John Cortines and Greg Baumer are two guys who get money. But far more importantly, they love Jesus and have allowed Him to renovate their hearts in a radical way. Their two families met at Harvard, which was the beginning of a transformation that took them from wanting more, to giving more. Their book True Riches: What Jesus Really Said About Money and Your Heart captures a new way to think about money, rooted in what Jesus taught. It’s a grace to welcome them to the front porch today…
eventy million dollars.
My friend shared the number in a matter-of-fact way, like he was giving us the time of day.
My wife, Megan, and I (John) were enjoying conversation with six Harvard MBA students in our Boston apartment in the fall of 2013.
We had just finished a fun-filled Thanksgiving celebration, and most of our classmates had gone home. A few were lingering to watch the end of a football game, and our discussion had turned to the question of “how much is enough?”
Would we ever stop seeking more money, power, and influence?
Was there a point in life when it would be okay to stop pursuing more, smell the roses, and enjoy family and other pursuits?
It was the smartest guy in the room who was first to reveal his target: $70 million. We all had our own number, or at least a fuzzy idea of one.
At the time my friend shared his number I remember thinking, Gee. I must be a simple fellow. I’d be happy with a lot less.
But even though my number wasn’t even close to $70 million, I still had one in mind. And the truth is, no matter what number we all had in mind, if we ever reached it, we’d likely still struggle to cease our efforts reaching for more. It’s just the nature of this kind of thinking.
Do you have a number? If not a number, what about a concept of “enough”? Is there a size of house that you would never go beyond, or a type of car that you would never upgrade from?
Contentment, in contrast to the endless striving reflected above, is a posture of the heart that rests peacefully in our present circumstances, no matter what they look like.
It’s a healing balm that helps us feel satisfied, rather than restless.
But it can be hard to grasp, especially when we live in a culture driven so much by a consumer mentality.
Perhaps the most pervasive evidence of our lack of contentment is the consumer debt problem.
In the most prosperous large economy in the history of the world, the United States in the twenty-first century, a large fraction of the population struggles to pay their bills and in fact falls further and further behind in their debts each month.
How is this possible? Perhaps the prevalence of consumer debt in our culture is merely the symptom of a deeper, hidden problem.
Could there be a sin pattern that is so pervasive, so normalized, that we’re blind to it, even as it consumes our lives and hinders our ability to connect with and serve God?
As a thought experiment, let’s imagine a Christian community with rampant and public sexual sin. Imagine standing in the church lobby and hearing a church elder bragging about cheating on his wife.
Confused, you turn aside, then overhear a friend talking about flirting and making sexual advances toward a coworker. Could this church be a faithful church while tolerating such brazen sin?
This example sounds ridiculous, but our wealthy society has cultivated just this kind of public and pervasive normalization of another sin: the sin of coveting.
Some of us associate coveting with wanting someone else’s stuff. Coveting isn’t necessarily the desire to steal or take something from someone else, however.
Coveting, at its core, is simply the belief that if I had more, I’d be happy.
Think of it as striving, yearning, restlessly seeking more.
It is a form of idolatry that leads us away from God.
You may not hear people brag about sexual sin in the church lobby, but we’ve probably all overheard small talk about the things we want to experience or buy.
Being unhappy with our car and wanting a new one, chatting about so-and-so’s new house and how nice it is (and maybe what they paid for it), or comparing vacation plans—any of these seemingly innocent topics can be neck-deep in covetousness.
It might be easy to criticize young students at Harvard Business School, daydreaming about whether their “number” is $10 million or $70 million and debating the pros and cons of owning a private jet. However, when we experience envy over a friend’s kitchen remodel or a jealous twinge at the thought of someone else getting the newest smartphone, we’re guilty of the same sin.
Whether we’re chasing millions of dollars or just another day’s wages, each of our human hearts is prone to covet what others have, to continually be looking for more than we’re given.
Thankfully, God invites us to a greater joy—a path away from the treadmill of coveting.
As my pastor said, “There are two ways to be rich. One is to have a lot of money, and the other is to just not need a lot of money.”
God invites us to become rich the second way, through the joy of contentment.
John Cortines and Greg Baumer are a dynamic duo who passionately advocate for a grace-driven, Jesus-centered perspective on money. They each pursued a Harvard MBA in order to pad their lifestyles, but God intersected their journey and showed them the joy of simplicity and generosity.
In True Riches: What Jesus Really Said About Money and Your Heart, they invite us to explore the words of Jesus and experience four transformations in our financial journey with Christ.
[ Our humble thanks to Thomas Nelson for their partnership in today’s devotion ]