For more than 30 years, Ron Blue’s message has been simple. Christians practice biblical stewardship best when they understand what biblical stewardship really means. In 1979, that conviction led him to create Ronald Blue and Company to offer believers financial planning from a biblical perspective. Along the way, Ron also has authored 20 books on personal finance, including his best seller, Master Your Money.
Although Ron retired from his firm in 2003, he refuses to slow down. He continues to share the message of stewardship through his writing and his work with Kingdom Advisors. He was also a featured speaker at the Stewardship Conference, held in Nashville on May 16–18, 2016.
StewardshipCentral.org recently had the chance to catch up with Ron and ask him about his take on stewardship and how church leaders can share that message effectively with the people in their pews.
SC.org: For starters, how do you personally define stewardship?
Ron Blue: I define stewardship as “taking God’s resources—which is time, talent, treasures, relationships, influence—and using it for His purposes because everything I have has come from Him.” And, to me, it’s much broader than finances. It’s really my life message and my life calling. God’s given me everything, I’m a steward over everything, and I want to use everything He’s given me to accomplish His plans and purposes. Finances is a piece of that, but so is time, so are relationships, so is influence, so is truth that He’s given me. I’m a steward over everything.
SC.org: Taking that definition, how would you describe the state of stewardship in churches today?
Ron Blue: I was in a meeting recently where we asked almost that identical question. This was a group of people involved in church discipleship and church stewardship, along with the generosity movement. We spent a lot of time on that question, and what we identified was that the church defines stewardship as “tithing” for the most part. Or stewardship is defined as “the capital campaign.” But if you only think of stewardship as tithing, for example, that’s only a small part of stewardship. You’re really missing the big picture.
I also think pastors know more than they think they know [about stewardship], but they’re afraid to talk much about money because of misperceived motives and because of uncertainty about what they really know. I think that if you know God’s Word relative to money, you know more than the guy on Wall Street—and you can speak to that with authority.
You take verses like “a wicked man borrows and doesn’t repay” or “the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” That’s truth. Pastors know that, but they’re afraid to talk about that much. In my church, we’ve got the president of Delta Airlines. I can see a pastor really being intimidated by that when it comes to money. But my message to pastors is, “You know what? You know more than he does because you know the truth and the truth is ultimately transcendent to circumstances. It’s timeless. It’s never going to change, and it’s always relevant.” In fact, I tell financial advisors that God’s principles are always right, always relevant, and never going to change.
SC.org: How can pastors move from that mentality to having a confidence to speak about money?
Ron Blue: Again, I’m going to tell them that they know more than they think they know. But I can simplify it for them. The beginning point of everything is “God owns it all.” Now, you take that and the implications of God owning it all and that just goes broad, broad, broad in terms of the perspective that I have about money and money management.
When I speak, I talk about implications [of God’s ownership]. For example, if God owns it all, then every decision I make is a spiritual decision. Another one is, God can take whatever He wants whenever He wants it. It’s His. And that removes fear, and fear is what’s driving so much of financial behavior. If I really believe that God owns it all and God will supply all my needs, where’s fear? You can’t have fear.
A third implication is the longer your perspective in terms of financial decision-making, the better the decision is going to be. And a Christian should have an eternal perspective. That changes everything.
If you make your financial decisions based on biblical principles—always right, always relevant, never going to change—you can be really confident. Economies are going to go up and down. Tax laws are going to change. Political leaders are going to change. We’re going to live with uncertainty—period. But if I make my decisions based upon biblical principles, I can be confident that I’ve done the best I can.
SC.org: Do you think discipleship ministry is the place where stewardship can really take root in a local church?
Ron Blue: I think the answer is yes. Somebody quoted a study to me recently that said that behavioral change takes place best in community. So, the best place for that to happen is in the church. Stewardship teaching and training could also be called discipleship teaching and training. If I’m a disciple of Christ, I’m going to handle His money His ways for His purposes. It’s all about discipling people toward spiritual maturity.
For example, the danger of tithing is we tend to think that 10% is God’s and 90% is mine. But 100% is His. So, tithing is not a rule. It’s the result of a heart change. And that’s where all this stuff works out—in the heart.
SC.org: Is there reason for optimism that this message is taking root in churches today?
Ron Blue: No, but what I see happening now after 35 years of being involved in this is a greater opportunity today than ever to change the way people think about money. What we need are a common language and common processes. If we can start speaking the same language, we can see a lot of change happen. And I think something major is happening that is unexplainable except through the intervention of God. I think the world is ready for a message like this.
SC.org: What else do you believe needs to be shared about this topic?
Ron Blue: Keep on keeping on. One thing that is really important about the upcoming Stewardship Conference is that a rising tide raises all boats. So the more people we can get sharing that voice, the better off we are. It’s not about this ministry or this organization or this book. It’s about the kingdom, and there is no such thing as competition within the kingdom.
I’m excited about having some engagement, and I’m excited about what God’s doing.