I had the honor of interviewing Chuck Bentley last week. I had planned on posting the actual interview, but for some reason it sounded like Chuck had his head in a tin can (echo, echo, echo). Since we had the video on during the interview I can confirm that Chuck Bentley was not, as a matter of fact, sporting a tin can on his head.
Thus, as a plan be alternative I decided to transcribe the interview. Unfortunately, that means you don’t get to hear my high tenor squeal.
Regardless I was honored to spend the time chatting with Chuck and I enjoyed reading through his book The Root of Riches: What if Everything You Think About Money is Wrong?
* I was not compensated in any way to do this interview or post. I simply want to support ministries that have a similar goal as MH4C.
Now, onto the interview …
Craig: Chuck, do you think it possible that we’re going to read the book and find out that everything we thought about money was wrong?
Chuck: Well it may not be as shocking to other people as much as it was for me. The subtitle is a testimony to my experience. I was 43 years old when I realized that what I believed about money didn’t line up with God word – at all. I just couldn’t believe it because I was raised in a Christian home, I went to church a lot, I thought I knew what the Bible said about money. But, pretty much everything I believed about money was wrong. So I shared that very transparently in the book so hopefully other people that read the book won’t be quite as shocked as I was to learn how far off the mark I actually was.
Craig: I noticed that in the book you wrote with a lot of self-disclosure and openness. How do you think that’s going to help the message come across in the book?
Chuck: I feel like people learn more from our mistakes that they do our successes. When your vulnerable and willing to let people know that you’re a human being, that your fallible and in need of God’s grace, I think that they can related to that. For me the experience was painful to realize that I was so far from what God desired of me. So I wanted people to understand that if they find themselves in that situation that I have empathy and compassion and the Lord has mercy and grace for them.
Craig: You talk a lot about the allurement of wealth. What do you think it is about money or wealth that is such a temptation for us?
Chuck: I think money has a certain power to it. If you stand back and look at it without any emotion you realize that it’s just printed paper – metal with an imprint on it – that’s all it is. But because it’s got this denomination, this value on it feels powerful. I think for me I realized that I wanted it more for for a sense of self worth. I was measuring myself and my value according to how much of it I had. I just didn’t realize that was happening to me until I started to compare that attitude with God’s word. In God’s word it is clear that I didn’t have to have resources to be rich. I didn’t have to have money to be rich. I was very liberating to make that distinction that money had taken over my heart. It had become a very powerful master in my life.
Craig: You talk about that challenge or struggle in the book – using the terms He Tree and Me Tree. Do you want to explain that a little bit for us? What is the He Tree and what is the Me Tree?
Chuck: As I got into this study I learned something that I had not seen before. This theme that God compares us to trees in the Bible. In the very beginning the Scripture starts out with a choice between two trees – the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. One being destructive and the other bringing life. From there it comes back to us again in Revelation. We should be part of the tree of life and Jesus is represented as the tree of life. But, in between he talks about us being trees. We’re compared to being a living tree that should produce good fruit. A bad tree is what I call the Me Tree – one who’s roots have not been redeem. Who’s roots are still caught up in this world. Root represent our belief system. They’re hidden and out of view, but they are powerful because they give us structure and stability. The Me Tree is one who is caught up in things that are only for self benefit.
The He Tree is representative of a tree that is redeemed by God. It belongs to him. By looking at the roots of a He tree you can see that his roots are absolutely changed in comparison to a Me Tree. I wanted people to see that the business of redemption is a serious transformation that goes beyond how we behave outwardly to the inward transformation of the heart and the renewal of the mind. That’s why I was able to use this analogy to say it in a way that I think people can universally relate to.
MH4C: How does one know if he is Christ centered or self-centered when it comes to finances?
It’s best that we’re not judgmental about that and leave it up to each individual to decide where they are. I would start by analyzing some basic beliefs. A Me Tree is a person that, in their belief system, they are measuring their success in worldly terms. Ask yourself how you define success (is it by external worldly terms)? Where do you find your sense of significance? Where do you place your security? If you do an analysis about what you believe around success, security, and significance that’s the best way to determine if you’re a Me Tree or a He Tree.
Craig: 1 Timothy 6:10 was obviously an important Bible verse in the process of writing this book. What was it that attracted you to this verse? Why did you camp there for so long?
Chuck: Two things. First, I realized that it was almost universally known. When people think about the Bible and money they typically think that the love of money is the root of all evil. It’s often misquoted. People generally have an idea that it’s there and it’s one of the big messages of Scripture. But, I felt like it was neglected. We think that we’ve been there, done that, have the T-shirt, so let’s move on. It was a verse that I’ve neglected and taken for granted so it had lost a little bit of its saliency and impact.
So I was on a plane with a guy who asked me what I do for a living. I said I teach people what the Bible say about money. He said, “I know what the Bible says about money”. What’s that? “That money is the root of all evil”. And I said no. That’s not it. I corrected him gently, but right there I began to think – people misunderstand that and while I was looking at that I felt the Holy Spirit was speaking to me saying you’re missing one of the key words because we focus on evil, love and money. But the word that I was missing was root. What is it described as a root? why did Paul choose that analogy? That started a whole process of looking at our roots. What are our roots? Our roots are our belief system. If we are placing faith and confidence in money it will produce fruit that is evil. But if we are placing faith and confidence in Christ – those roots will produce fruit that is good and holy. So I got down to the very core of what we believe.
My challenge has been in presenting biblical material and keeping them from becoming self help material, but just a little bit better. The behaviorism is rampant in our culture. I’m particularity concerned that people take Biblical principals and try to strip them out and say here’s the practical things I should do. For instance, let me use debt. The Bible warns against debt. Take the principle and say I’m going to use that to focus on getting out of debt. That’s a behavior and it’s a good behavior. But, if that’s all you learn and all you focus on you’ve missed some essentials like what God says about our heart and about our mind. Our motive needs to be right when it comes to getting out of debt. You can get out of debt with the wrong motive.
Craig: If I pick up this book how do you want me to be different when I’ve finished reading the book?
Chuck: The main thing is that it would impact the heart. When I look at the content of what the Bible says about money. What I’m concerned about is that people just want to find some practical how to steps to take away from Scripture. And they miss the two most important messages. The first is the transformation of your heart. That’s what I want people to take away. God’s message is directed right at the center of our heart. The second take away is the renewal of your mind. If you heart is transformed and your mind is renewed then your behavior will follow. That’s where I focus in the book.
A victory for me would be someone who writes back and says I get it at a level I never understood before. It’s not just about how I’m behaving. It’s more about allowing Christ to transform me into his image. That’s where true riches come from.
I’m essentially attacking the worlds definition of riches and trying to replace it with God’s definition.
The book, The Root of Riches will be released in early July.