Junkyard Generosity

To whom much is given, much is required. Christians in America live in one of the wealthiest places and time known in human history. We have been given much. Our stewardship of the resources God has entrusted to us is an immense privilege and sobering responsibility.

What does Christian stewardship look like amidst the affluence of America? Roy Goble is an entrepreneur, author and avid people-lover who has wrestled with this question. Before entering the real estate industry, Roy grew up tinkering in his father’s junkyard in Silicon Valley. He learned a lot, especially how to befriend an assortment of people.

As the founder of Goble Properties and PathLight, Roy has grappled with wealth and poverty and what it means to follow Jesus in the developed world. His new book, Junkyard Wisdom, is the result of that 30-year journey.

We recently sat down with Roy to learn a little about his book and how the affluent should engage the world around them. He explains the link between relationships and generosity.

Where did the idea for your book come from?

Roy: At the ripe old age of 28, I had been to seven of the 10 best hotels in the world. The competitive streak kicked in: I wanted to get to the other three. But there was something out of whack here. The Holy Spirit kinda poked me in the heart, as if saying, “You’re 28, and is this how you really want to live your life for me?” It was a significant point. I began to wrestle with what it would look like to follow Christ while operating in a world of wealth and abundance.

I grew up around people in my dad’s junkyard. There was an interesting array of characters, like drug dealers and ex-cons. My formative years were quite a contrast to the world I was building as an adult. I hit a quarter life crisis.

My wife and I prayed about it. We needed people in our lives that were different than us. She was the one to make me understand the need to embrace the other, and we began a lifelong journey of building connections with people who were poor, didn’t look like us or even think like us. We have spent the last 30-years wrestling with what it means to be well off in the world and not in a bubble of wealth that insulates you.

The wealthy like to build walls–sometimes unknowingly but sometimes purposefully, as with a gated community. It’s not a complete way of living because it’s not a complete way of understanding where God is at work.

My book is about that: breaking down those relational walls and wrestling with what it would look like to follow Christ while operating in a world of wealth and abundance.

Why are relationships an integral part to generosity?

Roy: There is a lot of preaching that says, ‘the way to break the habit of greed is to give your money away.’ I think it’s a good step and not, necessarily, a bad thing. But it’s incomplete.

The wealthy can give a lot of money away yet never experience a transformation of their heart. I think we need to do more than just give stuff away. Want to transform you heart and grow spiritually? Make a friend who is homeless or in a poverty stricken community. I don’t mean a fake relationship from a short-term mission trip, where you might never return to see the people again (unless you do go back, which I highly suggest). I mean actually having them as a friend and spending time with them. We need to build relationships with others to transform our hearts. When we love people, we’ll invest generously in those we call friends, and their presence in our lives will create accountability for our decisions.

So, how might you encourage pastors to minister to their more financially well-off congregants?

Roy: I’d encourage them to focus less on the stewardship and money management, and focus more on encouraging your congregants to form real relationships. Pastors might have developed a theology of wealth, but it’s primarily a matter of material giving. It’s not robust enough. Engage their hearts.

For instance, say that you have five wealthy families in your church. Going to a soup kitchen or volunteer event will probably impact those families more than simply writing a check. The amount of zeros on their check does not measure their personal spiritual walk. It’s more about how close they feel and love the poor. Engage their hearts, not just their wallets. Where their hearts are, so will their treasure be also.

What advice on giving would you give the next generation?

Roy: I believe beginning early with generosity and sacrificial giving. The number of zeros when you start doesn’t matter. That number will grow with time. You want to grow into your giving. And by giving sacrificially, you will begin to live sacrificially.

Younger people, those we’d often call millennials, have a deep-seated love for justice. It’s just how they think. But is it a full picture of justice? Justice-minded young followers of Christ are typically hanging out with people who are just like themselves and patting themselves on the back when they spend time with the ‘least of these.’ But do they have relationships, and I mean, actual relationships, with poor people? You have to be generous and build relationships to find the holistic picture of justice.

How might we consider giving, even when it’s not opportune?

Roy: If we’re called to follow Christ then we’re to live and give sacrificially.

I know a couple that established a donor-advised fund with millions of dollars. They came from Silicon Valley wealth. When the crash hit a few years ago, their portfolio dropped by more than 30 percent. Their advisor told them they needed to scale back their giving.

My friends did the exact opposite. They knew that there would be good ministries that would go underfunded because so many others would have scaled back their giving. The couple doubled their giving during those years. This blew me away! To me, that was a stunning statement of their faith and an incredible act of sacrificial generosity.

The world is broken, and we’re called to love our neighbor. Our neighbors are hurting. We can’t ignore that. When you make decisions on how to love and bless your neighbor based on what your financial advisor is telling you, there is something wrong with that.

The PCA Foundation helps generous Christians simplify their giving with donor-advised funds like the Advise & Consult Fund®.