing, a Medical POA may be called other names as well, including a Durable POA for Health Care or as a Health Care Proxy. A Medical POA is most useful if you are unconscious or otherwise unable to make medical decisions. It is often more desirable than a Living Will because of its application in times of incapacity that are not “end of life.” But one thing is certain, as with a Health Care Surrogate designation, a Medical POA requires a person fully trusted to make these very important decisions.

A Medical POA may be combined with a Durable Power of Attorney. Then it can cover virtually any aspect of life, medical, financial, business and property.  Having a Durable POA is wise because of the risk of emergencies, illnesses, accidents and surgeries. If the Grantor is, for example, in a coma, someone has to make medical decisions, pay bills, respond to mail, handle your checking account, and many of the ordinary day-to-day activities that are so easily taken for granted. 

POAs in Florida are strictly governed by statute, chapter 709, Florida Statutes. What may have been valid before October 1, 2011, would not be valid if executed today; the requirements of the state law amended and effective in 2011 are very particular. 

Durable POAs have peculiarities that require special attention:

  • The rights of the holder of a POA cease at the death of the Grantor.
  • The Grantor must trust the person selected to be the POA completely because that person has the power to access bank and financial accounts and records, buy and sell property and otherwise bind the grantor legally, unless specifically limited by the language in the POA.
  • The person selected as a Medical POA must also be chosen carefully. The Grantor should trust that the person who makes the decisions will sincerely act in the Grantor’s best interests.
  • Finally, the person chosen to be the POA should be carefully selected because s/he has the option to decline the responsibility. An alternate or another person may be thrust into an unexpected role.

This has probably been confusing. It is a tough topic to explain because there are multiple names and variations for the documents that have, over time, begun to overlap each other and in some cases blend together.

If you need help in understanding some of the differences between these different documents, the following chart may prove to be helpful or please call and we will try to help clarify this confusing area of the law.

General
POA
Durable
POA
Health Care Surrogate Medical POA Living Will
Terminates when Grantor becomes incapacitated or dies. Terminates when the Grantor revokes it. Remains in effect when Grantor becomes incapacitated. Terminates at death or when the Grantor revokes it. A person who can make health care decisions during a periods of incapacity. Aka: Durable POA for Health Care or Health Care Proxy. Becomes “active” whenever you are unconscious or otherwise unable to make medical decisions. Limited to near death decisions; used to declare a person’s desire to not have life-prolonging measures when there is no hope of recovery.
May be limited to certain aspects of life, i.e., medical decisions or financial matters, and may be very limited and specific. May be limited to certain aspects of life, i.e., medical decisions, financial matters and may be very limited and specific. Has the duty to consult with doctors and other health care providers and decides on the course of treatment provided to or withheld from the Maker. Maybe combined with a Durable POA to cover any aspect of life, medical, financial, business and property decisions. Typically, the Maker defines what s/he does or does not want in terms of end stage care.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What Is an Advance Directive?

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to catch the attention of the public. Terri Schiavo proved something every lawyer knew but many couldn’t clearly illustrate and that wasn’t widely recognized. In the tragic end to her life, the problem is clear for all to see. While much of the tragedy of the end of the life of Terri Schiavo is viewed as involving highly emotional and spiritual “right to die” issues, perhaps the best lesson revolved around what a twenty-seven-year-old woman, Terri Schiavo and her husband had not done; they had not considered the need to have written advance directives. The Schiavo’s were too young to need anything like that!

Let their horrible experience be a lesson to you. Advance directives are important! The listing in this article of essential documents is our effort to give comprehensive coverage to a broad topic. This and the following articles will tell much of what should be done to assist your family at the most difficult of times.

Terri Schiavo had a cardiac arrest in her St. Petersburg home in February 1990. She “lived,” but suffered severe brain damage due to lack of oxygen to her brain. She remained in a persistent vegetative state for the next 15 years while a legal battle raged around her.

For the first eight years, her husband, her parents and family as well as many physicians attempted ordinary and even extraordinary therapies and treatments, hoping to return her to consciousness, without success.

After eight years of failure and frustration, her husband Michael, filed a petition with the Circuit Court in Pinellas County, Florida to remove her feeding tube to allow Terri to die. Her parents opposed that petition and argued that she was conscious and that this was murder. Based in part upon the testimony of her husband that Terri had indicated to him that she would not have wanted to live in a vegetative state like that, the court determined that Terri Schiavo would not have wanted to continue life-prolonging measures. Her feeding tube was removed under a Court order.  It was then reinserted several days later when the case was appealed, and other lawsuits were filed. Years later, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was again ordered removed. After more lawsuits and appeals through the federal court system, the original decision to remove the feeding tube was upheld and staff at the hospice where she had lived for years removed the feeding tube. Thirteen days later, on March 31, 2005, Schiavo died.

Setting aside the rights and wrongs of the many issues surrounding this tragedy, are painful truths: 15 years of lying in a vegetative state, 7 years of litigation, having the U.S. Congress and the President of the United States try to legislate to protect her, and becoming a national spectacle, were not necessary and could have been avoided.  Terri was 27 when she suffered her cardiac arrest, and she was 41 when she breathed her last breath. More than a third of her life was spent in a persistent vegetative state. How could this have been avoided? With advance directives and other related documents.

What are Advance Directives?

The concerns can come from many different directions; you may be thinking about the natural decline at the end of life due to the normal aging process. Or the thought could be that a temporary medical or psychiatric condition or an accident might cause permanent damage resulting in a persistent vegetative state like Terri Schiavo’s condition. Regardless, there may be hours, days, months or, as in the case of Terri Schiavo, years, when a person is unable to make medical or any other decisions. These are the times when several essential advance directives and the related documents identified below become so important.

The word “directives” is plural for a good reason; there are several different types of advance directives and related essential documents, each serving a different purpose with each working differently but also working together. To make matters more confusing and difficult, in different states the different advance directives even have different names. Often there are different legal requirements and technicalities in different states. 

These are significant legal documents of life-extending or ending importance. No one should prepare any of these documents casually; they require understanding and careful attention. That is true even though any person 18 years of age or older can execute advance directives. Drafting a proper advance directive form may require guidance and assistance from a physician and an attorney. 

The Florida Supreme Court has approved forms for several advance directives.  Even so, it may be wise to speak with an experienced attorney to help with the drafting of any advance directives or similar document. Advance directives are commonly done at the same time as a part of an estate plan.

You may change or revoke any advance directive at any time, so long as you are legally competent. To be effective, changes must be made and executed as required by the laws of the state of the execution of the advance directive or during its modification or revocation. It typically is not as simple as just telling someone you have changed your mind and you want to revoke or change your written documents.

Advance directives are your way to inform your doctor and others, including your family, what kind of care and/or what treatments you would like to have (or would refuse) if you become unable to make medical decisions (for example, if you are in a coma). An accident or serious illness can happen suddenly, as it did for Terri Schiavo, and if you have properly executed advance directives, your wishes are much more likely to be followed. Well prepared advance directives may spare your loved ones the tragic stress of having to make hard decisions about your care or about withholding care while you are injured or sick.

Some of the different advance directives and related documents (using the common Florida names) are:

  • Living Will
  • Health Care Surrogate Designation
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR)
  • Pre-need Guardian Designation
  • Anatomical Donations

Each of these will be discussed in the articles that follow.

  • The laws governing advance directives and these other essential documents are state laws and vary from state to state. Florida’s laws are different from other states. The written laws are interpreted by Courts, so a statute may actually work very differently than it reads.  
  • While technically you do not have to have a lawyer to fill out these documents, it is a good idea because many advance directives become legally valid as soon as they are properly executed. The execution of  will in Florida is surprisingly complex and doing it right is very important.
  • Because different states’ laws are not the same, one state may not honor an advance directive even if valid in the state where it was executed. There is no easy solution to the problem this creates. The best solution is that if you are going to spend much time in another state, you may want to consider completing the advance directives for that state.  If you move from one state to another, you need to determine if your old documents will be effective in your new home state.

Yes, this is confusing and at the same time these are hard issues to talk about and difficult decisions to make. Let us help. Call The Idlewild Foundation and we can walk you through this complex area and get you to an expert who can serve you. (813) 264-8713.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

A Will Can Do A Lot

There are many reasons/excuses for not having a will. They must be good ones since only about 30% of Americans, people in the wealthiest country with the most lawyers, have a will, right? No. There are reasons and excuses, but none of them hold up to any level of scrutiny.

Here are just a few reasons to have a will:

  1. To increase your peace of mind that what you want regarding your possessions and your family will actually happen.
  2. To select a particular gift to a particular person such as a special piece of jewelry for a daughter or a particular piece of furniture to a family member or friend.
  3. To identify exactly who can and will be the personal representative of your estate or the trustee of a trust to care for and properly distribute what you have.
  4. To create a trust or fund a trust to provide lasting support for family, especially for young children or family members with special needs.
  5. To reduce probate costs dramatically, leaving more for your loved ones and less for the lawyers and courts.
  6. To identify your choice for a guardian for those in your family still needing care and support.
  7. To make it less likely for family arguments or lawsuits to start.
  8. To clearly state your last wishes and to accomplish them with reduced concern for confusion.
  9. To reduce the decisions and difficulties that will be faced by your family when you die.
  10. To potentially reduce or even eliminate taxes and expenses paid and increase the money being left to your loved ones.
  11. To support a ministry, church or charity with a lasting gift to promote the gospel.
  12. To be more certain your estate is distributed the way you want rather than the way the state thinks it should go.

A well-designed estate plan can do all of the above and more. The most thorough estate plans include documents and details most people never even consider, including what happens and how much trouble it is if there is an incapacitating illness or injury that leaves you unable to function but still very much alive. This thorough estate plan includes documents like a Durable Power of Attorney, a designation of a Health Care Surrogate and a Living Will.

You can’t prevent disasters or problems, but you can – and should – protect yourself, your family and your legacy with a will and an estate plan. It is like insurance, you never want to need it, but you are happy you spent the money when it becomes necessary.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

A Lasting Impact

There are a number of very well written books offering ideas on heaven and what eternal life involves. Among those I have read are Heaven by Randy Alcorn, One Minute After You Die by Erwin Lutzer, and Heaven Revealed by Paul Enns. These are wonderful works and are filled with the insights of years of research and the authors’ life lessons. Regardless, questions remain in my mind that are unanswered.

I can’t match the scholarship or authoring skills of those three men, so let’s stick with something more definite. One certainty is that at some point we will pass into eternity and we will then leave behind everything we earned, worked for, accomplished and had. The old joke that there are no U-Hauls following hearses is another truth.

The serious question I want to ask is, “What about the stuff you leave behind?” It mattered during your life and at least some of it reflects your life. What will your legacy be; what will you leave behind for others?

Of course, the time to ask that is long before you die. We never know when that time will come. As I write this article, friends are going through the tragedy of a 37-year-old daughter-in-law who suffered a massive stroke leaving her tragically close to death and leaving a husband and their 7-year-old daughter with heartache and many questions. I also worked as an attorney on parts of the several legal cases involving Terri Schiavo in the Tampa Bay area. She was a 27-year-old lady who suffered a form of cardiac arrest resulting in massive brain damage. She was diagnosed after time to be in a persistent vegetative state.

The crushing impact of these early and sudden illnesses is immeasurable. The shock that it happened to people so young is great. Those two real life examples exemplify the brevity and uncertainty of life.

Our time is uncertain. Solomon’s often morbid and depressed words in Ecclesiastes, likely written while he was older and was struggling with the disparity between what he had hoped for and what life had actually presented to him include the following:

Ecclesiastes 9:12
12     Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.

 Or from Proverbs, likely written when Solomon was younger and still full of hope,

Proverbs 27:1
1      Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.

Consider also the wisdom of James:

James 4:14-16
14     Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
15     Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 
16     As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

Life is uncertain and, at times, for some, tragically short. Nothing of this world will last forever. Ecclesiastes 1:11. But that certainly does not mean we should do nothing. Nor does it mean what we do today does not matter. It does matter – a lot! The questions we face now are how we can best live during the time we do have and how we can leave what we have done to do the most good as we most desire.

How we live now is a life-long topic covered by the Bible as a whole, dependent upon your relationship with God, and founded on your recognition of the depth of His love. That question takes a lifetime to answer. On the other hand, how we can best leave behind what we have is a question we can answer now.

We can leave a mark, even if it is a temporary mark to be passed on from generation to generation. The mark we can best leave is a positive legacy. The best set of comparative legacies for illustration purposes are the legacies of the Puritan preacher of the 1700’s, Jonathan Edwards, and lifelong criminal Max Juke. A study was done near the year 1900 and these comparative legacies were found.

Jonathan Edwards was an outstanding preacher and Christian. Out of Edwards’ descendants came 1 U.S. Vice-President, 1 dean of a law school, 1 dean of a medical school, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 60 doctors, 65 professors, 75 military officers, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers, 100 clergymen, and 285 college graduates.

On the other hand, Max Juke’s family included illegitimate children, 7 murderers, 60 thieves, 190 prostitutes, 150 other convicts, 310 paupers, and 440 who were physically wrecked by addiction to alcohol. Of Juke’s descendants that were studied, 300 died prematurely, at least 67 suffered from syphilis, and over 100 spent an average of 13 years in prison. See Multigenerational Legacies – The Story of Jonathan Edwards and In Defense of Max Jukes.

It was estimated that the crimes and care of the Juke family cost the state of New York over one million dollars (a lot more in present dollars), while Jonathan Edwards never cost the government a single penny. Instead he and his family made contributions of incalculable worth.

Legacy matters! Even if the name Jonathan Edwards had not lived on to this day, the benefits of his life well-lived lasted many generations. The blessing he left compared to the dubious curse of the Jukes’ family is striking to say the least.

You will not live forever on this earth. Very likely, memories of you will also fade away. But the impact you can leave by a life well-lived and by a careful estate plan can, like the legacy of Jonathan Edwards, last long beyond your life. You can help fund a ministry you love, a mission trip or trips to a country needing the gospel, or almost any other part of the church or its mission that you can imagine. The result? A positive impact on the lives of others, perhaps many others.

Idlewild Church offers many opportunities to serve the Lord. This is a church with ministries and mission opportunities where your gifts and donations can leave a lasting impact on the lives of thousands. To learn more, give The Idlewild Foundation a call. The Foundation was established to promote planned giving and would be happy to discuss with you the options available. We love to promote the idea of creating and leaving a legacy for you through planned gifts.

Legacy giving is one faithful way of leaving a positive future for those you love.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Your Will Was Last Redone How Long Ago?

If nothing has changed in your wishes, your family, your assets or the law, then it doesn’t matter how old your will is. The problem is that life happens. Circumstances, families, assets and laws change. Many life changes may call for a will and an estate plan to be redone, including:

  • A child or grandchild making poor life choices,
  • Deaths,
  • Marriages,
  • New children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren,
  • Adoption,
  • Health issues such as a special needs or disabled child, Grandchild or greatgrandchild,
  • Relational issues such as separation, divorce or re-marriage,
  • Blended families from remarriage,
  • Behavioral or social issues such as family disputes or even imprisonment,
  • New assets, investments, property, or income.

A change in any of the above circumstances or a change in your own heart may call for small or even large changes in a will. Your will is your final expression of your wishes and your heart; it should reflect who you are, not who you were years ago. It should reflect how you have changed and grown over time and it should also communicate what you want now in terms of your legacy.

A legacy is what you leave behind. Either in or with your will, you have a final opportunity to leave your Christian testimony in a way that may change the life and even the eternity of those you have left behind. Your final papers are your opportunity to leave a last (and a lasting) testimony to those you love.

Your will also is your final opportunity to leave a gift to a church or charity that has had a special impact on your heart or your life. Many people have been helped, even blessed, during important moments of their lives by people, their church or a charity that stood with them. This is a special time to give honor when honor is due.

To learn more, give The Idlewild Foundation a call. The Foundation was established to promote planned giving and would be happy to discuss with you the options available. We love to promote the idea of creating and leaving a legacy through planned gifts. The services we offer are without charge.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Hey, I Don’t Have Much, So I Don’t Need a Will … Do I?

If you own absolutely nothing, don’t care about anyone else, and have no family, friends or loved ones, then no, you do not need a will. For everyone else, you should know what a will can do for you and what happens if you do not have one before you can decide whether you need a will. Let’s look at those two questions.

What does a will potentially do for you?

Having a will does more than just a few things:

  • Determines who gets the particular things that you own.
  • Determines who does not get things that you own.
  • May help support your spouse or family.
  • Helps reduce the amount a lawyer may make out of what you left behind.
  • Allows more to go to your family and loved ones than to court and legal costs.
  • Helps determine who will raise any minor children or provide for a child with special needs, or a beloved pet.
  • Determines who will oversee the distribution of your estate, in Florida that person is called the Personal Representative.
  • Can provide a way to help in special circumstances such as setting up a trust for a family member with special needs or providing a donation to a church or charity that may hold a special place in your heart.
  • May reduce the risk that what you leave behind will be misused.
  • May reduce the risk of a fight between your relatives over your money and property.
  • Prevents the state from getting what you leave if you have no heirs under the law.
  • Gives you an opportunity with a well-designed estate plan to reduce taxes on appreciated assets, leaving more for your loved ones and less for the government.
  • Gives you a final opportunity to give a Christian witness to who and what is most important.

What happens if you have no will?

Every state is different, so I will address this only from the perspective of Florida residents with their assets in Florida. Florida has a reasonably direct even if not crystal-clear scheme for what happens when a person dies without a will, which is referred to as dying intestate.

If you are married, Florida law provides the following for your spouse:

  • 732.102 Spouse’s share of intestate estate.—The intestate share of the surviving spouse is:
    (1) If there is no surviving descendant of the decedent, the entire intestate estate.
    (2) If the decedent is survived by one or more descendants, all of whom are also descendants of the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse has no other descendant, the entire intestate estate.
    (3) If there are one or more surviving descendants of the decedent who are not lineal descendants of the surviving spouse, one-half of the intestate estate.
    (4) If there are one or more surviving descendants of the decedent, all of whom are also descendants of the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse has one or more descendants who are not descendants of the decedent, one-half of the intestate estate.

For the rest of the family, Florida law provides the following:

  • The part of the intestate estate not passing to the surviving spouse under s. 732.102, or the entire intestate estate if there is no surviving spouse, descends as follows:
    (1) To the descendants of the decedent.
    (2) If there is no descendant, to the decedent’s father and mother equally, or to the survivor of them.
    (3) If there is none of the foregoing, to the decedent’s brothers and sisters and the descendants of deceased brothers and sisters.
    (4) If there is none of the foregoing, the estate shall be divided, one-half of which shall go to the decedent’s paternal, and the other half to the decedent’s maternal, kindred in the following order:
    (a) To the grandfather and grandmother equally, or to the survivor of them.
    (b) If there is no grandfather or grandmother, to uncles and aunts and descendants of deceased uncles and aunts of the decedent.
    (c) If there is either no paternal kindred or no maternal kindred, the estate shall go to the other kindred who survive, in the order stated above.
    (5) If there is no kindred of either part, the whole of the property shall go to the kindred of the last deceased spouse of the decedent as if the deceased spouse had survived the decedent and then died intestate entitled to the estate.
    (6) If none of the foregoing, and if any of the descendants of the decedent’s great-grandparents were Holocaust victims as defined in s. 626.9543(3)(a), including such victims in countries cooperating with the discriminatory policies of Nazi Germany, then to the descendants of the great-grandparents. The court shall allow any such descendant to meet a reasonable, not unduly restrictive, standard of proof to substantiate his or her lineage. This subsection only applies to escheated property and shall cease to be effective for proceedings filed after December 31, 2004.

There are a few additional sections intended to help in special circumstances including half-blood children, children conceived but not yet born, adopted children, and children born outside of marriage.

Is law that clear? Not for many people and certainly not in all circumstances. A will may help you avoid many concerns about who ends up with what.

Who should prepare a will?

I have a friend who does estate planning and she refers to online wills as great ways for people to create litigation. I agree. I have read wills prepared by online services and often the wills leave as many if not more questions to be answered by the courts than if there was no will. Truthfully, the cost of an attorney to prepare a simple will for a person without many assets is still some of the best money spent during life. A will should be prepared by someone trained to understand the law, experienced and willing to ask detailed questions to determine what your wishes are, and able to write a will that can stand up to a court challenge.

What can an attorney do that an online will company can’t do?

I am glad you asked! The answer could literally fill a book because the answer includes everything a lawyer learned in law school courses on wills and trusts as well as legal writing, in continuing legal education courses, and in experiencing the questions and issues presented by dozens, hundreds and perhaps even thousands of people and families. That includes knowing what to ask about whether you want to include the children of children who predecease you, how your vehicles title passes, how bank accounts, investment accounts and other financial assets can be prepared so probate costs and taxes can be reduced or eliminated, how you can deed your property to reduce or eliminate probate costs and delays in transfer, whether you can or should use a Lady Bird deed, just to name a few questions that are common.

That’s all!

I am a lawyer but I would not prepare my own will or trust, even though I took Estates and Trusts I and II in law school. I am not foolish enough to believe that two law school courses and 40 years of experience in litigation as well as reading statutes and laws qualifies me to prepare my own will. Hire an expert like I did and you will not be disappointed.

To learn more and get a few suggestions about who you can hire, give The Idlewild Foundation a call. The Foundation was established to promote planned giving and would be happy to discuss with you the options available. We love to promote the idea of creating and leaving a legacy through planned gifts.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

A Jump Start for Your Savings

Help! My finances are broken down and I can’t get going! What can I possibly do? Getting out of a mess is, in some ways, no different when the mess is financial than when it is personal. The first step is almost always start now! You have to start with a full understanding of where you are and how you got there. Next, you move to the things you must do to survive and thrive. The third step is to know where you want to be within a reasonable time frame. Finally, you need to know how to move and act to get from where you are to where you want to be.

That’s all!

These are four steps which, if taken one at a time, make it possible to visualize a future with hope. God made that a goal for us to reach out for.

Jeremiah 29:11-13
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

So, let’s take it step by step! The four steps are:

Learn where you are and how you got there.
Find what you must do to survive and thrive.
Know where you want to be within a reasonable time frame.
Finally, you need to know how to move and act to get from where you are to where you want to be.

1. Learn where you are and how you got there

It’s hard to have perspective without knowledge and an honest view of the past. If you are in debt, ask why. If you are deeply in debt, the importance of that question grows and grows. If you have been in debt, gotten out, and gotten back in debt again, the importance of understanding why and how becomes overwhelming.

I like a quote attributed to the German statesman and lawyer, Konrad Adenauer, “History is the sum total of things that could have been avoided.” You are trying to learn your mistakes in the hope that you can avoid repeating them.

While looking back is important to keep you from making the same mistakes over and over again, it will not tell you the future. To go from where you are to where you would like to be, it takes knowledge, understanding, a plan, and discipline. The plan and the discipline are both contained in your budget.

The word “budget” sounds so old-fashioned and rigid. Yes and probably yes! A budget is old-fashioned and a budget can be very rigid. Discipline is also old-fashioned and rigid. In the process of getting your finances under control, saving money and building a future not dependent on government handouts, old-fashioned, disciplined and rigid ways are necessary qualities. Rather than focus on the rigidity of the word budget, try looking at a budget not as something that keeps you from spending but rather as a financial tool that permits you to spend wisely and protects you against unwise spending. Hey, you (and not your mother, I hope) create and determine your own budget.

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University teaches budgeting over two weeks of the course. The first week you do a simple and basic budget and then you add to it the next week. Even after that your budget will need adjustments and alterations as time brings about changes, price increases and hopefully, income increases. Crown Financial also has a budget guide that is very helpful. Click here to go to the Crown site so you can download the guide.

Other online sites provide a platform and assistance for starting a good budget. See, for example, SunTrust’s OnUp site.

Part of your budget that may seem like it should be left off until you get out of debt is giving to the Lord. While this advice is counterintuitive and counter-cultural, it is Biblically solid. Always give to God, at least if you want to survive and thrive.

2. What you must do to survive and thrive.

Start with giving to God. What? Give while I am in debt and trying to build savings? That’s crazy! No, that’s God’s way of teaching, stretching and growing us. We are made in God’s image – Genesis 1:27 – and He unquestionably thinks and lives outside our “logical” limitations. You don’t have to give. Surveys and studies suggest that even 40 to 50% of evangelicals do not give to the church or God, but giving opens a door to blessings that God wants to pour out on us. Malachi 3:10 and Luke 6:38. No, we don’t have to give, we get to give! We are blessed with the opportunity to contribute to God and His church and to become a partner with the Creator in His plan!

One of the best parts of giving is its transformative power. Actually, giving itself is not transformative. However, giving with a joyful heart allows the Holy Spirit to work His transformative and regenerative power in our hearts. Romans 12:2.

Is giving even in a time of financial stress illogical in the world’s eye and hard to grasp as a “good thing”? Yes. Go back and read Romans 12:2.

Romans 12:2
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We are not to conform to the world’s idea of logic. To use a common word picture, think outside the world’s box, color outside the world’s lines, have a Christian world view, not the world view of a humanist.

Never forget the promise given to us by the apostle Paul – God loves a cheerful giver! 2 Corinthians 9:7.

Give, give joyfully, give generously and give God an opportunity to show you His faithfulness. Malachi 3:10.
But thriving requires more than giving. It also requires something dreaded by most – planning.

3. Know where you want to be within a reasonable time frame.

Setting realistic goals with God in mind is anything but sinful. Actually, to refuse to plan is to presume upon God as much, if not more than to trust in Him. He has told us that it is wise to plan. Proverbs 16:3.

God has plan for us. Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 40:5. Noah built the ark according to a plan. Genesis 6. The tabernacle was constructed according to a plan. Exodus 25-27. The farmers of those days and even today had to have a plan for when to plant, when to cultivate and when to harvest. In Egypt, Joseph had to save grain to prepare the nation for seven years of famine. Genesis 41. The temple was built according to a plan. 1 Kings 6. Proverbs 16:3 tells us to plan. There are literally hundreds of other examples of planning that was either by God or at His direction. Much of the wisdom of planning can be summed up in one short passage of Proverbs. Proverbs 6:6-8 encourages saving by giving us one of God’s perfect examples, an ant.

Proverbs 6:6-8
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.

The ant is God’s illustration of a great steward and planner.

See Save $ in 2019 and It’s Time to Start Saving for ideas on how to start saving. Start with an emergency fund of one month’s living expenses. Then grow that to 3 months and finally to six months. Those three steps will be hard. Save what you can when you can – use every opportunity to save even small amounts. See 7 Steps for Financial Progress and Ideas for Living Better Through Stewardship.

If you can, set up an automatic transfer to a savings account. Your employer may allow a direct deposit of part of your paycheck into savings or, even better, may allow you to contribute to a retirement account or savings plan set up by the employer. If available, do it. Money that isn’t immediately available by debit card but instead requires an extra step to reach, is harder to spend. Retailers are trying to make it easier for you to spend. You need to counter their moves by making it harder to spend.

4. How to move and act to get from where you are to where you want to be.

The hardest part is actually starting, setting your mind and your heart on those goals and plans and taking the first step. The second hardest part is sticking to it. For that, I suggest an accountability partner with whom you can share all financial details and who will hold you accountable. For an illustration of how this worked in the life of Greg and Alison Baumer who were committed spenders, watch this short video.

Once you have accountability set and you are started, focus hard on your existing debt if you have any. Include in that debt on your home because the security of your home for yourself and your family is a primary need. Work to pay off all debt using the skills taught by Financial Peace University and Crown Ministries.

Take Financial Peace University at Idlewild Church. It includes guidance and help with paying off debt and other issues raised in this article. Alternatively, try Crown Ministries. Crown’s Money Map can get you started toward getting out of debt and it is free. Download your Money Map today.

Go to Crown’s Debt Snowball Calculator. Put in your basic information about your debt and how much you can put toward paying off that debt each month. The Calculator creates a payoff plan that you can handle.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

The Poor Will Always Be With You …

To really answer the responsibility God has placed upon followers of Jesus, the best starting point is, as always, the Bible.  A Listing of every verse dealing with God’s apparent focus on the poor and those in need would be very lengthy because this is a common topic in His Word. Nevertheless, I start with some and a comment/summary of their application and meaning.


Some Bible Verses Showing God’s Heart on the Poor and Needy and the Duty to Give, Serve and Help.


Exodus 23:11 – Every seventh year the fields should lie untended and the poor should be allowed to gather food from your fields.

Leviticus 14:21 – the poor are to give, even if it is less than the more able.

Leviticus 19:9-10 – Leave some of your harvest for the poor and the travelers.

Leviticus 25:35 – Help the poor people so they can continue to live among you.

Deuteronomy 15:4 – The Lord will bless you in the land so much that there need be no poor.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 – Do not be hard on the poor, give generously to them and the Lord will bless you. There will always be poor people.

Ruth 2:2 – An example of Leviticus 19:9-10, the poor and travelers being allowed to gather leftover grain. The story of Ruth shows the blessing that comes from generosity.

Psalm 12:5 – the poor suffer and God will protect them.

Psalm 14:6 – God is the refuge for the poor from oppressors.

Psalm 35:10 – God rescues the poor and needy.

Psalms 41:1-3 – God blesses and protects those who help the poor.

Psalm 68:10 – God provides to the poor.

Psalm 72:12 – God will deliver the needy and afflicted.

Psalm 140:12 – God gives justice to the poor and needy.

Proverbs 11:25 – A generous person will prosper.

Proverbs 14:21 – Blessed is he who is kind to the needy.

Proverbs 14:31 – Being kind to the poor honors God.

Proverbs 21:13 – God will not listen to those who do not listen to the poor.

Proverbs 22:9 – The generous who share with the poor will be blessed.

Proverbs 22:16 – He who oppresses the poor will come to poverty.

Proverbs 28:27 – If you give to the poor you will lack nothing, if you close your eyes to the poor you will suffer.

Isaiah 41:17 – The Lord will answer the poor and needy.

Isaiah 58:6-7 – God desires the sacrifice of helping the poor and needy.

Isaiah 58:10-11 – If you help the poor and hungry, the Lord will be with you.

Isaiah 61:1 – (repeated by Jesus in Matthew 11:5 and Luke 4:18 as a Messianic prophesy) The Spirit of the Lord is on me to proclaim good news to the poor.

Jeremiah 20:13 – God rescues the life of the needy.

Jeremiah 22:16 – To know God means to defend the cause of the poor and needy.

Ezekiel 16:49 – Sodom’s sin was that they did not help the poor and needy.

Amos 4:1 – God disparages the wealthy who oppress the needy.

Zechariah 7:10 – Do not oppress the poor, the widow, the orphan or the foreigner.

Matthew 5:42 – Give to the one who asks.

Matthew 6:1-4 – Give privately and you will be rewarded.

Matthew 25:31-46 – If you help the poor and hungry, you help the Lord.

Matthew 26:11 – The poor will always be with you.

Luke 3:10-11 – Share with those in need.

Luke 6:38 – Give and it will be given to you.

Luke 11:41 –  Be generous to the poor.

Luke 12:33-34 – Give to the poor, your real treasure is in heaven.

Luke 21:1-4 – The one who gives sacrificially, even if the gift is small, gives more.

Acts 9:36 – Dorcas, who gave to the poor, was revived and blessed.

Acts 10:24-48 – Cornelius was heard by God for his prayers and gifts to the poor, and was blessed.

Acts 20:35 – It is more blessed to give than to receive, and we are to help the weak.

Romans 12:6-8 – Among the spiritual gifts is the gift of giving.

Romans 15:26 – People were pleased to make a contribution to the poor.

2 Corinthians 9:6 – As you sow, so shall you reap.

2 Corinthians 9:11 – You will be enriched so you can be generous for God’s glory.

Galatians 2:10 – Paul was eager to help the poor.

Philippians 4:19 – God will meet all of your needs.

1 Timothy 5:8 – it is evil not to provide for the needs of your family.

1 Timothy 5:16 – The church and its people should help widows in need.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 – The rich should not be arrogant or trust in their wealth. They should be generous and share.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 – If you are unwilling to work you should not eat.

Hebrews 13:3 – Remember those in prison and the mistreated.

Hebrews 13:16 – Do good and share for this pleases God.

James 1:27 – Pure and faultless religion is helping widows and orphans.

James 2:2-9 – Show no favoritism against the poor, they are rich in faith.

James 2:15-16 – Act to help the poor, words alone mean nothing.

1 John 3:17-18 – If you have the ability to help but don’t, you lack God’s love. Action is necessary.


An Overview of God’s Heart on the Poor and Needy.


The calling of these verses can be summed up in only a two words – “do something.” A better summary might be “Do as much as you possibly can.”

The above verses are not nearly all of the passages dealing with God’s heart about generosity and the poor, but these should be easily enough verses to convey the very clear message; God loves the poor, needy, helpless and oppressed and we are to follow God’s heart – with action.

Doing nothing, or relying upon others to do your duty, is not an option in the eyes of God.


Our Heart and Motive.


So, we must act. But as we do so, it must be with a pure heart.

Matthew 6:1-4
1      “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2      “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
3      But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4      so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Our offerings and gifts are not for us or for our glory, they are to be designed and intended to bring glory to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11. Any other gift is unworthy. 2 Corinthians 9:7.


Our Response.


We have all been given one or more spiritual gifts. 1 Peter 4:10-11. But God calls upon believers to act out both in the area of their spiritual gift or gifts, but in other areas as well. For example, you may not have the spiritual gift of evangelism (1 Corinthians 4:11), but the lack of that gift does not relieve you of your duty to help fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Likewise, you may not have the spiritual gift of giving (Romans 12:8), but that does not mean you can ignore either giving to God or helping the poor (Luke 11:41).

Every man, woman and child has something to give, some way to serve or help. Even the poorest and most physically disabled can encourage through word if not deed. Most have far more than the ability of a disabled person. Some of us have wealth, some of us have talent(s) and skill(s), some of us have influence, some of us can serve with physical help, all of us have at least some time. What we have is a part of the wealth God has given us, even if it is as small as the wealth of the widow’s offering (Luke 21:1-4). Of what we have, we have a God-given responsibility to do something. Doing nothing is not an option.

And with the investment you put in, you are “purchasing” an opportunity to share the reason for your offering. It is an offering to those in need and of praise to God, and it is an opportunity to share the love of God, 1 Peter 4:10-11.

But, “I’m not wealthy, in fact, I am broke!” If not money, give your service, your talents, your skills, your expertise and your time. God has more opportunities for you to serve than you could ever imagine. If nothing else is possible, serve Him by the way you work and your attitude and enthusiasm at work (Colossians 3:23-24). Catch that part right at the end of Colossians 3:24, “it is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Amen!

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Save $ in 2019

Saving money is a challenge. The money seems to (and does) build up slowly and the temptations to cheat and spend rather than save are like dieting temptations, easy to find and hard to resist. Here are a few practical ideas to keep your savings increasing and to help you hold the line on spending. When you save on one of the ideas here, save the money toward an emergency savings account, your retirement or a special trip and vacation.

Try these ideas and save:

1. Your car insurance rises every year even though your car is older and is worth less. You would think at least the collision coverage would decrease. It will if you decide to shop around at least every three years. You may not want to decide based upon premium cost alone, because there is a lot to be said about receiving good service, but if money is tight, always shop around.

2. If you have emergency savings, go with high deductible collision coverage. You can save a lot that way. I will admit it may cost you if you have an at fault accident, but if you go several years without an accident, your savings will far exceed the amount of your deductible.

3. Shop your homeowners coverage as well. Those premiums tend to rise more than the value of your home. Home insurers, like car insurers, count on you not wanting the hassle of changing carriers.

4. Drop your magazine subscriptions. Check and you may find the very same magazine is available at your nearest public library. Or, alternatively, spend a quiet evening at a local bookstore, reading your favorite magazines for free.

5. Hold a garage sale. Go through your closet and find clothes you have not worn in a year. The chances are you will never wear it if you haven’t worn it in a year. Pull the junk out of your closets you never use and out of the attic that you stuffed up there and see if there is someone else who wants your junk. You won’t make a lot, but you will make more than doing nothing will make for you. Alternatively, try eBay or sell online. A second alternative is for you to donate what you have to a Christian thrift store and take the deduction on your tax return if you are able.

6. Check your Internet, cable and phone plans. You can almost always improve your plan and save money if you check once a year. Ask yourself if you really need that landline. We dropped ours over a year ago and discovered we received fewer junk calls during dinner.

7. Get a free energy audit from your power company and see where your electric use can be trimmed. Consider adding attic insulation if your house is old, many types of older insulation settle and lose R-value, costing you money every month. Alternatively, you could do something really radical and turn off the lights when you leave a room.
8. Drop your gym membership and take up walking. It is easier on the knees and hips than jogging, can be done well into your 70’s, and is free!

9. Keep your tires properly inflated, put the right gas in your car and maintain it based upon the manufacturer’s recommendations.

10. If you use AAA for emergency roadside service, go to an AAA location and check out their available gift cards. You get a 3 to 5% credit in AAA dollars towards your next year AAA bill. If it is a card for a restaurant you are going to eat at anyway, a store you will shop at anyway (or even Amazon Smile), or a gift card you would give as a gift anyway, you will save an annual AAA fee in a fairly short time, certainly less than a year.

11. While I am on the topic of gift cards, buy them at a discount from a discounter like giftcardgranny.com. You can find meaningful discounts on hundreds of gift cards including Walmart, Target, and many large retailers.

12. Buy used, not new. A used car, if checked out carefully, is a great savings over a new car. New cars lose thousands of dollars almost the same moment you drive the car off the lot. If the car isn’t too old, you may still have some warranty left – always check. If buying a used car, always check the obvious things such as the tires. Many dealers will put new tires on a car if you spot a worn or repaired tire.

13. Used books are readily available at thrift stores, or, even better free books, magazines and videos are available at the public library.

14. Buy an Entertainment Book and eat out for 50% at many restaurants. Try Entertainment Books and see what restaurants and services are covered in your area. In the Tampa Bay area there are over 150 restaurants and services offering substantial discounts. You quickly save the cost of the book, try new places and then save a lot more.

15. Save without the hassle of coupons. There is a rather remarkable website worth checking – Savingstar. You can go to their free website, check the products you want to buy from a store and get cash back after you shop. You can link your store loyalty card or upload the receipt and save. The stores available can be seen from the site and include Publix, WalMart, Target, CVS, Walgreens and literally hundreds of other retailers.

Saving just requires that you try. The problem is that we tend to get so busy, that time is a commodity that is hard to find. But if you can find the time to try a few of these ideas here, you can save a lot. If you have additional ideas, call or email us and we will pass them on.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

So, You Want to Know How to Get Rich …

It is okay to want to be rich. It is not automatically sinful to have that goal, at least not as long as your heart is right and your reasons are good. In Luke 12 Jesus told the parable of the rich fool. The rich man wasn’t a fool because he was rich, he was a fool because of his attitude towards being money and God.

Luke 12:13-31
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
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.”

God never said the man was a fool for acquiring wealth or even for relaxing a bit, only for not being rich toward God. Abraham, the father of righteousness was a wealthy man. Lot was as well. It isn’t wealth that is a sin, it is how our hearts embrace wealth that is a sin.

1 Timothy 6:6-10
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

The show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” became immediately successful because many do want just that. Likewise, for those old enough to remember, the TV show The Millionaire aired from 1955 to 1960 (back when a million dollars was worth many times what it is now). That show was about a multi-millionaire who surprised people by giving away a million dollars to strangers was a hit, likely because many hoped for that knock on their own door. Talk about a dream …

Will you become a millionaire? Maybe. Will the following ideas allow you to approach and maybe even acquire financial freedom? There are no guarantees, but at a minimum, these ideas give you a better opportunity to reach financial freedom. Will the following ideas make you more financially capable? Yes, definitely. How can you reach that goal and how can you avoid the dangers mentioned by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6? Here are a few ideas.

Let’s start with the first and least obvious.

Rule 1: Give Generously

Proverbs 3:9
9 Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;

Granted the people of Israel hearing this were mostly farmers. Granted they dealt with crops and very few in modern America do unless it is a crop located on a grocery store shelf or bin.

This concept is psychological and designed to overcome human weakness, not designed just for a farming people. It is human nature to want to say, “Let me pay all the bills and give God what is left at the end of the month.” But nowhere in the Bible is there even one iota of support for the idea of giving God leftovers.
In fact, when it was tried, it did not please the Lord.

Haggai 1:4-7
4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.
6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.

God knows people better than they know themselves and God certainly knows individuals and their issues with money. Giving to God before spending money on yourself (a different way of saying giving out of the first fruits, see Proverbs 3:9 – “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops”) is excellent. In fact, giving to God before saving (a different way of saying giving to yourself with a delay) is even better. That is the way you can give first to God and second to your own future.

Only then, after giving to God and giving to your own future by saving do you give to your present self. This is what is called discipline or delayed gratification. It is also called wise.

Luke 12:15 Tells us, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” I will grant you that you may be lonely as a person with this set of priorities. You are putting consumption, keeping up with the Joneses, driving the newest car and watching the biggest and brightest TV a low priority in a status-driven world.

The result is that with no additional effort you will have reached the second rung on this ladder of progress.

Rule 2: Live Beneath Your Means

The average Millennial is saving less than nothing, less than 0% of their income. How? The average Millennial is accumulating debt, not wealth. But if you give first to God and then you next give to your own future before you start spending (and don’t acquire debt), you inevitable will live less costly lives than if you spent all or even more than all of your income.

Here you have to make a number of choices. First, chose what your “needs” really are. Everything else is a “want.” Prepare a budget. Line item 1 is giving to God. Line item 2 is giving to your own future. Line item three and a few lines after that are your needs. Only after those line items are all filled in and money applied to them, do you ever get to your “wants.”

Paul told us in 1 Timothy 6:8, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Amazingly, if you get to this point, the third rung in the ladder is also an easy one.

Rule 3: No Debt Permitted

Now we go back and look at step 1 again. Just as wealth is not automatically a sin, neither is debt. However, not everything that is permissible is good. Paul told us exactly that in 1 Corinthians 10:23 when he wrote, ““I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.”

Does that mean you can’t buy a home until you can pay cash? No, but you need to be aware of the power a lender has over you. A lender is, quite literally, a slave master over the debtor. Solomon told us in Proverbs 22:7 that “the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
You will never realize how true that is until you have a mortgage payment due but you lost your job or you lost your income due to an injury and you can’t scrape the money together for a past due payment. The interest and penalties mount up, so does the pressure on you and your family.
If you do have or get a mortgage, keep your giving to God and your future in place, build up savings as well, but make paying off that mortgage a very high priority, very high!

Once again, if you do these 4 steps, the next rung on the ladder is easy – you are already there!

Rule 4: Save for an Emergency Fund

Life is such that emergencies happen. By their very nature, you can’t plan for them specifically, but by the very nature of life, unexpected emergencies will happen. The risk of any one emergency is small. However, over time, it is a certainty that your car will break down, you will have to replace tires or brakes, change oil, your water heater will rust through, a toilet will plug up or the air conditioner will stop – and air conditioners always break in the summer months! That is called life with a little bit of Murphy’s Law blended in.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, here are the risks:

1. You will cheat God that one month. After all, God has enough money to make it through the month;
2. You will break out that unused credit card and charge it, risking paying interest for months.
3. You will borrow from a friend or relative.

All of these are stress-inducing events.

Start with one month’s expenses and work towards six months. This is a step you cannot afford to overlook. When you reach your emergency fund goal, then you keep right on saving, but now it goes into longer term savings, your children’s college savings or your retirement savings. Be as wise as the common ant.

Proverbs 6:6-8
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.

How can you cut your spending and save enough to do that? Doing exactly that is the next step.

Rule 5: Carry Cash and Not a Credit Card

Carrying a credit card increases spending. No knowledgeable person would disagree. You not only lose the feel of the money leaving your wallet, you also lose the teachable moments for your children as they see that happen. Instead, what do most children see? They see spending without hesitation or consequence.
The envelope system promoted by Dave Ramsey and others is amazing, check it out. Even better, try it for a 3-month trial. I can assure you that you will spend less and end up with more after 3 months.

This requires care and discipline. It requires you to know what you need to buy, plan ahead – carefully – and take only what you need. There is no room for that impulse purchase under this system. You have to know what you have, what you need, that your resources are finite and that God’s blessing will come upon you for this wise spending.

Proverbs 27:23-27
23 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
give careful attention to your herds;
24 for riches do not endure forever,
and a crown is not secure for all generations.
25 When the hay is removed and new growth appears
and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
26 the lambs will provide you with clothing,
and the goats with the price of a field.
27 You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family
and to nourish your female servants.

There is nothing easy or automatic about any of this. It is counter-cultural. It is almost un-American. Be a rebel and try it. But know in advance that actions such as budgeting and setting up the envelope system are harder than they sound at first. This leads us to the last step, the final rung on the ladder

Rule 6 – Get Help

Start with a financial management course such as Financial Peace University. The course isn’t hard. With the help you receive from small group facilitators and encouragement from others who are taking the same brave steps you are, the steps to reach the top financially are manageable.

The stewardship ministry of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz offers this course twice a year. Try it and you will love the results! Will you get “rich”? Perhaps you won’t be an instant millionaire. However, you will increase your opportunities to reach that million or even more.

Check out It’s Time to Start Saving, 7 Steps for Financial Progress, Planning Your Financial Future And … and Save More, 10% Isn’t Enough for additional ideas on saving money and working toward that first million.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

A Great Start to 2019

New Year’s Resolutions to Kick-Off the Year

What are your New Year Resolutions for 2019? Lose weight, exercise more and get in better shape are almost always number 1 or at least in the top 5. But then life happens! Sometimes you keep such a resolution for a few weeks or maybe even a few months with strong encouragement. After that, the busy days of spring begin to take over – that new treadmill you invested in becomes a clothes hanger and that gym membership is all but forgotten, “(Yawn) I’m just too tired today …”

Instead, make one of your resolutions for 2019 to review your financial and estate plans. Significant life changes are something that should trigger in your mind the question, “Do I need to change my will or trust?” or “Should I change any of my beneficiary designations?” If you need an easy way to keep track of your bequests and beneficiary designations on bank accounts, IRAs and financial or investment accounts, make a list. It is best done on a computer file so you do not have to re-do the entire document each time there is a change, but then print it and keep it with your estate and financial documents just in case your computer files are somehow lost. For a few additional thoughts on this topic, see A Few Estate Planning Pitfalls (especially #3) and A Few More Estate Planning Pitfalls.

Also, think about adding a few fresh ideas in which your entire family can become involved! Here are some suggestions to prayerfully consider.

1. Serve: Serve together as a family, a small group or just as a group of friends. Find a ministry that touches your heart and about which you can be passionate. Schedule yourself to serve regularly in this ministry with your family, a group of friends, or involve your small group. On a simpler note, you can visit a friend you haven’t seen in a while, perhaps someone out with an illness or injury. Always remember that stewardship is a L.I.F.E activity that is not limited to dollars and cents. It involves your Labor, your Influence, your Financial resources, and your Expertise, your entire L.I.F.E.

2. Broaden your view: Look for new opportunities to broaden your stewardship. Never neglect giving your tithe to your home church. Check out Does the New Testament Teach Tithing? Know that God has also called us to give over and above the tithe. Read and reflect upon Deuteronomy 15, Matthew 23:23, and Luke 12:33-34.

3. Give wisely: When you find a ministry that touches your heart, consider giving as well as serving. You can give in different ways. Instead of just monetary giving, consider giving an appreciated asset, stock, or a piece of property. This type of giving may be better for both you and the charity than if you sold and donated the net proceeds. This strategy may reduce your tax burden and increases the amount the charity receives. Not sure how to do this? The Idlewild Foundation can show you how. Just give us a call at (813) 264-8713.

4. Learn about Giving Funds: Explore the possibilities of a Donor Advised Fund that will allow you a deduction now, but choose who you want to support and how much you will give at a future date. This kind of fund can be an efficient means of setting up recurring donations and makes record keeping for taxes easy. Learn more at Ways to Give, or just give us a call.

5. Share your experience with others: If you have a life example of how God has blessed you and how you have given back to Him, share your story. Tell your small group, your friends, and your family about how you’ve been blessed and how you’ve been able to bless others.

6. Accelerate your life: In 2019, as Idlewild accelerates its debt payment and kingdom investments, join Pastor Ken in that goal. Be a part of Accelerate! Give over and above the tithe to accelerate payment of the last of the debt and allow Idlewild to enter a new phase of even more service to the kingdom.

Here’s another idea! Why not spend some time reviewing your spending for 2018? By looking at your bank and charge card statements you’ll get a pretty good picture of where your money was spent and what your priorities have been. Did you find ways to glorify God through any of your spending? Did your spending in 2018 give more glory to yourself than to God? Could you do better?


Deuteronomy 8:18
18     But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth …


Give God the credit He is due. He made your income and your abilities possible.

Take some time to sit down with your family and discuss ways to manage your money more effectively. Consider speaking with someone from the Stewardship Ministry of Idlewild Baptist Church or with us at The Idlewild Foundation. We can give you tips and ideas in managing your money. And don’t worry. You won’t be bludgeoned until you agree to give money to the Foundation! On the other hand, you will learn ways that you can further God’s kingdom by sharing His blessings with others – with open hands!

You can contact us at The Idlewild Foundation, (813) 264-8713 or email us at Foundation@idlewild.org. May 2019 be a year to celebrate!

God Loves a Cheerful Giver – So Be One!

“For God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) is foundational and is used in some way in almost every sermon or lesson on giving, tithing or generosity.
The entire verse is:

2 Corinthians 9:7
7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

However, one verse, out of the overall context, is subject to abuse. So, better still, consider the entire verse in a bit more context:

2 Corinthians 9:6-8
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Better yet, read all of 2 Corinthians and get the full context of Paul writing to faithful and generous people who are struggling with their Christian walk as they are surrounded by sinners and false teachers. Does that sound familiar? That context makes 2 Corinthians a book that is very applicable to our world today.

Paul gave a theology lesson on giving and generosity in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 that is unmatched anywhere is the Bible except perhaps in John 3:16. He wanted their generosity to be genuine and from the heart, not out of obligation. However, he wanted Christians to be encouraged by the example of Jesus Christ and he most certainly wanted them to give.

2 Corinthians 8:8-9
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
9 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.

As we look a bit closer, it is still important to read every verse in the book in context. In chapter 8, Paul showed that he knew that an authentic life required genuine generosity, generosity to the point of sacrifice. 2 Corinthians 8:3. Paul then made it clear that he sought a balance in people’s wealth and blessings, a lesson badly needed in a country with dramatic disparity. 2 Corinthians 8:13-15. He made it clear that he knew he was writing to the right people, a people who excelled in many things but especially in the grace of giving. 2 Corinthians 8:7. He showed in chapter 8 that generosity is a matter of the heart.

Paul then continued in chapter 9, giving encouragement to his church in the Greek city of Corinth. Chapter 9 encourages generosity repeatedly, with the message flowing from the law of reaping and sowing, 2 Corinthians 9:6, to reminders of how they have been richly blessed by God with all that they need and more. 2 Corinthians 9:8. Paul emphasizes that as generous people they will reap blessings from their generous God, 2 Corinthians 9:11, and he repeatedly states that the ultimate benefactor of this generosity is God who will receive thanksgiving and praise. 2 Corinthians 9:11-15.

It is striking that in this overall context there is a small part of 2 Corinthians 9:7 that has been used as an excuse for not being generous. That is the partial verse where Paul wrote,

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion,

If that is viewed as a passage to excuse stinginess, it is out of place. On the other hand, that passage should most accurately be viewed as encouragement to a reluctant giver to engage in a heart examination, because something may be wrong. Clearly, if God loves a cheerful giver, He wants people to be cheerful givers.

Now, leap forward to the 21st century. You might be encouraged to know that modern psychology is trying to catch up to the wisdom of the Bible. In 2014 a Baylor professor did an examination of generosity. The results are completely supportive of the core concepts of stewardship and Paul’s teachings on generosity that promote and encourage generosity. They also contain an important truth about generosity that is easily overlooked. See Resolving to Be More Generous in the New Year – Baylor Philanthropy Expert Offers Four Ways to Develop Spirit of Generosity in 2015 by Andy Hogue, Ph.D.

Andy Hogue at Baylor University teaches the Baylor Philanthropy Lab course entitled, “Philanthropy and the Public Good.” He examined generosity, especially among college students who had little money with which they could demonstrate generosity. His conclusion matched Paul’s, “Whatever our station, however much money or resources we have, we all have something to share and something to give.” He offered four ideas on generosity, ideas I expand upon a bit in the boxes below his ideas.

1) Generosity starts with gratitude. “That is the very first step, just being grateful for what we have, but also realizing that to those given much, much is expected, and to begin thinking about not possessing things but stewarding things,” Hogue said. “Think of the many things we have that might benefit others, whether that is our time, our talents or our finances. There are so many things that we have at our disposal to be able to enrich communities and to help other people. Being able to think in those ways leads us down the path toward generosity and toward sharing.”

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In truth, generosity is a Christian response to the grace of God.

2 Corinthians 9:8
8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

We love because He first loved us, 1 John 4:19, and likewise we can give because He first gave generously to us. John 3:16. Perhaps even more importantly, we have been given so much not so that we can enjoy the blessings and hoard what we have, but so we can be generous to those in need. The ultimate result is that God will be given thanks.

2 Corinthians 9:11
11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 

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2) Generosity is more than just a transaction. “Think of philanthropy, generosity and giving as more than writing a check. Think of it as something that can be transformative and realize that there is no such thing as an unhappy generous person. It’s difficult to be unhappy when we are giving of ourselves.”

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Generosity is so much more than money. Even people without money can be generous with their time and talents. Often the gift of time, attention and love is more important and brings about better results. 

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3) Generosity is a muscle you have to exercise. “If we can’t give of ourselves when we have limited means, what makes us expect that we would do it when we have more means?” Hogue said. “We all, in some way, are privileged and blessed and have resources that can be put to use for the benefit of someone else.”

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Here is the point Dr. Hogue makes that is somewhat surprising. Many use the excuse that they are not naturally generous as a justification to not even try. “It’s not my spiritual gift.” Dr. Hogue would likely respond and say, “So what?” Generosity is something you can learn and grow into – it just means you have to exercise that generosity muscle a bit.

The results would be startling if more tried that form of exercise. Americans are overwhelmingly blessed. Even the poorest of the poor in this country has access to more social and life resources than many peoples around the world. If we express that blessing through generosity, we become like the people of Corinth who were written to by Paul.

2 Corinthians 8:8-9
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
9 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.

Paul knew that they needed encouragement and practice. Then, as now, it is easy to get comfortable and start to enjoy the blessings. Instead, Paul wanted to test them, stretch them, and make them exercise their generosity muscle.

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4) Generosity can be creative. There are inspired ways to give birthday or Christmas gifts in honor of a family member or friend that bring about a beautiful thing Hogue likes to call the “philanthropy of collaboration.”

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That creativity is part of the fact that the people of Corinth had come to “excel in this grace of giving.” 2 Corinthians 8:7. Giving is a grace. There is no grace more creative than that of God. Just look around at the amazing diversity of His creation from aardvarks to zebras.

At the Idlewild Foundation we have had the blessing to be the beneficiaries of creative grace, such as our scholarship program, begun by an anonymous couple because they wanted all glory to go to the God who blessed them with wealth.

We have tried to live out that creativity by giving a $100 bill to each of our Pastors shortly before Christmas with a simple set of instructions:

1. Make a gift between now and December 25th.
2. Make the entire gift to one person.
3. Make the gift outside the Idlewild family.
4. Make the gift to someone you have not met prior to today.

The results were fascinating and generally a blessing. Some people, when handed a crisp $100 bill, asked “Why are you giving that to me?” Ask a Baptist Pastor why he is being generous and you can be assured that the gospel rang out loud and clear. The gratitude was overwhelming and on several occasions the responses were tearful as the Holy Spirit made the timing perfect.

We are equipped and called to be creative with our stuff in our generosity. More important, we are equipped and called to be generous. What makes it work even better is if the beneficiary of a gift gets the message and then becomes a giver, paying it forward to others in need. As I have heard it said, “generosity begets generosity.”

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Hogue’s real goal with his Philanthropy Lab was to encourage students to have a growing interest and participation in philanthropy. That sounds a lot like Paul in his letter to his church in Corinth. It has been one goal of true Christianity for 2,000 years and should remain a goal for each of us.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What about Generosity?

A Christian world view is, or should be, odd enough in the world’s eyes that the believer is thought of as odd. It is not necessary to walk around either naked or in rags like St. Francis, depending upon others each day for every bite to eat and having no place to sleep on cold, or any other, nights. There are enough “odd” things about the teachings of Jesus to make what others see appear as odd. He said some interesting and unconventional things (to say the least)!

He kept telling people not to talk about the healing he had done for them (knowing they would. (Matthew 8:4, Matthew 17:9, Mark 1:44 and Luke 5:14). He said, but didn’t really mean, that we were to be perfect. (Matthew 5:48). You were blessed when people persecuted and said bad things about you – rejoice about it! (Matthew 5:11-12). If someone hits you on one cheek, you are pretty much supposed to invite them to hit the other side too (Matthew 5:39). Don’t resist evil people (Matthew 5:39).Oh, and while you are at it, love your enemies too (Matthew 5:44). He sent His followers out to proclaim His message, but told them not to take any money or clean clothes.


HOW VERY ODD THESE CHRISTIANS ARE!

That is just really odd! However, let’s not stop! Paul was pretty strange himself. He rejoiced when persecuted (Colossians 1:24), as did Peter and the other Apostles when they were flogged (Acts 5:41). To make matters worse, one of the best examples of “odd” is Christian generosity. It isn’t our “stuff” so we are not supposed to hold onto it too tightly (Acts 4:32-35).

The teachings in God’s Word are so radical in these areas that it is at times hard to reconcile what we actually see in the lives of Christians with their Christianity. We read something but can’t find it anywhere in the real lives of at least some Christians. We are to give and be generous (and we are told we will get that much and more back, Luke 6:38), but then we don’t give and instead save and store and even hoard wealth. We are told to trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 16:20, but appear to have more trust in Social Security and the stock market, both of which are shaky at best. And let’s not even talk about loving our neighbors – we’ve all seen Christians on the highways and that isn’t love. And how about Christians tipping servers at restaurants; it is easy to talk about generosity while it is sometimes hard to find it in real life.

Generosity, trust and love are topics too big to cover in one blog, so let’s just stick to self-examination in the area of generosity.

First, what is it? How do you define and describe generosity?

It isn’t a mathematical formula that says if you make a lot more, then you give a little more and keep 90% of the extra. It isn’t just giving Christians a discount or loaning them money at little or no interest. It isn’t even giving more than the 10% tithe to God and your church and adding a bit extra to a few secular charities. Generosity isn’t about a multi-millionaire giving ten times what a person making $40,000 a year. It isn’t even about giving when you should.

Real generosity is about sacrifice and about giving when giving isn’t required or even noticed.

Matthew 6:1-4
1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Real generosity is about going that extra mile when it isn’t expected or required (Matthew 5:41). It is about loving when love isn’t returned (), it is about forgiving the unforgivable, maybe many times (Matthew 18:21-22, Matthew 18:21-35), it is usually about doing the unexpected and culturally odd things that cause mature Christians to be considered odd.


Real generosity comes from the heart, it has no formula


Real generosity is giving sacrificially. It isn’t the dollars, it is the heart.

Luke 21:1-4
1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.
2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.
4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

The rich put in far more than the widow. But she put in far more of what she had. She was generous and the rich were not, or at least they were not nearly as generous as she was. Jesus knew that. Generosity is from the heart. She gave because God meant more to her than what she had.

Does generosity stand alone? Hardly ever if it is even possible. Generosity and love and kindness all stick together.

The Idlewild Foundation has been blessed by God to be associated with many generous people. An undergraduate scholarship program for needy and active members was begun at Idlewild Baptist Church based upon the donation of $1 million and later even more, by a couple who insisted on being anonymous. Why anonymous? Because they wanted to be as certain as they could that God was praised and received glory and not them. They got the message of 2 Corinthians 9:11.

2 Corinthians 9:11
11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

They understood that they had been given wealth so that they could give that wealth and so that God would be praised.

Where does such generosity come from? God has made that clear. I John 4:19 says it all, “We love because He loved us first.” Kindness combined with generosity caused the servant of Isaac to notice Rebecca when she volunteered to water his camels. Genesis 24. That led to love and from those events, the future of the Jewish people.
Kindness was at the center of Naomi’s release of Ruth and Orpah after their families were devastated by death.

Ruth 1:8
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me.

That act of kindness was rewarded by more kindness from Boaz, coupled with generosity, and they also led to love.

The ultimate generosity, combined with the ultimate kindness and the ultimate love was shown at the cross. He left the glory of heaven to reach down to completely unworthy sinners, sinners who were enemies of God the Father, all due to love (Romans 5:6-11).

Are we odd? Yes, radically, kindly, generously and lovingly so. Try it, all of it, and you will love it!

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Avoid Student Loan Debt

The Idlewild Foundation wants grandparents, parents and students to be aware of our scholarship program.

There are scholarships available for Idlewild members who are:

1. Active at Idlewild and in ministries of the church,
2. Have a financial need; and
3. Attend a qualified school.

These scholarships are for undergraduate college education as well as for technical and vocational schools and are open for Idlewild members of all ages. We helped a member who was 57 when she completed her college education with a scholarship from The Idlewild Foundation.

Crushing student loan debt is a major problem in America. The average student loan debt is over $50,000 and the debt never goes away – it cannot even be eliminated through bankruptcy. For many that debt is a major disruption to economic life and an element of stress that is both unwelcome and unhealthy. It is also unnecessary!

Over the past six years The Idlewild Foundation has given out over 370 scholarships totaling just under $1,000,000 in scholarship aid to many who might not have been able to complete their educational goals – and it is all to the glory of God.

For more details on this program that God has allowed us to provide, call The Idlewild Foundation at (813) 264-8713 and go to our website at idlewildfoundation.org.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About The Heart?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has made the state of giving in the U.S. dismally clear and the news based upon their studies is that Millennials are hardly giving to charities at all and are even more restrained in giving to religious or faith-based charities. The actual numbers are:

• Religious giving made up 32% of charitable donations in 2016.

o That is down from 45% from 1996, a 25% decrease.

• People who regularly attend a worship service give more.

o Those who regularly attend services gave $1,848 annually to religious organizations and also gave additional amounts to other non-religious charitable organizations.
o Those who are not connected to a church give $695 to all charities annually, down 37% from 1996!
o Those who attend church less than once a month gave only $111 annually to religious institutions. Their primary giving was not to religious organizations.

• Protestants on the average gave $2,809 annually to their churches.
• The older, wealthier and better educated are more likely to give:

o Almost 50% with an education above a bachelor’s degree gave to faith-based organizations.
o Only 31% of those with a high school diploma gave.
o Ages 40-64 gave $2,505 annually.
o Adults under 40 gave just $236 to faith-based organizations.

But they have not given up on Millennials (and neither have I) because they can and do become great givers when a cause strikes their passion. I would also add that the Millennials are young and have not had the years to acquire and build up wealth, even excessive wealth for some, as in the case of the Boomers. Boomers should not forget that the previous generations had a lot of doubt about the Boomers taking over; after all, Boomers were the flower children, the hippies, the initial drug culture, the Vietnam War protesters, and a lot more. While the jury is still out on the collective wisdom of the Boomers (only history can really tell), it is fair to say they were probably not the dismal failures many expected. Be patient and let God work on Millennials’ hearts. The Chronicle of Philanthropy suggests that efforts be made to engage their passions.

Whether for the Millennials, the GenX crowd or the Boomers, passion about a cause matters. Jesus always knew that, perhaps because we were created that way.

Matthew 6:21
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


It is, and has always been, a matter of the heart!


That point is proven out by marketing experts and is being applied successfully in ministries and charities throughout the U.S. Take, for example, the advertisements of the ASPCA, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and their extremely heart-wrenching adds this past winter and ever winter showing freezing, shivering dogs sitting in the cold and snow as they ask for a minimal monthly commitment. Do they show hundreds of dogs? No, they select one, two or three to have a long enough view of each shivering suffering animal.

The Christian charity World Vision uses a similar approach having realized that if they show a picture with a thousand starving malnourished children, your heart-string are tugged, but it is too overwhelming and not individual enough. The door to the heart is by showing one or two starving emaciated children with their ribs clearly visible. That really sticks to your heart. Then you are offered the opportunity to pay for and sponsor one child. See Sponsor a Child. That is a manageable task for a limited monthly commitment.

Those approaches strike the hearts and ignite the passions of almost anyone with a heart. They are fabulously successful promotions.

Passion works. The Chronicle of Philanthropy agrees with that approach, especially for Millennials, noting that no one should give up on them, instead, redesign the approach to direct any appeal for funds towards individual passions.

What happens when you do that? The listener is touched and may pay closer attention. Then more pictures or videos and their hearts are reached. Donations start, followed by contact that shows progress being made and donations appreciated. Donations continue and perhaps are even increased as the passions remain ignited and the heart remains engaged.

That is no different that if you invested in a neighborhood business. You check it out more often, walk in more often, buy more often and talk about it more often. You are engaged and your interests are in play. How important is that? Why do you think businesses large and small give out the tenth purchase free or discounts if you join their loyalty program. They get your email and your street address, you get flyers and emails, and you remain in touch with their delicious, or useful, or convenient, or practical, or beautiful product or service. It is for the business and for you, a win-win situation.

If your passion is the hungry uneducated children of a small mission village you have visited on a mission trip, a long-term engagement allows you to help even when you are at home, and it allows the children to benefit. If that happens to be your special passion, then it is a spiritual win-win. To make matters even better, you are far more likely to make as second and a third and then a regular trip – to see what has been accomplished.

God made us that way. We are always on His mind and He is always in our hearts through His Holy Spirit. He is a giver and we are made in His image – we are born givers. It is the greed and the attitude of a supremely selfish world that makes us hold onto our stuff so tightly. As God gives us His heart and love, we are to give our hearts and love to Him – followed by our hearts and love to our neighbors.

Matthew 22:34-40
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In these circumstances, it is easy to see that we are most like God when we are loving and giving. That is a goal that is guaranteed to make us joyful, regardless of our generation.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. -He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What Happened to the Joy of Giving?

I have had the pleasure of asking numerous small groups what the best “giving” verse is in the Bible. I have had the almost indescribable pleasure of hearing almost all groups quickly zero in on John 3:16.

John 3:16
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Good choice. No, great choice! The greatest gift ever given, at the greatest cost possible, to the most undeserving recipients. That is an easy choice after a moment’s thought.

Most of the groups that have missed the right verse have offered 2 Corinthians 9:7.

2 Corinthians 9:7
7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

It is fun to tell them that their choice is a great verse, just not the greatest. 2 Corinthians 9:7, or at least the last phrase in the verse is a delight, because it emphasizes that God already owns it all, He could take it even without our voluntary act of giving, but He wants us to be cheerful givers.

If you just analogize to a marriage or almost any relationship. Would you rather receive a gift from someone with this note on it:

“I spent a lot of time picking this out for you because I wanted you to have something really special from me for your birthday.”

Or:

“I knew I had to get you something for your birthday, so here it is.”

Easy choice!

The Generous Giving organization has discovered that getting a bunch of generous people together produces an explosion of joy as well as an explosion of renewed generosity. Attend a Journey of Generosity, learn about the incredible joy and freedom that come with giving, and then consider attending one of their annual Celebrations of Generosity. As people share how God has allowed them to give far beyond their expectations or even imaginations, there is a great expression of praise to God. God has proven to be creative and generous beyond imagination.

The more these generous people give, the more they want to give even more, and the more God enables them to do just that! This is a real and current life expression of Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 9.

2 Corinthians 9:11-13
11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

We give because God enabled us to give, and then He makes it possible for us to give more. This is the ultimate win-win-win. We win because we have received so much from God. The recipients win through our giving. God wins through the praise that arises! Win-win-win!


I see why God loves a cheerful giver.


I see why God loves a cheerful giver. Granted He loves the grouchy giver too and even the non-giver (well, I think so).

It is still better to be in the especially loved category. I am confident that special blessings are in store for the joyful generous giver!

So do you give when you are not joyful about it? Yes! I can think of many, many times I have struggled to make it to church, tired and worn after a long week. Somedays are just tough. Then, I get there and God picks my heart up and, no real surprise, I am blessed because I did the right thing. It is the same with giving my money as well as my time. God rewards obedience.

Had I given in to my reluctance to worship, there is joy I would have missed entirely. Similarly, if I give in to reluctance to give and submit to my tendency toward greed and hoarding, there are blessings that would be lost.

Go for all the blessings you can by being obedient and giving for the joy of giving back to God. Learn more about attending a Journey of Generosity (a JOG) by calling The Idlewild Foundation (813-264-8713) or checking our website at idlewildfoundation.com for scheduled JOGs. Go after all the blessings you can by being obedient – give for the joy of being a Godly generous person.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida. where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Stewardship?

At Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida we have a Mission Statement:

Giving ourselves daily to help each one live
in the rescuing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

That is a significant part of the definition of stewardship. Stewardship is giving ourselves daily as a living sacrifice to God, giving our heart, soul mind, and body as well as our stuff to Him in worship and in gratitude for all that He has given to us. Is stewardship about money? Yes, but it is about so much more than just money. It is a full life concept. See What is Biblical Stewardship?

As we do this daily giving of ourselves, we realize that everything we have, from our first breath each morning all the way to the bed and pillow on which we lay our head at night is a gift from God. Not only are these gifts, but they remain the “property” of God and can be withdrawn at any moment. Every minute of every day is a gift and is to be sacrificed to Him.

Let’s break that Mission Statement down to make it bite-sized.

We are to give ourselves

All I have, including my life, is subject to the grace of God. All the stuff I have, I have by the grace of God and I have it only as long as I live. When life ends, my stuff passes by my will and by my beneficiary designations, and the rest is sold, given away or thrown away.

Those expensive vacations I took? The memories are gone and the pictures will be either thrown away or deleted. There will remain for some time a few historical references such as the deed to my home in the official records of Hillsborough County, Florida. I was a trial lawyer so there will be a record for a while at least of cases I tried, whether I won or lost, and whether I was right or wrong, a perspective that can change as time and culture changes. None of those details last or matter for long.

So what am I, a name that lives for a moment and then vanishes? No. I am a child of the living God, loved by Him, chosen by Him for a relationship, and given the blessing and opportunity to worship and enjoy Him forever.

With all of that, it would be inconceivable for me to selfishly say to myself and live out in my life, “I know this was all given to me by my Creator. It’s all mine now and I will ignore Him and do what I want the way I want to do it.”

Instead, I am called to give back to God. It really is all His anyway. Psalm 24:1. I merely have the use of it for a time. We are called to give as an act of praise. 2 Corinthians 9:11.

Daily

The problem with being a living sacrifice is, as Chuck Swindoll put it so eloquently, is that living sacrifices want to crawl off the alter, so it takes a daily effort to stay there. While the word picture is humorous, it is also Biblical.

Luke 9:23
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Following Jesus is a daily step we are to take.

To help each one

We have what we have for our use and for God’s ultimate praise. But there is more purpose than just that. We are called to help, support and encourage believers and reach out to those outside the faith – to offer the blessing of what we have received to others. Mark 16:15Matthew 28:19-20, and Hebrews 10:23-25.

Live

Literally we have been given life, eternal life, as well as the blessing of a more abundant life than the lost can even know exists. John 10:10.

In the rescuing power

One of the hard parts of sharing the Gospel is that the lost often don’t even know they are lost. There is an ironic truth to the fact that you just don’t know what you don’t know. It is hard to save, or rescue, someone who doesn’t know he is lost and doesn’t believe he needs to be saved or rescued.

But we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit of God who lives in us, John 14:15-17), and the world is hard and delivers difficulties that bring many people to a realization that they are not the center of the universe (John 16:33).

Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

There are other gospels, but only one Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that God, in His love and grace, has made a re-establishment of the original relationship by the incredible sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. The Gospel is pure grace, an undeserved and unearned gift to each of us.


What does that give us?


That is stewardship, whole life full stewardship. It began with creation and will continue until His Kingdom is restored. We have “our” stuff, all given by God for our use for His glory. He made it all and He allows us temporary use of it for His purposes. Our use is as a steward, a caretaker for the property of another. Our responsibility is to take good care of all that is His, which means everything. Finally, He retains the right to reclaim what is His at any time. After all, there really are no U-Hauls following hearses.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Prudent Retirement Planning?

The questions are simple. Shouldn’t we trust in the Lord far more than in Social Security and our IRA or 401(k)? Aren’t we showing a lack of trust in God by saving instead of giving it all to those in need? If we are to save, then how much is enough? The questions are simple, the answers are not.

Start with the most common reference when giving sacrificially is the topic, the story of the widow giving her offering, Luke 21:1-4.

Luke 21:1-4
1  As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.
2  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
3  “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.
4  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Doesn’t that indicate we should all trust completely and give away all of our money to the church and to those in need? Absolutely not! What one person’s answer is to a circumstance is not necessarily the right answer for everyone. Further, the Bible is full of examples where people were not called to give everything. Abraham was wealthy and was a righteous man (Genesis 13:2, 15:1-6). Job was wealthy, lost it all and became even more wealthy and is called blameless (Job 1:1-3). Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to give away their homes and businesses, He merely asked them to “Follow me” (Matthew 4;18-22, John 1:35-51). In the early church, generous giving was the norm, but was not required (Acts 4:32-37).

Money and having money isn’t the problem, the problem lies in our hearts and in having and hoarding more than we need, often far more than we need.

Perhaps we are looking at the question wrong. Instead of asking about wise saving for retirement, instead we need to focus on the word “retirement” as part of the problem. I have often heard it said that the word “retirement” isn’t in the Bible. That is technically true, but the word “retire” is in the Bible.

Numbers 8:24-25
24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting,
25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.

Great, so only Levites get to retire? Not exactly. They only retired from their “regular service” and not from all service. While the word “retirement” isn’t in the Bible, the concept is in one passage of the Bible, loud and clear! After all, people and their desires haven’t really changed that much. Do you really think a life of leisure wasn’t something people wanted 2,000 years ago? It was, however, something few could achieve. There were exceptions …

Luke 12:16-22
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.”

Is that loud and clear? The rich man “retired.” His retirement wasn’t the problem and his having saved and stored up wealth wasn’t the problem. His attitude towards God was the problem, a big problem. The warning and the conclusion is unmistakable. God should be in your retirement plans, in all your other plans as well, and in your heart at all times.

God didn’t create us to stop all work and focus on the very alliterated golf, grand kids and the Grand Canyon; recreation, family and travel. We were made to work (Genesis 2:15). Nowhere in the Bible does God reward a person for travel for the sake of pleasure or fun, for sitting on a beach, watching endless day TV, or advise people to make themselves the center of their universe. God is still God and remains on His throne, even in our retirement.

The solution is that even in retirement, we should worship, give, serve, and be in Christian fellowship. The ways we can do this are endless, and here are just two:


Worship, give, serve, fellowship!


• Work – maybe even for free! That is called volunteer work, or service. Keep the hours and the requirements reasonable and within your physical abilities. The pay, if there is any at all, will be lower, but the work environment will be kinder and your service will be a blessing.

• Start a Bible study and prayer group with your friends at church and in your neighborhood.

That brings us back to one of the early questions, “How much is enough?” Since we are now living longer (but not necessarily better) than ever before, and prices are always rising, that is an impossible question to answer. One of the best answers I have ever heard to that question came from Charles F. Feeney, a billionaire, whose goal was to give his fortune away because “I want the last check I write to bounce.” In case that sounds familiar, that line was later used in the movie Oceans 12 by actor Carl Reiner playing Saul Bloom, one of Danny Ocean’s thieves. I like Finney’s heart more.

How much is enough? The late Larry Burkett shared his thoughts on this question and was blunt:

“Retirement planning so dominates the thinking of Christians who have sizable incomes that they overkill in this area enormously. The fear of doing without in the future causes many Christians to rob God’s work of the very funds he has provided. These monies are tucked away in retirement accounts for twenty to forty years. God’s Word does not prohibit but rather encourages saving for the future, including retirement (Proverbs 6:6-11; 21:20), but the example of the rich fool, given by the Lord in Luke 12:16-20, should be a clear direction that God’s balance is ‘when in doubt—give; don’t hoard.’”

Using Your Money Wisely by Larry Burkett, page 32

Burkett goes on to make it clear that he does not call all retirement sinful and that planning for retirement is Biblical, so long as God remains in the plan. But then he challenges people to step outside their cultural framework and pattern of thinking and step back to the Bible.

Planning is good, but neglecting God as the plan covers every imaginable contingency the world and satan can throw at us is another matter and takes planning far beyond the Biblical or Godly realm. Somewhere in our plan we have to demonstrate trust in our God.

It is estimated that in the next 20 to 30 years, 30 to 50 trillion dollars will change hands as the wealth, savings and investments of one generation pass to the next. What if 10% of that went to the Kingdom work that is so desperately needed in a lost world? What if 10% of that went to the Kingdom work sooner because of decisions to give rather than hold on to every dime?


A Better Way

Do your giving while you’re living,
So you’ll be knowing where it’s going!


Aren’t we to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”? Matthew 6:33-34. What part of the word “first” is so hard for us to understand? Go back to Luke 12. The rich man never had a chance to enjoy his carefully stored up treasures. How about you? Are you going to save it and give what is left when you die, or is there a better way?

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Wise Giving?

What if the gift may or even be abused or wasted?

The excellent book Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton makes a solid point, that at times doing good really isn’t a good thing. Lupton doesn’t leave us with a negative conclusion, instead he offers established strategies and models for making charity helpful instead of harmful. The book should be on the reading list for every missions minded person as well as every generous giver to charitable causes.

That problem is much broader than the topic for this short article. Rather than address that same large topic, charities whose misguided giving and service does harm, let’s look at the more local and internal question most people face almost on a daily basis. What about the person begging on the roadside whose cardboard sign says “Will work for food” but who we suspect may just buy liquor or drugs? Or what about the small local charity whose directors and Board have not read Toxic Charity and is just struggling to meet a perceived need?

Oh, there are simple “solutions” that may or may not work, including the carrying around of fast food restaurant gift cards instead of cash. Is that a solution? Not really, although I have heard it proposed many times. Why not? Because the recipient can just go sell that card for cash and then buy the alcohol or drugs. Gift cards just add a step to the process of misuse and abuse.

I have also heard people suggest taking the person to the nearby restaurant, a suggestion that is not exactly the safest idea for most generous persons. That suggestion comes closer perhaps to the parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.

It is the close of that parable that makes saying “no” a hard answer to the proposal of taking the homeless person for a meal:

Luke 37b
37b Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Feeding the homeless person who is begging at the intersection is nothing like a long-term solution. But when someone is hungry, the solution at that moment is a meal.

However, it is hard to know who is real and who is fake. Similarly, it is difficult to weed out some of the good-sounding charities that help themselves more than their ministry, it is hard to know what will help the most when the person walks by your car window with a sign claiming he is a homeless starving Veteran.

What is the answer?


Am I part of the problem?


Start with one question, “Am I part of the problem?”

That is a legitimate question. Do you give to a local charity that helps the homeless? Do you support a well-run ministry or shelter that provides housing, even if only temporarily, meals and clothing for those most in need? If not, then you may be part of the problem. There are more than sufficient resources in America to house and feed our homeless. However, the resources don’t reach the problem, often because the resources aren’t given.

Next, ask the question, “Am I annoyed and not giving because I work (or worked) and saved and put in the long hours, and this guy hasn’t?” That is my favorite thought after a long day at work, starting the day at 7 am and having ended often after 6 pm.

There is an answer. Give to a local ministry that helps the homeless get a place to stay, eat, clean up and make it possible for them to give a job. We are to be wise stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Giving to a skilled ministry that has a proven record is the best way for giving to be concentrated and to become meaningful in impacting the problem. The solution is not to refuse to give or to give less, but to give prudently and wisely – while still giving with a true spirit of generosity.

Then you should ask the final question, one shared with me by a wise friend who teaches a Bible study group. “What if Jesus had asked Himself about you, ‘I wonder if (insert your name) would misuse the gift of life, salvation, love, joy, peace and the financial wealth and blessing I am planning to give him (or her)?’” Of course, my answer to that question is that I am not worthy of what God has given and entrusted to me. I have misused it. I have hoarded it. I have been selfish and I am a sinner. I have failed Him. If He had been as hard on me as I am on the beggar on the side of the intersection, I would still be where I was, I would still be that man lying on the roadside, the one who was ignored by the Levite and the priest as they passed by.

I am grateful for His grace and mercy to me. And I will give generously, prayerfully and wisely.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About The Gift of Giving?

Romans 12:6-8
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;
7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;
8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

That is quite a list of spiritual gifts. Prophesying, or truth-telling, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading or administration, and mercy. Elsewhere Paul gives different gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 and Ephesians 4:11-13 and in those other two listings does not reference the gift of giving. Regardless, there really is a gift of giving, although it is one we do not hear about much.

Part of the reason the gift is not spoken of much is that one of its most common characteristics is that givers generally prefer to stay out of the limelight. The Institute for Basic Life Studies lists the characteristics of a person with the spiritual gift of giving as:

• Givers particularly enjoy preventing waste by exercising wisdom and accountability.
• A giver gets joy by finding less costly ways to do things, whether the cost is measured in time, money, or energy.
• Their families often think givers are very stingy—much too concerned about counting pennies—but the people to whom they give think they are extremely generous.
• Givers like to stay out of the limelight, often giving anonymously in order to avoid recognition for their giving.
• Givers evaluate spirituality in terms of resources, accountability, and dependability.
• Saving resources brings a giver almost as much pleasure as giving them, because they regard saving as the key that opens the door to even more resources. They seem to be able to accumulate savings, even in hard times.

That call to anonymity is no surprise to anyone who knows a giver. As with the other spiritual gifts, even if the gift is not yours, does not mean that you never show it in your words, deeds and life. You may not have the gift of mercy, just to mention one, but mercy is still something all Christians are called to exhibit in their lives.

Matthew 5:7
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their lack of mercy, using the words of King David:

Matthew 12:7
7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.

The references go on and on including Matthew 23:23 and the parable of the good Samaritan and its conclusion at Luke 10:37.

I especially like the comments of Randy Alcorn in The Treasure Principle as he writes,

“Suppose God wanted to fulfill His plan of world evangelization, reach the unreached, and help an unprecedented number of suffering people. What gifts would you expect Him to distribute more widely? Wouldn’t a primary one be the gift of giving? And what might you expect Him to provide for those to whom He’s given that gift? Why not unprecedented wealth to meet those needs and fund outreach to people of every tribe, nation, and language?

Look around. Isn’t that exactly what God has done? There’s greater wealth among God’s people, especially in the Western world, than there has ever been in human history. The question is, what are we doing with the wealth He’s entrusted to us?”

Randy Alcon has a solid point. We can see preachers, teachers, leaders and more. We train leaders and teachers and Pastors, however, we can’t look around and see very many examples of generous giving because of the desire of most persons with that gift having a sincere wish for anonymity. And we don’t offer training on giving either.
There is a Biblical foundation for that anonymity. Jesus Himself called for something like that:

Matthew 6:1-4
1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

On the other hand, we are to let our light shine so that others may see Christ in us. Matthew 5:16. We have missionaries give their testimonies of the ways God has worked so well in their lives through their service. Likewise the Israelites gave freely and publicly in the making of the tabernacle. Exodus 35:20-29. Public testimonies of giving and service are not sinful with the right heart and motive. Encouraging others to give is anything but the wrong motive. Paul often did just that.

In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul spoke of the generosity of the Macedonian churches to encourage the people of Corinth. He called on the church of Corinth to prove its heart by its generosity.

2 Corinthians 8:24
24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul makes a statement that shows clearly that there would be public recognition for generosity.

2 Corinthians 9:13
13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

How can that be if giving is all in private? Because Jesus and Paul both called for giving with the right heart, not for recognition but instead for the joy of giving. 2 Corinthians 9:7. Similarly, see 1 Thessalonians 2:6.

Parents should model giving and a generous heart towards God so their children see it. In fact, if they don’t do that, how else will their children learn the true joy and benefits of sacrificial giving. Modeling is a huge part of parental responsibility. And the people of the church can model generosity for each other as long as their hearts and motivations are for God’s glory and not a matter of their own pride.

There is an old saying that action is the blossom of thought. But a blossom is not appreciated if it isn’t seen. In most churches, all that is ever seen is whether the church did or did not make the annul budget. How the church made the budget is rarely known to more than a few. Perhaps that needs to be carefully modified so that people may see the good deed of giving by some in such a manner that God receives the praise. Matthew 5:16.

The Idlewild Foundation has been blessed with a gift of more than $1 million for its scholarship fund, all from one couple. That couple wanted to give anonymously and have remained anonymous because it is their heartfelt wish for God to receive all of the praise. Each year they ask for thank you letters but want the letters and the praise to be directed to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11.

2 Corinthians 9:11
11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Amen!

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Helping Those In Need – Part 2 – What We Miss If We Don’t Give

In Part 1 we looked at giving to help those in need, the natural struggles about not being able to make a real difference and not wanting to waste hard-earned money. We saw the absolute clarity in God’s Word about our duty to help those in need. No, we can’t solve all of the problems of the world, but then, our mission isn’t to make this world a better place from which to go to hell. Give and give wisely, doing your best to avoid waste, but regardless of the risk of some waste, give! Give first to the church and then to a ministry or charity that will apply the support you give in the way you want. Finally, you have to determine how much to give and how you may need to trim your lifestyle to meet God’s calling to you.


What do you miss when you chose not to give?


Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Part 1, some may choose to hold on tightly to what God has given them as stewards and ignore the needs around them and around the world. If someone does that, what do they miss?

A lot!

Throughout the Bible God expresses His concern for those in need and our responsibility to be His hands and feet in addressing at least some of those needs. We are to be open-handed to those in need (Deuteronomy 15:11). Psalm 9:8 tells us, “But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” If we miss that part of His message of love to us, as you can imagine, there is a loss and a cost to us.

We miss:

1. The Reality of Who (And Whose) We Are

We are called to follow God’s example or, depending upon your translation, to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1). That should be indisputable even without Paul’s clear message because of the fact that we were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26).

What is the image we are to imitate or follow? That of unmatched and amazing grace.

2 Corinthians 8:9
9 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.

Think about it. Why did Christ come to earth? He was rich beyond our comprehension in heaven. He had everything He could ever want – except for one thing. He didn’t have us. So, He left unimaginable wealth, power and status to become a baby, to walk on earth and be persecuted, and to suffer and die, all for us! We know that “God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son …” John 3:16. Gave! It is God’s nature to be generous with us. We were made in that image.

There is the old secular saying that you can give without loving but you can’t love without giving. That saying fits God perfectly. He loves, and He gave, and He continues to give.

2. Many Rewards God Has For Us

We should not give thinking, “Now God owes me” whether on earth or in heaven (Romans 11:35), but gifts given to God in the right spirit are blessed by God. Our goal should not be earning a reward, but repeatedly, God says He rewards right behavior.

Matthew 6:19-20
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

1 Peter 3:9
9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

People who delay giving or chose not to give forgo those future blessings How odd that a person will save and invest for a retirement period of 20 to 30 years, but then fail to invest in eternity.

3. A Life of Joy

I particularly love the hidden message of 2 Corinthians 9:7. I see that verse misused far too often, principally because it is treated as an isolated verse and its context is overlooked. It is worth a close look at all of 2 Corinthians 8 and 2 Corinthians 9 to fully place 2 Corinthians 9:7 in its proper context. In isolation, that verse reads:

2 Corinthians 9:7
7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.


For God loves a cheerful giver


Out of context, that sounds like permission for a person to not give if giving doesn’t “feel” right. You don’t want to be under compulsion, after all. But that ignores the surrounding verses which address Paul’s thankfulness for the eagerness of the people of Corinth to serve and give (2 Corinthians 9:1-2), encouragement to give (2 Corinthians 3-4), his reminder of a generous gift promised (2 Corinthians 9:5), encouragement to give by a restatement of the law of reaping and sowing (2 Corinthians 9:6), his reminder that God can and will bless their generosity (2 Corinthians 9:8), and then even more. Over and over, Paul addresses the blessing of giving and encourages giving. However, if he isn’t telling the people of the Corinth church they don’t have to give, what does 2 Corinthians 9:7 mean?

2 Corinthians 9:7 is a call for a heart self-examination for those who are not cheerful givers! It is true that giving under compulsion is inherently a bad motive for giving and arguably makes the gift meaningless to God. But not giving is hardly a good option. The solution is for the reluctant giver to do a heart examination and see what part of God’s grace and God’s blessings has been overlooked.

The conclusion of 2 Corinthians 9:7 is the part that hits home the most, “for God loves a cheerful giver.” Be one! Those who are not, leave behind many opportunities for joy.

4. Unexpected Blessings From God

Luke quoted Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). How we will be blessed is unclear, but we can be certain there will be a blessing. Consider that Luke also wrote:

Luke 6:38
38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

That doesn’t leave a lot of room to doubt the blessings promised by God.

God finishes off any doubt about His promises with Malachi 3:10:

Malachi 3:10
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

This is not the prosperity Gospel. Nowhere does God say if you give dollars the blessings will be in dollars (although He also doesn’t say that won’t happen). However, God does certainly promise blessings beyond what you have joyfully given to Him.

5. Many Lifetimes of Opportunities To Share

Giving makes it possible to see the work that comes as a result of your gift. Waiting until you die causes all of the opportunities to share how and why you have given to remain forever unspoken. Sometimes the best sharing that can be done is a hand up (as opposed to a hand out) and to do that in person allows you to share with others about the blessing of knowing and walking with Jesus.

Giving allows you a “foot in the door” that others might not have. You have shown the sincerity of your heart and that you care. The message of the Apostle Paul was made so much more effective because he worked, supported himself, and his work and efforts gave him a credibility that others would not have had (Acts 20:32-35).
We are called by God to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Our message for doing that is the Gospel, the good news of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. God gave to us and our giving creates opportunities to share. Use those opportunities!

6. New Ways of Praising God

Following up on lost opportunities to share, is the fact that failing to give leaves behind lost opportunities to praise God. We do not have what God has given us for our own pleasure, fun, blessing or benefit. Instead, we have what God has given us because God wants us to praise Him by giving it away!

2 Corinthians 9:11-13
11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

Don’t miss out on the opportunities God has handed to you through the blessings He has shared with you. Give!

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Helping Those in Need? Part 1

But there are too many needy! I can’t make a difference.

Wrong!

A little boy was walking along the beach, watching the waves, sea gulls and looking for shells in the surf after a big storm.
Every once in a while, the boy would pick up a sand dollar lying at his feet and he tossed it back into the waves. Then he kept walking. He went a few more feet and threw in another sand dollar. Then another and another.

A man watching stopped and asked the boy, “What are you doing?” The boy picked up another sand dollar and showed it to the man.

Then he said, “These sand dollars are alive. They get washed up here on the shore by storms, but they can’t get back into the water by themselves. If they stay out of the water too long, they die.”

The man looked down the beach and saw thousands of sand dollars and as an adult, he knew what the young boy was saying was true, but the job was too big for him. “There are thousands and thousands of sand dollars. Do you really believe what you’re doing can make a difference?”

The boy stopped, picked up another sand dollar and threw it back in the water. Then he said to the man, “I made a big difference for that one… didn’t I?”

Just because you can’t do everything for everybody, doesn’t mean you should do nothing for anybody.

Pick one problem of the many troubling our world. Try hunger, a problem that is epidemic throughout the world and a far lesser problem (although it is still felt) in America. The estimates are that 25,000 children throughout the world will die of starvation each day this year. That is more than 1,000 per hour, dead! Many more are harmed mentally and physically by starvation. In a country where literally tons of food are thrown away every hour, can we really say we should do nothing?

Of course, there is no way to send our waste food to different parts of the world, but there are ways we can help. No, we can’t solve the problem world-wide. But does that mean we should make no effort, or leave it up to the government?

God’s Word is clear on our responsibility.

1 John 3:16-19
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.

James 2:14-17
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.
16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Luke 14:12-14
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.
13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

God has made a call for the poor and oppressed among and around us. Isaiah 58 tells the story of God’s reaction to His peoples’ religious actions when the poor and oppressed are ignored. God’s reaction to such religiosity is somewhat stark.

Isaiah 58:6-10
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

Romans 12:13
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Proverbs 14:21
21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor,
but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.

Proverbs 22:9
9 The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.

Deuteronomy 15:10-11
10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

See also Matthew 25:34-45 which ends with a clear statement of Jesus’ heart for those in need.

Matthew 25:45
44 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

There are, of course many more verses like those. In the Old Testament, the wealthy farmers were instructed not to pick all the grain from their fields. They were to leave some grain for those in need to pick. Leviticus 23:22.

What can you do? A lot. You have multiple options.

Step one requires you to recognize that there is a direct call from God for you to support the church. Whether you chose to call this a tithe or not matters little. (See our article Does the New Testament teach that New Testament believers should tithe? for our thoughts on this). God has called us to give for the upkeep of His church, the bride of Christ.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2
1 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.
2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

Step two is to select an appropriate and solid charity to which you can make meaningful donations. Start with an Internet site that vets charities to help you avoid charities that give more to themselves than to their beneficiaries. Check out Charity Navigator, Global Impact, GuideStar, among others. See the U.S News and World Reports article How to Tell if a Charity is Legitimate to learn more. Make it a charity that fit your interests and passion. If you need ideas, call The Idlewild Foundation at 813-264-8713 and we would be pleased to discuss where your heart would be inclined to direct your support.

Step three is to decide how much you can and should give. Ask God if you should trim your expenses and your lifestyle to meet His calling for generosity to those in need. We are so blessed in America with wealth beyond that of even the wealthiest people of a hundred years ago, much less centuries ago. What would King Solomon have given for air conditioning, electric lights at night, modern medical care or a chariot with the brand Cadillac™?

Your goal can never be to save every sand dollar. But you can make a difference to many.

This topic about helping those in need doesn’t end here. Many will still turn away for personal reasons. Perhaps they believe their budget is too tight, their own needs are too great, they just don’t care enough to give, or other reasons too numerous to list. What do those people miss when they hold onto what God has given them? See our next article, What About Helping Those In Need, Part 2, as we see what we have missed – a lot!

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About All My Hard Work? – Isn’t This Stuff Mine?

The simple and direct answer is, “No!” God has made it clear as can be, it is all His, not yours.

Psalm 24
Of David. A psalm.
1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas

Most articles stop with Psalm 24:1 but I commend the entire Psalm 24 to you. It is a worshipful writing by King David of God’s majesty. Yes, it is all His. He is Lord and we most certainly are not.

This verse does not stand alone in stating a truth that should be obvious; He is the Creator of heaven and earth (Genesis 1), He is Lord (Colossians 2:6), He is our sustainer (Psalm 3:5), our Deliverer (Psalm 3:7), and much more.

The real question you have to answer once you realize that He is Lord and it is all His, is “And now what?” One great answer, one given by many of His followers is that it means just what it sounds like and we should act the part of being stewards rather than owners. One of the consequences of accepting that my stuff is not really mine, but is His, is that it really is a lot easier to give away His stuff than my stuff! It is always easier to give away someone else’s property.

There are many great examples. Biblically, the apostles gave their all for Jesus their lord, including their lives. Many others have as well, from Stephen the first martyr (Acts 7), to those mentioned without their names in the “hall of faith” of Hebrews 11, to modern day people who made covenants with God that all they had was His, such as Bill and Vonette Bright and Alan Barnhart, just two of many. Our God can perform amazing things when His people are fully committed to Him.

How can you do that? With a covenant with God. There are many with varying levels of completeness. Randy Alcorn has more than one good covenant on the Internet. One is here. His best covenant is more thorough and all-encompassing. It also is available on the Internet but is below for ease of access.

A Financial Covenant with God

I submit to the Lord God Almighty. I affirm his ownership of myself and every aspect of my life. I declare “my” money and possessions to in fact be his. I proclaim him to be the owner and myself the steward, his money manager.

As a symbol of my total submission to God, I set aside the tithe, the first 10% of everything, as holy and belonging exclusively to the Lord. I will return to him the whole tithe, being careful not to rob him and incur his curse. I will give back to him, through his church, the first fruits of all he provides. I do this in obedience to him and in desire of his blessing (Malachi 3:6-12).

By faith I take God up on his challenge “Test Me in this and see.” I ask him to show me it is far better to live on 90% with his blessing than 100% without it.
Having been set on the right course by the tithe, I embark on the lifelong adventure of Christian giving. Beyond the tithe, out of the 90% God has entrusted to me, I will seek to give generous freewill gifts, as I sense his leading.

I pray God will teach me to give sacrificially to feed the hungry, to reach the lost, to invest in worthy causes and ministries which submit themselves to Christ and use his funds wisely and Biblically (2 Corinthians 8-9).

I commit myself to get out and stay out of financial bondage, so I can serve God single-mindedly. Recognizing I cannot take earthly treasure from this world, I purpose to lay it up in God’s hands as heavenly treasure—for Christ’s glory and the eternal good of others and myself.
Signed: ___________________________________________
Witness: ___________________________________________
Date: ___________________________________________

For additional information on the subject of money and possessions, see Randy Alcorn’s great books Money, Possessions & Eternity and The Treasure Principle.

If you are interested, contact The Idlewild Foundation for a free copy of The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Giving and Tithing While Paying Down Debt?

There is tithing and then there is giving above the tithe, isn’t there? Well, it isn’t quite that easy. Let’s break giving down to help answer this question. There are many who skip the tithing part of this issue because no matter how you define tithing, they don’t and won’t tithe. Tithing is done by only a small percentage of even evangelicals, most estimates put it at under 5% of American evangelicals.

But let’s not get ahead of breaking this issue into bite-size portions. First, what is tithing? It isn’t 10% of your income, either gross or net. A true Biblical tithe averages out to 23 1/3 % per year. There was the general tithe of 10% paid to the Levites. Numbers 18:21-26. On top of that, there was a worship tithe of 10% for celebration, largely kept and eaten by the donor. Deuteronomy 14:22-27. Finally, there was a tithe of 10% at the end of every third year for the Levites, widows and orphans. Deuteronomy 14:28-29. That totals up to 23 1/3% per year as an average figure.

When most people address this issue, they only refer to tithing as 10% of income. Is that 10% of the gross or 10% of the net income? Does that include income as defined by the U.S. Tax Code, all income, or does that omit interest on savings and investments? Does that include 10% of your lottery ticket and dog track winnings (not that you do those things!)? If you sell something on Craig’s List, you didn’t make a profit (after all, it was used and you sold it for less than you paid for it, right?), so you don’t have to give 10% of that, do you? You received a small inheritance. That wasn’t “income,” was it? You get the point – the possibilities and issues can be endless and hair-splitting.

That is part of why I prefer to avoid the “T” word and focus instead on the “G” words, generous giving. If you do that, the mathematical formulas vanish and the heart becomes involved. However, that doesn’t answer the original question about giving or tithing while you are paying down debt.

Giving/tithing is a Biblical priority, as is getting out of the bondage of debt. How do you prioritize those two Biblical callings? Are they in conflict? Can they be reconciled? Can they work together?

They are not in conflict. The real issue is prioritizing your spending so that tithing, giving and paying down debt all occur in step together. However, if you have already built up the obligations and your budget is tight, too tight to do both, then what do you do?

First, seek financial counselling and guidance from a skilled Christian financial counselor. The goal is freedom from the pressures of debt.

Second, attend Financial Peace University or take a MoneyLife Journey with Crown Financial. You need to learn budgeting and you can learn that as well as receive other good guidance through those courses.

Third, know that ignoring God and helping yourself has been tried before with less than positive results. In the time of the minor prophet Haggai, the Jewish people were neglecting the house of God and taking care of their own needs and wants and God addressed their sin. Read Haggai 1.

Haggai 1:3-7
3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai:
4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.
6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.

In other words, don’t neglect God.

Finally, avoid every unnecessary purchase and, after giving generously to God, apply all of the surplus to paying down debt. God blesses obedience and wise financial steps.

Giving to God ultimately is a matter of the heart and reflects your level of trust in God.

Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40 year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Getting Out of Debt?

That is the easiest question for the day. Yes, get out of debt quickly and forever!

The simple truth lies in one word – freedom. Satan’s lie that all that stuff you spend on is satisfying is a lie that conceals one word – bondage. It does not get any plainer than Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs 22:7.

Proverbs 22:7
7 The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.

The borrower is a slave, is in bondage, to the lender until the debt is paid in full. I have watched that in action for many years, seeing that sometimes it is misfortune and sometimes bad judgment. I have seen a person crippled financially by a medical emergency that left her out for weeks without an income and medical bills with minimum payments that literally exceeded her income. I have also seen poor financial decisions and enormous student loans leave someone with literally no financial future (unless he hit the lottery, which is not exactly a path that I would recommend).

In those extreme situations, there are few good alternatives. Their futures are quite literally held in the unkind hands of their creditors. Their future incomes are sure to be garnished and any assets that can be seized by execution will be taken. A life of living in the financial shadows is most likely.

But most people don’t live in those extremes. Instead they are more like the average person with a mortgage on a home, a lien on a car, and a credit card or two or three, hopefully with minimal (if any) balance from month to month. These are the people who need to understand these basics:

Give to God. This should be a nonnegotiable priority. If you look back at your financial history honestly, more often than not, hard times were preceded by a lack of giving to God. Some believers stop giving to God with the weak justification that not paying their bills would be a bad witness. The problem with that reasoning is that it is also a terrible witness to give nothing to God, to honor your creditors more than your God.

Luke 6:38
38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

This is not the prosperity Gospel, it is the real Gospel and straight out of God’s Word.

Get financial counseling. Take a money management class, a Financial Peace University class or other Christian financial management course. It does little good to dig yourself out of a hole and then fall back in because you don’t know wise money management.

Give to yourself. Start saving. Your first goal is to have an emergency fund, one good for one month, then two months and finally for six months of living expenses, in the event of an illness, injury, a job loss, a family emergency, etc.

When my wife and I bought our home, the next financial step we took was to start an emergency fund, one intended to have enough money in it so that we would never lose our home in the event of an emergency. That fund never had to be used, praise God, and eventually became a retirement fund.

Pay creditors. While this is fourth on this list, it is anything but a low priority. Getting out of debt is a very high priority. To do this you should minimize living expenses and purchases that are not absolutely necessary until your high cost debts are gone. Look closely at your “needs” and your “wants.” Get rid of credit card purchases unless the entire bill is certain to be paid every month and no finance charges are ever incurred. The first month you have a finance charge, cut up that credit card. Credit cards MUST be for convenience only, not for making your budget work in a bad month.

• Keep unnecessary spending low until all debt is gone. Getting rid of credit card debt, high interest debt, is good, but getting rid of all debt is even better. That includes car leases and any monthly recurring expenses that are not essential. You do not need to have a new car every 3-5 years. Take care of the one you have and, barring emergencies, it should last a lot longer than 3-5 years.

• By the time you have eliminated all debt, you should find your spending is under control. Now keep it under control and start saving towards retirement.

The centerpiece to all of this is one goal – get out of debt. If you do that in a God-honoring way, my experience says that God will honor your efforts. The greatest blessing you will have besides the knowledge that you got out of bondage to your creditors, will be the blessing of freedom you know that you have.

Will this take time? It certainly will. Often very good things take time. Patience is a good thing, a fruit of the Spirit, and enough of a blessing for you to want to take the time to develop it. You will have to eat out less, enjoy your morning coffee with a cheaper brand, take lunches to work, cut back on travel and make do with less during this time. You will be rewarded spiritually in the end.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida. where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Credit Cards?

There is a remarkable difference between two people when you speak to one who is burdened by debt and one who is debt-free. I have had many conversations on both sides of that equation and my experience says the difference is enormous. The obvious conclusion to me is that the cost of debt goes far, far beyond just the dollars and cents that have to be repaid. One fact alone proves that, money is the greatest source of marital dispute.

In this country, credit card debt rules. While all eyes are focused on the government’s national debt of more than $19 trillion dollars (and our attention should be on that enormous burden for future generations), people look past the fact that credit card debt is fast approaching the heights of 2008, just before the recession.

As of 2017, 38.1% of all households carry some credit card debt. Households with the lowest net worth (a net worth that is zero or negative) hold an average of $10,308 in credit card debt! The total outstanding U.S. consumer debt is $3.9 trillion. The total revolving debt is over one trillion dollars. For more details see Americans in Debt.

For many people, especially for the households with the least net worth, credit cards represent their safety net or emergency fund. But that is similar to having no safety net at all, or perhaps more accurately, having a safety net that is as dangerous as having no safety net at all. For those people, the safety net becomes a trap and their financial life and future is slowly and stressfully wiped out. Proverbs 22:7 teaches us hat:

Proverbs 22:7
7      The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Should credit cards be used?

A credit card is a tool and like any other tool can be well-used or abused. The answer to the question depends on many factors and details that are very personal. Dave Ramsey, who teaches Financial Peace University, takes the simplest view. For him, the answer is a resounding “no.”

For others, though, the answer is one of practicality. I am one of those. I have a credit card that is regularly used. It is also always paid – always! – before the due date. For those in a financial situation to be certain that the bill is ALWAYS paid on time, credit cards are merely practical.

But Dave Ramsey makes several points as he argues against credit cards, points that have merit. People who use credit cards often make unnecessary and self-indulgent purchases. I am guilty of that. Credit cards make impulse buying easy, whereas the envelope system and a tight budget makes impulse buying more difficult and far less likely. Not handling cash makes purchases easier, especially sizeable, budget-damaging purchases. Handling large numbers of bills makes the purchase feel a lot more significant and makes the money going out a lot more “real.” If you think that isn’t true of you, the credit card companies thank you for naivety. Citibank estimates that people with a credit card will buy 26% more than if they were paying cash.

Those who use credit cards as their safety net often discover that the ultra-high interest rates of credit card debt are financially unsafe and very unforgiving. A $500 house repair can quickly grow into a lingering $750 overall cost. A 20% interest rate causes debt to mount up quickly, and many credit cards have higher interest rates than that. The siren’s call to just make the minimum payment is the credit card companies’ call to generate profits as your budget bottoms out every month. If you have a $2,000 balance and an interest rate of 19.5 percent, you may be told you can pay only $75. What the credit card company isn’t telling you is that $32.50 of that $75 is pure interest, and only little more than half pays down principle.

In other words, before you buy, do the math. Be absolutely certain you can pay every month, in other words, be certain you have plenty of margin in your budget and that you have a very large emergency fund.

So, if you do plan on keeping a credit card, follow these rules:

  • Before making a credit card purchase, wait a few days.
  • During those days, pray about that purchase.
  • Use your credit card only for budgeted purchases.
  • Pay your balance in full every month without fail.

God’s Word has a lot of wisdom about the handling of your money and possessions. In all, God gave us over 2,300 verses of instruction and guidance. One solid bit of advice is Proverbs 22:3.

Proverbs 22:3
3      The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

The choice is yours.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About The Problem Of Debt?

Newton discovered the laws of thermodynamics, the first of which is that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. While life depends on thermodynamics, life isn’t quite as scientific in its ability to be measured and regulated. Regardless, there is a truth that in life, there is always a reaction to something you do. It may not be equal and opposite, but at times it may be opposite and grossly unequal, even overwhelming.

That is how life reacts to debt, unequally reactive, often overwhelming. Debt has consequences, often hidden but always difficult. It has always been that way, it is only our view of debt that has changed over time. Debt used to be viewed negatively in America. The view of those good old days was a lot more biblical that the view of modern America, where now debt is seen as normal and as the only way to keep even or get ahead.

We are warned by God to avoid debt. Americans used to listen to those warnings. However, in an increasingly secular country, the warnings of God are viewed as something to be ignored or even ridiculed. The consequences of turning away from God are a good topic for another day. Right now, let’s just examine God’s warnings regarding debt.

God condemns the misuse of debt and the failure to repay debts (Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 3:27-28). Debt should be avoided, quite literally, like a plague. If we happen to get into debt, God wants us to get out as quickly as possible. (2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 5:25-26). We need to change our debt “default” setting. The current default setting is that debt is a tool, a means to an end, and that debt can be managed. Instead, our debt default setting should make us as skeptical as the person who is told that petting a cobra is fun and can be manageable.

Why? To answer that, we need to look at reality, the costs and the consequences of debt.

• Debt isn’t normal. For most of recorded history, debt has been considered to be something to be avoided, not something to be cherished. There is a reason for the wisdom of the past and another reason altogether for the modern day shift, and the reason is that companies realized they could sell more products and make more money on what they sell if people borrowed to buy. Then they learned they could make money by lending and store credit cards became a commonplace feature of the American market place.

• Debt clings to us. Debt, especially credit card debt, pay day loans, or other high interest loans, are as persistent as a runny nose in pollen season. The debt lasts long beyond the “new car smell” or the thrill of the new toy. In fact, often the debt lasts longer than the toy.

• Debt is stressful. Financial disagreements are the number one cause of marital break-up. And the number one cause of financial discord arises from debt. Debt destroys relationships.

• Debt promotes more debt. To say that debt is addictive is truthful but somewhat misleading. It is the allure of wealth that is addictive. Debt is only a means to an end for people addicted to a “higher” lifestyle. Because debt is a tool, debt itself isn’t the problem, the heart is. Re-examine why you want that expensive toy. Is it worth years of payments? Is it worth what else you will ultimately have to forgo?

• Debt denies God an opportunity to work. It is hard to wait and trust God. In our “microwave” world, where no one should have to wait and everyone should have the “right” to get what they want exactly when they want it, waiting for God’s timing can be hard. However, the Bible shows many examples of people who allowed God to work – and He did! Just ask Joshua about his wait for the walls of Jericho to fall down. Joshua 6:1-21. That is only one of hundreds of examples of patience paying off big.

Even more importantly, not waiting for God presumes upon God. Jesus taught that putting God to the test by presuming on Him was an error, Matthew 4:7, and that is only one of many examples of similar Biblical teaching. See Proverbs 27:1 and James 4:13-17. There is no job so secure and no investment so sure that the future is certain. Trusting in God has a far better track record.

• Debt denies the future. Debt is one way to rob tomorrow by taking away from future income. Buy that furniture on time. You will likely be paying for it for a few years, and by then the furniture will be worn and you will be ready to move on to the next thing you want but can’t afford. “Live for today” is a good goal, but that also means live within today’s means. Don’t rob tomorrow to enjoy today more.

• Debt is a poor witness. Even if you ignore the fact that going into debt presumes upon God and shows more trust in the economy than in God, which are poor witness statements in themselves, what does it say when you have to exaggerate on a credit application or miss a payment and use one of the oldest lies in the books, “the check is in the mail”? But, of course, those would never happen to you! That means you are again presuming upon God’s faithfulness.

• Debt says “no” to God. What happens when all of your financial resources are tied up in revolving credit and you feel the calling to make a special gift for a missionary in need or for a friend to go on a mission trip or when there is a special offering. If you borrow and run your budget too tight, you lack margin and won’t have room for either life’s inevitable emergencies or God’s special opportunities. You can miss out on the opportunity to be part of a blessing for someone by selfishly satisfying yourself.

Start with a rock solid and heartfelt conviction that debt is to be avoided. Without that conviction, a conviction based upon Godly wisdom, the excuses favoring debt may win out. With a solid conviction to avoid debt, you will find you really can spend less and live within your means. Living within your present means, within your budget, is a way to avoid the stress of having too little money left over at the end of the month.

Before a purchase that drives you into debt, check out Biblical sources of the truth that a debtor is in bondage to the lender (Proverbs 22:7) and ask yourself if financial bondage is where you would like to live the next few (or many) years.

Proverbs 22:3
3 The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Work? – The Start of a Theology of Work

Work is a four-letter word! Many years ago people worked to live and vacationed to rest and so they could work better. Not now! Now we work so we can vacation better.

What if that worldview of work is wrong? Well, it is wrong, as wrong as the view of many Christians that they are only serving God at church or on a mission trip or a service project. A correct view of work requires an understanding of what work really is and of how our Christian life extends into that part of life.

In Genesis 1 and 2, God defined work and defined what He expected for us as well as from us out of work. First, we see that God worked in creation. Then, when creation was completed, the part of creation that was “very good” (Genesis 1:31) was man and woman. They were then given a role. Adam and Eve were created to walk with God in creation and to rule over the earth.

Just as God worked, Adam and Eve were to work. Just as God rested, they were also to rest. They were made in His image. They and their descendants were given dominion over all the earth, through work.

Genesis 1:26-30
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Genesis 2:15
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Adan was there to work and Eve was there as his helper, also to work. (Genesis 2:18). That role was muddled by the fall, but God’s plan and heart cannot be prevented by satan. Nothing satan ever did changed our role in God’s plan. We are still to be fruitful and multiply, to worship God and to have dominion over the earth through work. Nothing but the fall has ever separated those roles given to us. Each of those is one part of God’s large plan and each is so closely interrelated that they couldn’t then and cannot now be separated.

Our work, that part that is the dominion of the earth, is infused with and is inseparable from our relationship with our Creator.
Nothing given to us by God is bad.

1 Timothy 4:4-5
4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

It is only the modern image of work as something to be disliked, and the image of work coming because of the fall and our rebellion that have made work something hard, even hated. Genesis 3:17-19.

Instead, check out Called to Work, Parts 1 and 2 at theidlewildfoundation.com/Resources for You for a more complete coverage of the new theology of work as a full time ministry we have – and a blessing.

And know that in end, work will be restored to its full and rightful roll as a blessing. We will again walk with our triune God in a fully restored relationship. Revelation 21:3.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Generosity Today

It is true even in the typical evangelical church that roughly 20% of membership gives 80% of the typical church budget, 30% gives the rest and amazingly, 50% of church members give almost nothing. Those numbers can catch your attention when you realize the majority of the 20% who are givers are 60 years of age or older. While our hope rests in Jesus Christ and not financial planning, God encourages wise financial planning and Biblical stewardship. There is good room to argue that we are failing. Here are additional giving numbers that may catch your attention, the latest average figures from The Chronicle of Philanthropy in December, 2017.

• Religious giving made up 32% of charitable donations in 2016.

o That is down from 45% from 1996, a stunning 25% decrease.

• People who regularly attend a worship service give more.

o Those who regularly attend services gave $1,848 annually to religious organizations and gave additional amounts to other non-religious charitable organizations.
o Those who were not connected to a church give $695 to all charities annually. That is down 37% from 1996, 20 years ago!
Here is the number we all at least suspect in our hearts is true but still it is shocking.
o Those who attend church less than once a month gave only $111 annually to religious institutions. Their primary giving was not to religious organizations. As noted above, however, people who rarely or never go to church give far, far less than believers.

But believers have no reason to pat themselves on the back!

• Protestants on the average gave $2,809 annually to their churches.
• The older, wealthier and better educated were more likely to give:

o Almost 50% with an education above a bachelor’s degree gave to faith-based organizations.
o Only 31% of those with a high school diploma gave.
o Ages 40-64 gave $2,505 annually.
o Adults under 40 gave just $236 to faith-based organizations.
Even locally, the figures do not get any better.

• The Tampa-St. Petersburg area shows:

o The average itemizer gave $5,965 annually to charity.
o Had the Tampa Bay area matched the national averages, charitable giving in the Tampa Bay area would have been $49 million higher.

• Itemizers gave an average of 3.2% to charity. If you factor in the numbers above, that means perhaps 1.0 to 1.1% of income was given to religious organizations by itemizers, and far less by non-itemizers.
• In 2015, earners making above $200,000 made up more than 50% of all charitable contributions in the US.
• In 2015, only 24% of taxpayers itemized and reported a charitable gift (either religious or not).
• That is down from the years 2000 through 2006 where the number was 30-31% each year.

On Sunday, November 12, 2017, there was an article in the Tampa Times about the USF Foundation, the charitable foundation of the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. The director indicated he believed the 20-80 rule (20% give 80% of the budget) no longer applies to them. He now believes 10% of the donors do 90% of the giving. All charitable organizations, including religious organizations, are likely headed in that direction unless a true generosity culture, and a heart for loving and giving, becomes a central theme.

The conclusion: churches need to promote a culture of generosity, one of giving thanks to God for His generosity toward us. It takes little thought to realize that God has been incredibly generous toward us. His generosity goes all the way back to Genesis 1, but He went many extra miles when He sent His Son Jesus to die for us. God’s generosity through that sacrifice, and the willing response of believers he knew, led Paul to write:

2 Corinthians 9:12-15
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.
14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.
15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

The inescapable conclusion of God’s Word is that we are called to be generous. That generosity should be demonstrated not just with money, but through our service to God. True generosity does not require a calling into the ministry and full-time service in a ministry, but instead, a calling to the love of Christ and His sacrifice for us. The result is a heartfelt life of generosity through the giving of time, treasure and talents commensurate with our abilities.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Debt?

Writing about and discussing debt are always challenges because there is such a wide range of interpretations in the meaning of the words involved and in the causes of debt. To have a level playing field for communication let’s first review a few terms to start with a level playing field; wants, needs, bondage and freedom.

Wants are just what they sound like but they have to be carefully distinguished from needs for the differences between them to be fully grasped. Wants are a far larger target than needs. I may want a vacation home in the mountains and the money to travel and keep it up (hey, I work hard and I need a break, right?), but it is not a need. One problem we have is that modern American marketing and the lies of a consumer society have caused people to believe they “need” far more than they really do.

Likewise, bondage and freedom are very much like what they each sound like. Again, bondage has to be carefully distinguished from true freedom for the differences between them to be fully grasped and appreciated. Here is where it can get difficult. The difference between the two is often subjective and based upon fine perceptions. The best way to illustrate this is to give the example of someone who wanted that vacation home and felt like it was really necessary (remember, “hey, I work hard and I need a break, right?”), bought it and after a while discovered that the vacation home actually required a lot of time as well as money. It actually began to demand time and money – a lot. Before a long time, the cost of upkeep and the requirements of time become burdens and then the “fun” is gone. Now the freedom of a classy vacation home has been transformed into the bondage of expense and upkeep.

It is one thing to say we trust God to provide our present needs – He will. (Matthew 6:33). On the other hand, it is not unusual for us to tell God that He should do more and give us more; that we have re-defined our wants into needs He should meet – right away! “Oh, and by the way, God, I would rather not wait.” When that happens, we often do as Abraham did and we help God. We all know how well that worked out for Abraham. (Genesis 16).

How can we “help” God fill our wants? By going into debt. “God, you are not providing what I believe I need (something God sees as a “want”) so I will use that credit card, get a second mortgage or go into debt (to meet what I see as a “need.”) What we really do when we go into debt is presume that God will meet our future needs, the ones we just created with a future of years of payments and expenses!

Debt like that is one way we spend money we don’t have yet. So, we go into debt believing we need more than God has given us. We think God failed to meet our needs and debt is how we can meet those needs. That is classical faulty reasoning that is designed to generate the result we want, not the behavior God’s Word commands.
Before (not after) even seriously considering debt, a new credit card, a second mortgage or a loan, spend time passing these four checkpoints.

First, study God’s Word about handling money. Most people who do come away realizing that money can be curse far more often than a blessing and that God wants us to be afraid of money and what it can do to our hearts. For example, start with Psalm 15, Proverbs 22:7, Proverbs 23:4-5, Ecclesiastes 2:9-11, Ecclesiastes 5:10, Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 25:31-45, Luke 6, Luke 12:13-21, Luke 18:18-30, Luke 16:19-31, Acts 20:35, Hebrews 13:5, and 1 Timothy 6:7, 9-10, although there are many more. Altogether, there are over 2,300 verses on money and possessions in the Bible. Many are warnings. God said a lot because we needed a lot of instruction – and we still do.

Second, spend time in prayer, asking God directly what the fact that He hasn’t given you what you want really means. There is nothing sinful or wrong in seriously and honestly asking God, “why?” or “why not?”

Third, discuss your financial situation with at least one or two persons who will be willing to ask you hard questions and give you honest answers. Don’t pick people who can’t tell you what you don’t want to hear.

Finally, if all of the first three checkpoints have left you believing debt is God’s answer for you then spend time in quiet reflection and ask the following final questions:

    1. Does the delay have a lesson in it? Often God wants us to learn that fruit of the Spirit, patience or forbearance (Galatians 5:22), because to “wait on the Lord” is a strong spiritual discipline. (Psalm 27:14). Remember that:

Isaiah 30:18
18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

    2. Is debt a way we shift our trust from God to the world? That sounds more like something satan wants than a God-given opportunity.

    3. What message are we sending to those around us, our friends, our children, those who know us and trust us, and those who may consider us to be a good example? Am I being a good example of God’s faithfulness?

    4. Will the lender be more gracious than God in hard times? Are you presuming on God’s grace by creating debt that will take years to pay off?

    5. Are you robbing tomorrow (and perhaps many tomorrows) for something eternally worthwhile. Remember, the lender lends to make money. The interest you pay is future income, and future opportunity, that will come in and immediately flow out – to the lender.

    6. Will your ability to give to God, to serve freely, to go on a mission trip, or to otherwise be a Godly witness, be impacted by this debt?

    7. Will this debt help you to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33)? Or will it direct your attention away from God, make you have to work more hours, work weekends and even Sundays, and/or take time away from your family?

    8. Why is this very moment the time you must go into debt? Is this a God-driven purchase that requires this debt or is it about you?

Finally, before you sign up for debt, always drop back on a few realities that are unchanging:

• God loves you and wants the best for you.
• God knows what is best far better than you do, after all, He is God!

God’s timing is always perfect.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What Is Your Passion?

It has been suggested that until you find something worth dying for, there might be doubt that you are really alive. I don’t think I would go quite that far, but I could not agree more that our goal should never be to just ease into a coffin after a long, calm and safe life, having never really gotten excited about anything and having never stepped out near the edge on something that matters.

The key to engaging Millennials has been said to be finding their passion, a ministry they love in every way. That may be true, but it is also true of Gen X and of Boomers as well, although perhaps to a lesser degree. Finding anyone’s passion means finding where their heart really is. Jesus said it long before I did. Matthew 6:21.

Using the alliterated “time, treasure and talent” statement of all that God has given us, our goal is to find what ministry touches our hearts enough for us to make a meaningful investment. An investment of what? Of our time through service, our treasure through meaningful and impactful donations, and/or our talents through sharing some of the skills, knowledge, experience and wisdom God has given to each of us.

In the revealing book Gospel Patrons: People Whose Generosity Changed the World, which is available as a paperback, hardback or electronic book, author John Rinehart focuses on the role of “Angel Investors” who are so necessary to making ministry possible. He examines the role of patronage through Biblical examples as well as historical examples, reaching the not surprising conclusion that God has worked throughout all time using people to change the world. If that were his only conclusion, his book would have little value. Then, Rinehart reaches far beyond that obvious conclusion to demonstrate through good research the invisible but essential role of those who support some of the most visible and effective ministries the world has ever seen. Late in the book, he directs the readers’ attention inward with one strong question, “Is your life marked by serious effort to advance Jesus’ kingdom?” You don’t have to be the “front person” or “face” of a great ministry to have an impact, you can often do it with quiet, behind-the-scenes support.

Just by way of Biblical illustration, ask “how did Jesus and his disciples survive after they left their occupations and went into public ministry?” It is unlikely that every meal was provided by a fishes and loaves miracle. In fact, we know for a certainty that Jesus had supporters and patrons, Mary and Martha of Bethany, Luke 10:38-42, and that Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna provided for Jesus and His disciples out of what God had given to them (Luke 8:1-3).

Luke 8:1-3
1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,
2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;
3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Similarly, Paul urged support of the church through the generous donations of the churches he had founded. Acts 20:1-5, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8-9, and Romans 15:14-32 among other passages.

So, where does that leave us? Americans are the wealthiest people in the world, and the wealthiest people in all of history. Most Americans don’t think of themselves as “rich,” but they certainly are by the standards of most of the people of the world. Recognizing that is essential to understand what Paul meant when he wrote to Timothy and said:

1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

We are called to live our lives with open hands, “to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share”, which is the sixth measure of when we are successful at Idlewild Baptist Church. Open hands means generous in every way, 2 Corinthians 9:11. That is the goal of our faith because that brings praise and glory to God.

So examine your present life and your immediate future privately, critically and with prayer. As you do that, start answering these questions:

• When people see me share my time and attention at a store, do they see Christ in my appearance and words?
• Am I sharing my time, my talents and my treasures, my money, in a way that brings praise to God?
• How much is enough? Am I holding onto my money and my stuff because I don’t trust God enough?
• Where around me do I see God working amazing feats? Where is there a place where God is already ahead of me and I can add my humble heart and efforts to His mission?
• This is all about His kingdom. How can I best and most effectively devote myself to His kingdom?
• Do I recognize and really accept that all I have was given by God (Deuteronomy 8:18), or do I think I have really earned and deserve what I have?

Start with your church, which is the bride of Christ, and is loved by Him. He loved His bride enough to die for her and her people. No, the church isn’t perfect! If it was, you would never be allowed in the door. But even if not perfect, you can make it better with your contributions and your participation in its ministries. Don’t just “be there.” Be a part of your church’s ministries and service.

Don’t stop there. Nowhere in the Bible is there any indication that generosity is limited to the four walls of the church. Actually, the Bible says the opposite. We are called to share with those in need and to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13.

If you are not sure where to start, open a Donor Advised Fund with the National Christian Foundation and then start learning where you can best focus your giving and your service. Call us at The Idlewild Foundation and we would be blessed to share and help. We are passionate about our mission. Let us help you find yours. Colossians 3:23-24. The options and the opportunities to serve Jesus are endless!

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Does the New Testament Teach Tithing?

The New Testament does not explicitly say believers are required to tithe. That aligns with some element of common sense because the law which was so central to the Old Testament has been fulfilled in Jesus. But does that mean New Testament Christians shouldn’t tithe or are freed from tithing? Absolutely not, not any more than New Testament believers are freed from the Ten Commandments and can go around committing murder and adultery (and more) without it being a sin and without consequences.

However, even without the word “tithing” being explicitly used in the New Testament as a command, it is certainly used as something we should do. Jesus said that much rather plainly. In Luke 11:42, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and said, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” Jesus made it clear that you should not neglect the tithe and that we are expected to tithe. In addition, even if you do not like or use the word “tithe,” there unquestionably is a call for a great deal of generosity throughout the New Testament.

The early New Testament church set a very high standard for giving. They sold their goods and gave money to believers in need (Acts 2:44-46). They sold their property and gave the entire amount to the work of the apostles, to the church (Acts 4:36-5:2). They also gave generously to the ministry of Paul (2 Corinthians 8:1-5) on a continual basis (Philippians 4:16-18). They gave generously to the mother church in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:27-30, 2 Corinthians 8 and Romans 15:26).

The idea of believers being generous givers doesn’t stop with those few verses. True believers are directed to give “for the Lord’s people.” (1 Corinthians 16:1). We are to give to the poor and those in need. (Galatians 2:10). We are to give to those who trust God to supply their needs (Philippians 4:19). We are to give as God has given to us, according to our income (1 Corinthians 16:2), and we are to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). Moreover, the Bible teaches that we will ultimately give account of our stewardship (Romans 14:12 and the parable of the talents at Matthew 25:14-30).

But don’t stop there. In Matthew 6:2 Jesus said “when” you give to the needy, not “if” you give. In Matthew 25 Jesus makes a clear point that giving to those in need is blessed. Likewise, He makes it clear what He thinks of those who do not help those in need. In Acts 4 we see there were none in need because of the generosity of the early church. We are told to share with the Lord’s people who are in need and to practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13). Keep looking and you will find many more calls to help those in need including widows and orphans.

So we should tithe, or at a minimum, give generously to a level at least equal to the tithe.

But before you can get there, you have to ask, “What is the tithe?” In the Old Testament there were three tithes. The first mentioned was for the priests and Levites, a tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30). This first tithe was paid to the Levites. The second Old Testament tithe provided funds for the Jewish festivals and can be found in Deuteronomy 12:17-18. The third tithe was used to support the widows, orphans and poor and is found in Deuteronomy 14:26-28. The first two tithes were collected periodically, while the third was collected only every third year.

So, you need to decide whether you should tithe the first, the first and second or all three tithes if you believe you should tithe. That makes a big difference, from 10% to 23 ½%. Do you stop at 23 1/3%? Is that enough if you believe you are to either tithe or live generously? It isn’t about a formula or a mathematical calculation. It is and has always been a matter of the heart. Matthew 6:21.

It is up to you to ask whether the required giving under the law should be more or less than the generous giving of a believer overwhelmingly blessed by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I know the answer, Jesus would give!

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.