Born in South Africa, Brett Johnson lived in Silicon Valley for over 30 years. He co-founded The Institute for Innovation, Integration & Impact in 1996, which has worked with over 400 companies around the world to discover a purpose that is bigger than the bottom line. With a passion for Repurposing Business, Brett and his wife regularly facilitate life-work integration training courses in the United States, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe. He is the author of 14 books.
Anyone who has been around longer than the Internet knows the Beatles’ lyric, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.” Many Boomers belted out this song and then went on to pursue careers that chased money. Even hippies of note trod the money trail eventually. Each successive generation of college students dreams of reinventing the economy but seldom does, perhaps because college debt locks them in the system. I am not going to go on a tangent about whether we now might do this with circular economies, blockchain, and crypto: I want to take us in a different direction by saying the Beatles were wrong: money can buy love.
It is the end of March 2022 as I write this. The blunt and brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine persists. People are huddled in basements and bunkers. The underground train stations buried deep under Kyiv—I was in them 30 years ago—are packed with safety-seekers. I know quite a few groups who are successfully getting help to the citizens of Ukraine. To the recipients, money that buys supplies or enables them to get needed resources feels like a good hug from a stranger. Money buys something that feels to them like love.
Over-spiritualisation can cause us to say, “I am praying for the Ukraine” and not put a penny in the post. If our prayers don’t translate to a funds transfer, maybe we are overly sacred and underly practical. James, the New Testament Manager of note said, “If you say to someone, ‘God bless, stay warm, it is well with your soul’ and don’t give them a meal or clothing, then I am not buying your religious prattle.” (Paraphrased.)
To state the obvious, in every crisis, there are opportunists who raise finances and pocket them. This gives us a certain sanctimonious air of wisdom as we wax cautiously about giving. Not all pleas for funds are legit, but there is a category of giving that is wholeheartedly endorsed in scripture. Chapters are devoted to it; paragraph after paragraph explaining how it is to be done. Here’s an extract from 2 Corinthians 9: 2 – 7.
“Now about the offering that is [to be made] for the saints (God’s people in Jerusalem), it is quite superfluous that I should write you; for I am well acquainted with your willingness (your readiness and your eagerness to promote it) and I have proudly told about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia (most of Greece) has been prepared since last year for this contribution; and [consequently] your enthusiasm has stimulated the majority of them. Still, I am sending the brethren [on to you], lest our pride in you should be made an empty boast in this particular case, and so that you may be all ready, as I told them you would be; lest, if [any] Macedonians should come with me and find you unprepared [for this generosity], we, to say nothing of yourselves, be humiliated for our being so confident. That is why I thought it necessary to urge these brethren to go to you before I do and make arrangements in advance for this bountiful, promised gift of yours, so that it may be ready, not as an extortion [wrung out of you] but as a generous and willing gift. “
Nation to nation giving is at the core of the Kingdom of God. For about three chapters Paul urges the church in Corinth on the whys and hows of giving to fellow believers in another nation. If you fancy yourself as a marketplace apostle, this should be one of your emphases: stirring Christians to give to other nations… not to your own ministry or cause or fund. The verses that follow are often cited to encourage personal giving, but it was not the biblical context: the context was country-to-country funds flow.
“[Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings. Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].”
My estimate is that 98% of church funds are spent inside the local church and about 2% is given to missionaries serving “to the ends of the earth.” On the NGO front, I have met many charities that only want to spend money in their own nation. This is not kingdom thinking. If you are a leader in the kingdom of God, by all means, use your own trade to meet your own needs, and urge those you lead to diligently and liberally sow into other nations.
Not all cross-country funds-flows for kingdom advancement need to be charitable giving, and a lot of it should probably not go through high-overhead non-profits with opaque accountability. Most of us are well versed in the dangers of dumping aid on recipient nations, so we are not talking about guilt-driven misdirected “we are from the First World and we are here to help you” strategies. Giving can be through direct investments, but direct investments into initiatives that transform cities are what Paul is speaking about in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.
If you are a businessperson and more comfortable talking about investments and returns, you can adjust some returns to be patient returns of capital instead of just return on capital, and some investments can also have eternal returns. For others, you might have some short-term (as in, on this planet in your lifetime) wins. That’s great, but… don’t get stuck in deal-by-deal thinking. Next-level biblical generosity requires us to think outside our city and across borders. The driver is not our comfort level with certain categories of investments but the present needs of our brothers and sisters. If your biological brother or sister lived in Ukraine today would you say, “I don’t want to be involved in politics. Those people are always fighting. Who knows whether Zelensky is the real deal or just an actor?” No, you would do all you could to help your family members wherever, whenever. Only the callous would say, “Well, in Dallas we have plenty of our own needs.”
Find funds that are investing in areas where the harvest is ripe and the ground fertile. As history heads to a climax “there will be wars and rumours of wars.” There will be natural and man-made disasters. Yet, in these places of crisis people are still getting married, starting businesses, and initiating projects to meet the needs of those around them. In the New Testament thinking there is a Church in a City, so there is a Church in Dallas, a Church in London, and a Church in Kyiv. Today we can help the Church through city-to-city generosity, and nation-to-nation strategic generosity.
The bible says the next crisis may be in our cities, then they will help us. The Kingdom of God is not just a phrase or concept: it is an economy that supersedes national boundaries, city borders, and parochial parking lots. (If our money is not flowing it is parked, useless to the Kingdom of God.) What would it be like if the best Christian asset managers, fund managers, investors, and entrepreneurs consistently gave attention to nation-to-nation, continent-to-continent investments that solved problems their Father cared about? A well-known Christian investor with a $1 Billion+ portfolio said to me recently, “My Board won’t let me invest in Africa.” Case Closed. I wondered afterwards, “Is this wise focus, or is it a mistake to believe that an investment strategy that rules out cross-continental investing can truthfully be called kingdom investing?”
At the personal level, if our hearts are stirred toward hilarious generosity, our hands will have no problem finding the mechanisms to get money where it needs to be. If our minds are sufficiently renewed to get beyond our own back yards, then one day—and it might only be in eternity—someone will thank you for your generosity. Money brought love to them. Money might not be able to buy love for you, but it can buy the things your brothers and sisters need today that will cause them to go crazy with thanksgiving to God for your love made tangible.
2 Corinthians 8:24 says, “Therefore show these men the proof of your love…” – namely, a financial offering, collection, a fund for a church community in another country. “Money can’t buy me love” but it can be the proof of my love.