Yesterday on Moody Radio’s MoneyWise Live, SMI executive editor Mark Biller explained why giving to the Lord’s work "is a tangible way that we demonstrate our faith in God’s ability and his promises to provide for us."
Mark also spoke briefly about the current volatility in the stock market.
To listen, click the play button below — or, if you prefer, scroll down for a transcript. (And for more radio appearances by members of the SMI team, visit our Resources page.)
MoneyWise Live, with Rob West and Steve Moore, airs daily at 4:00 p.m. ET/3:00 CT.
To ask a question on a future program, call 1-800-525-7000 and mention you have a question for either Mark Biller or Matt Bell of Sound Mind Investing.
Steve Moore: Believers, by definition, trust the Lord for their eternal salvation. Yet, at the same time, many of us find it impossible to trust God for our earthly provision — to believe in his promise that he’ll meet all of our needs. Just the head financial planner and teacher, Rob West talks with Sound Mind Investing executive editor Mark biller about strengthening your faith in God to provide. Then we take your financial questions at 800-525-7000. 800-525-7000. I’m Steve Moore and welcome to Moneywise Life.
Well, Rob, it’s always a blessing to have Mark Biller’s practical expertise and godly insights on our program. He’s a great friend — and we respect him so much that at the Moore household we’ve modeled all of our jack-o-lanterns to look exactly like him.
Rob West: (chuckle) I had no idea. That’s really good to know.
Steve Moore: Been doing that for years actually.
Rob West: Yeah. Well, I’m still waiting for the year that my mug makes it on one of your jack-o-lanterns. Mark, Great to have you back with us on Moneywise Live.
Mark Biller: Thanks, guys. Good to be back!
Rob West: Well, Mark, I love getting the SMI newsletter each month. I look forward to reading it. I remember this particular article, uh, as I was sitting there reading, it was just before bed. I was going to do a little reading before I turned in and it’s called The Foundational Pillars of Christian Stewardship — and it just kinda jumped off the page in particular, the portion where you dealt with learning to trust God with our finances. And so I fired an email off to the team and said, "We’ve got to get Mark on to talk about this." And so give us the Scriptural foundation to start with on trusting God with our finances.
Mark Biller: Yeah, sure. Well, there are a lot of verses that encourage us to trust God. But I would guess that for most people, Philippians 4:19 is pretty high on their favorite Bible verse rankings. That verse says: "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." Now, of course, Paul is saying there that God will meet all of our needs, not necessarily all of our desires — and, of course, God’s the one who determines what we need, not us. But even with those disclaimers, that’s still a tremendous promise that we can trust God to provide for us.
Rob West: Yes, and as we’ve already mentioned, a lot of believers find it difficult to turn their finances over to God. But in your article, you say the solution is actually giving. A lot of people might think that’s counterintuitive. The opposite of what you should do.
Mark Biller: It’s one of the many of Christian living, you know, giving is the practical tests that God’s given to us to demonstrate our faith in his promises. And we can see that challenge in both the Old and the New Testaments. You’ve got Malachi 3:10 in the Old Testament where God says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I won’t throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there won’t be room enough to store it." And that’s kind of mirrored by Jesus and Luke 6:38 where he says, "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."
So, God’s inviting us to test him but make no mistake: He’s also testing us. Do we really believe he’ll keep his promise to meet our needs? And we kinda demonstrate that trust in his promises by giving back that portion of our income.
Rob West: I love that, Mark. You know, God gives us these principles, not as formulas for financial success — because if they were formulas that we just had to follow to the letter of the law and they always resulted in the same outcome to our benefit, then it would remove faith from the equation. And yet we know they put us in the best position to succeed. Correct?
Mark Biller: Yeah, absolutely. I love the way you just said that — they’re not formulas, they’re principles. And you know, a lot of the things we talk about unrelated to this, but talking about the markets and investing, you know, we don’t have formulas for that either, but we have principles that guide us. And if you hit those principles the right way over and over and over, you can count on getting a good result.
Rob West: I love it. When we come back, Steve, we’ll continue on this. We’ll also perhaps talk a little bit about the markets.
Steve Moore: Well, yeah, we definitely have to talk about the markets. They’ve been doing strange things in the last couple of weeks. Mark Biller here with us from Sound Mind Investing. And we’re taking your phone calls, investing and otherwise — at 1-800-525-7000. 800-525-7000. This is Moneywise Live — finding God’s plan for your financial life.
Rob West: Well, Mark, we’ve been talking about learning to trust God with our finances — and this is just a foundational idea that we can take God at his word. The Bible is replete with promises throughout scripture about God providing for us. Ultimately, he is our provider. No one else, not the government, not the stock market, not your employer — it’s God himself. But learning how to truly trust and surrender control, and Lordship — including this area of our finances — is something that I don’t think we ever arrive that fully. But we learn throughout our walk with the Lord. And I appreciate you helping us do that today.
One of the things you share in your article is that this idea, uh, that this is not just a test of our trust but also of our allegiance. How do we know that?
Mark Biller: Yeah, well, Jesus makes that pretty clear in Matthew 6:24 when he says, "No one can serve two masters. Either you’ll hate the one and love the other, or you’ll be devoted to one and despise the other." And then he kinda point-blanks it for us and says, "You cannot serve both God and Money." So I think it’s pretty clear from that verse that God intends this to be an either-or decision not a both-and kind of a setup.
Rob West: Yeah, exactly right. And I think that’s really clear. You know, we put these two things at odds with one another and we, if we choose money to put in the prime position, well, uh, we’re going to live a life of discouragement and we’ll have all kinds of fallout from that in a negative way. What we need to learn to do is see money as a tool, and put God, of course in the top position. You mentioned that the test is very practical — and that is the giving test. Why do you suppose God made this test so practical?
Mark Biller: I think that he makes it so practical and so obvious really for our benefit because, if you think about it, he already knows the condition of our heart. So the purpose of this giving test is really to reveal the condition of our own heart to us — you know, do we really believe? Do we really trust God’s promises to care for us on 90 percent or less of our income if we offer up the other 10 percent or more to him. And for a lot of people giving is where the rubber hits the road and our faith really can become a little bit uncomfortably tangible.
Rob West: Yeah. I want to finish with you being able to talk right to that listener today who’s in the valley. They’re discouraged, perhaps times are very difficult. They feel like they’ve been doing everything right. They feel like they’ve been trusting and yet, they’re just really going through a difficult season right now financially. What might you encourage that listener with?
Mark Biller: Yeah, that’s so, so tough and a lot of us have been there. And a lot of the time, you know, as we read Scripture, um, you know, Jesus doesn’t waffle on the things that he says. Y’know, when he tells us that difficult times are going to come and then he encourages us to be faithful through those. So, first of all, I would say, earn the types of Scriptures that we’re talking about here. Learn the foundation, learn what the Lord is asking of us, and then follow through on that as faithfully as you can. And if that means stretching little by little to get up to giving a threshold that you feel you should be at, then do that.
Y’know, so much of our faith walk is about understanding what the Lord is asking of us and then obeying faithfully and seeing the Lord move. It’s that faith that we’ve been talking about — the faith in these promises that as we act and as we’re faithful and obedient, that God will be faithful and meet us in that as well.
Steve Moore: Mark, I’ve often heard you say that if people ask you about priorities, you suggest that if you don’t have a savings plan, you should do that before you start thinking about investing. If someone were to say to you, we’re not giving, would you tell them to not invest until they start doing at least some giving?
Mark Biller: I would absolutely. Y’know, giving I think is really a non-negotiable. Now we can talk all day long about the appropriate amount and a way to get up to a tithing level or something like that. But you know, as we’ve been talking about here today, this giving test is a tangible way that we demonstrate our faith in God’s ability and his promises to provide for us. So I would definitely encourage someone, even if they’re starting small, take that step of faith and see, you know, like God says — it’s not me saying, it’s God saying, "Test me in this" and see if I won’t be found faithful on your behalf.
Steve Moore: The only place in Scripture where we find God telling us to "Test me," which is something quite monumental if you think about it.
Hey, let’s go to Lawrence, Kansas. Tish is on the line — and Tish I understand that you want to give where you want to tithe, but your husband isn’t quite feeling the same way. What’s going on?
Tish: Um, I basically, I’m not the primary breadwinner. I’m a stay-at-home mom and you know, tithing was a big thing in my family growing up. But his family, um, kind of went around it — like if you’re using your money wisely and building it in a way that would be pleasing to God, then that counts as your tithing. And he doesn’t see the benefit of tithing on top of, you know, investing and doing all of that. So, I just, I’m just curious if there’s maybe some way that I could get inside of his head a little bit and show...
Rob West: Are you still there?
Tish: Oh, I’m still here. Yes.
Rob West: Okay. Very good. I know this can be challenging. Is it really just this area of giving that’s the major perhaps stumbling block when it comes to your finances, or would you say perhaps there’s not alignment in other areas as well?
Tish: Um, he has a lot of areas that he’s totally, you know, given over to God. But finances has always been one that he’s never surrendered.
Rob West: Well, I think there’s a couple of things here. Oftentimes, what we see as we come into the marriage relationship — and certainly we bring our own background, we bring our own faith journey, we bring our upbringing which often informs kind of how we view our finances. How we handle it, how our parents handled money has an incredible impact on who we are today and how we manage it. And we just recognize those differences.
But, of course, the goal in a biblical marriage is oneness and so to become one in every area and that should include your finances — which means we set joint financial goals, including how we’re going to spend money, how we’re going to save money, what we’re saving it for, what kind of lifestyle are we going to live now, and how much are we going to give, both the tithe and even sacrificial giving beyond that. And depending on where each person is in their faith journey, we’ve got to compromise. We’ve got to work together.
And so I think what’s paramount here is what the Lord is most interested in is your heart and his heart and the oneness and the marriage relationship. So I wouldn’t make this area of giving a real struggle or challenge or roadblock for you all to come together in the marriage. But that doesn’t mean you can’t certainly, number one, pray in that direction that the Lord would open his heart to that. And then, number two, really in a loving way and in an earnest way, ask him if this is an area you all can lean into, perhaps maybe not at the level you would like to.
But what if you suggested as a part of your planning and thinking about your financial future to say, "How about we give a smaller amount?" So instead of, "I’d like to give 10 percent," "How about we start with 5, and what if we do it for six months or 12 months and then agree at the end of that period of time, we’re going to stop, reflect, look back, and then decide based on how that went? Were we able to meet all of our obligations? What did God do with that? What did we feel about that giving?"
As, you know, the joy begins to come in and, and seeing our money being used beyond ourselves, and then reevaluate at that time. You’re not a kinda pressing the issue, but you’re perhaps opening the door for the Lord to work in that. I’ve found with many couples that I’ve counseled over the years that something like that — asking if you can lean into it in that way and again, work together — could perhaps be a great next step for you as you pray for God to perhaps get a hold of his heart in a more significant way in this area.
Tish: That’s a great idea. I’ve been trying to figure out a way that would be a, a lead-in in that. Yes. Thank you. I will definitely do that
Rob West: Very good. And the last thing I’ll mention before we let you go, as hang on the line, I’d love to send you a copy of Howard Dayton’s book, Money and Marriage God’s Way. Send it to you as our gift. And one other thing I might suggest is, see if he would be willing for the two of you to meet weekly or perhaps every couple of weeks, work through it, a chapter at a time, and just with the idea and not that you’re trying to convince him of some something or come in through the back door, but just you want to learn together God’s way of handling money. And see if God doesn’t use that resource in an incredible way in your marriage.
Steve Moore: Hey, you can visit us, and even "like" us on Facebook. You’ll find us when you look up Moneywise Media. Also, our question of the day is there — and our question today is, "Have you seen God meet your needs?" — or "How have you seen God meet your needs?" Feel free to respond there and we just may share that information right here on the broadcast. We’re talking investing with Mark Biller from Sound Mind Investing.
Rob West: Mark, I want to talk for a moment about the markets. Obviously, we’ve been experiencing some volatility as of late. I think it was just a couple of weeks ago. We were celebrating a new all-time high and it seems like since then it’s been anything but steady. Uh, and I think part of that is, is probably anticipating the uncertainty of the midterm elections. Of course, the market never likes uncertainty. What’s your take on the current landscape?
Mark Biller: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right on that last point — the uncertainty is what the market hates the most. And so there is a historical pattern of the market being very weak going up to the midterm elections. And then usually it performs better in the months after that uncertainty is removed. Now, of course, that’s a historical pattern, so you can’t bank on that. You don’t know that that’s how it’ll play out this time. But it does give us a little bit of comfort to know that this is kind of a normal pattern that we’ve seen in the past.
And I think it’s also good that you pointed out that just a month ago, in late September, we were at all time highs and everybody was high-fiving each other about how awesome this market was. That wasn’t very long ago. So we do want to keep in perspective where we’re at. You know, at the lows of this morning, the S&P 500 was about 8% off of those all-time highs. Now, we’ve got most of that 2% that it was down this morning back over the course of the day.
But, y’know, we need to keep in perspective a "correction" — most people have heard that term — a correction typically refers to a drop of about 10% or more from an all-time high. And those have happened every year to year-and-a-half or so historically, on average. So this is not really an out of the ordinary kind of event at this point. Now we know that at some point, we’re going to get a correction that’ll turn into a full-fledged "bear market." But we’re nowhere near that point right now.
So I guess the takeaway, Rob, if I was trying to help somebody with what’s been going on lately is, if this has been particularly upsetting to you — what’s been going on over the last three or four weeks — then that’s a pretty clear indication that you’re probably taking on too much market risk for your risk temperament and your season of life. If you’re really concerned, this is kind of a warning bell that maybe you need to reevaluate the allocation in your portfolio and get away from some of the riskier stock investments. Because, I hate to say it, but it gets a lot worse than this at times in the market. And if this has really been upsetting, then we need to throttle down the risks quite a bit, probably.
Rob West: Let’s quantify that for a second because I think that’s a really important point in terms of almost simulating or testing your downside risk tolerance. Is there a rule of thumb, a number, a percentage that we should apply to say, "If my portfolio went down by 20 percent, 25 percent, would I be okay with that? Uh, perhaps even 30 percent?" — and if not, then I need to make a change. How do we think about that?
Mark Biller: Yeah. Y’know, there are all kinds of risk questionnaires and risk-tolerance quizzes and things. We use them, everybody uses them. But y’know, the best measure, his actual experience. If you were in the market during the last big bear market in 2008, what was your experience then? Did you sell? Did you have a lot of trouble emotionally riding through that period where the allocations you had? It’s also helpful to know the history of that.
Maybe for folks who weren’t in the market in 2008, I think a lot of people would be surprised to know that from top to bottom — 2007 to 2012 — it took about five years for that, that bear market to be earned back, if you will. If someone just held through that period, it took them five years to get back to "even" after that bear market. So that can be a helpful gauge too. Do you have five years with the money that you have invested? Can you afford to keep that invested and leave it alone?
That’s not a guarantee that every bear market resolves in five years. But it is a little bit of a helpful guide that even that really bad bear market in 2008 really did resolve relatively quickly. Uh, but you have to be able to have funds outside of the market to meet your needs. If you’re perhaps living on a fixed income or something like that, you certainly don’t want to have to sell stocks within a five-year window to meet your basic needs. So you really do need to be thinking five-to-10-year investment horizon at a minimum with stock market money.
Rob: Well, that’s why I always appreciate you bringing us back to the foundational principles — and that’s why this article on your website, Foundational Pillars of Christian Stewardship, is so important. Mark, appreciate you being with us today.
Steve Moore: Thank you, Mark.
Mark Biller: Thanks, guys.
Steve Moore: And you can find out more about Sound Mind Investing when you visit soundmindinvesting.org — great articles, great insights, all biblically based. You can also subscribe to their newsletter. We’ll be right back.