Physicians in general seem to be special targets for investment specialists who rightly or wrongly believe doctors have lots of disposable income. The average doctor spends the first three decades of his life in training for his professional work while often living on near poverty wages. Most of them don’t even consider learning investment strategies. During the early years of post-medical training and then practice many doctors are using their increased income to reduce and pay off the indebtedness of the training years.
I discovered soon after beginning my practice in general surgery in I was receiving one or more phone calls per day from people wanting to sell me something. It ranged anywhere from life insurance to disability insurance and from “great” stock options to an “investment of a lifetime.” I even had one person wanting to sell me part interest in a cemetery. After listening to a few of these well-intentioned salesmen I began to think I really could become rich. I was forced to have my receptionist screen and block all those types of calls. Fortunately for me at the time my income was just barely enough to pay our bills with enough left over to plan a modest vacation once or twice a year with Cathy and our children.
Early in our marriage Cathy and I agreed to set aside a portion of our income as gifts for charitable organizations and purposed to increase the amount each year as our income increased. We vaguely knew something about the principle of Biblical tithing but didn’t know exactly where the imperative was located in the Bible except it was somewhere in the Old Testament. As we listened to messages in church concerning giving and studied the Biblical text given our understanding began to increase somewhat. The significant change occurred in us when we invited Christ into our lives and became Christians in 1977, which was twelve years after we were married.
Cathy and I became convinced and convicted the Bible teaches us all things we possess (including money) are gifts from God, and we are to be good stewards of those gifts in addition to becoming generous (hilarious) givers. There is disagreement among Biblical scholars exactly what is meant by a tithe which is commanded in the Old Testament. We once asked a strong Christian couple who were good friends what they understood about the Biblical mandate for tithing. Their answer was something like this; “We purpose to pay our bills monthly and whatever is left we give away. We are trying very hard to reduce our monthly bills so we can give more.” Cathy and I didn’t ask them any further questions concerning giving!
From the day of our spiritual conversion we have purposed to become generous and cheerful givers. (II Cor. 9: 6,7). Cathy has had an easier time with this, because she is by nature a giver while I am more of a hoarder (stingy). We are in complete agreement however, it all belongs to God, and we must be faithful stewards.
For a period of time following our conversion I was convinced the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:19-21 were directed toward avoiding making retirement investments. Jesus said, “Lay not up treasures for yourselves upon earth where moth and rust corrupt and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” During this period of about seven or eight years we did just that. At Cathy’s urging and the counsel of several wise men we trusted we changed direction regarding retirement funding and began a retirement savings account. It proved to be a very wise decision for us.
Late one afternoon while sitting at my desk completing the day’s necessary paperwork my phone rang, and I was speaking to a salesman from Little Rock. He somehow had gotten through our front desk screening, and he introduced himself and the company he represented. I patiently and politely listened as he told me about a wonderful bond opportunity his company was offering, and he anticipated it had an unlimited earning potential. When he asked, “What do you think?” I said we didn’t make investments in stocks or bonds. He continued by asking, “Do you mind my asking what you are doing with your disposable income?” I said I didn’t mind at all his asking and said, “We send it all to heaven.” There was a stunned silence as he tried to process what I had just said, and he responded, “How do you do that?” “Fairly simple. We give it to people who are going to heaven.”
He hardly knew how to respond when he said with somewhat of a chuckle, “That is very noble. My mother also gives to the church.” By his reply I was certain he did not understand anything I had said, but still I wanted him to grasp the most important reason for our belief. “We don’t give to try to be noble, but rather to be obedient to our God who made us and owns everything we have. We want to please him by being faithful stewards of His money.”
He said, “It was nice to speak with you Dr. Moore. I hope you have a great day.” My prayer for him as we hung up was he would fully process what I said and consider exactly where he kept his treasures. That is where he will find his heart.