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Christians say they believe that money is the root of all kinds of evil, but what happens when we actually have an abundance of cash? The stories of three multi-millionaires and the wrestling match between their faith and the seductive power of wealth.



#17: Where the Gospel Meets Wealth

Note: The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast is made for the ear, and not the eye. We would encourage you to listen to the audio for the full emotional emphasis of this episode. The following transcription may contain errors. Please refer to the audio before quoting any content from this episode. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Okay so, it’s a question I think all of us have asked at some point or another — What would you do with a million dollars?

AUDIO CLIP FROM STREET: Travel, visit lots of different places… I would open a restaurant… Savings, pay off major debt, pay off my mortgage… I would invest it… Um, I think I would buy a cabin overlooking the mountains in Colorado or Wyoming… No clue… I would stop working… Put a bunch in my bank account, maybe give a little to my family because my parents need it, and then probably just keep doing what I’m doing…

JESSE EUBANKS: What about you, Lachlan? 

LACHLAN COFFEY: What about me?

JESSE EUBANKS: What would you do if you had a million dollars?

LACHLAN COFFEY: I don’t know how much it would cost exactly because I haven’t priced it out, but I would be highly interested in someone rubbing my feet while I fell asleep.

JESSE EUBANKS (laughter): That’s free. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: Well, okay. Will you do it? (laughter)

JESSE EUBANKS: Your feet? I wouldn’t do it for a million dollars.

LACHLAN COFFEY: And uh, but seriously, on a more serious note, McDonald’s has that McRib sandwich. I’d probably get some of those.

 JESSE EUBANKS: You’re terrible with money.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Well you’re terrible at not knowing how awesome those sandwiches are. (laughter)


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

LACHLAN COFFEY: And I’m Lachlan Coffey. Every episode we hear stories of social justice and Christian community.

JESSE EUBANKS: Today’s episode is where the gospel meets wealth.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Which honestly sounds a bit weird. Like it sounds like this episode is gonna be about prosperity gospel, y’know that (in accent) Let’s name it, let’s claim it.

JESSE EUBANKS: Haha, no. This is not about the prosperity gospel. But let’s face it — we as a people are enamored with folks who are extremely wealthy. So I just wanted to know — what is life really like when you have financial abundance? And so we are about to pull back the curtain on the lives of Christian multi-millionaires.

LACHLAN COFFEY: They eat yogurt like us, they drink Snapple like us, they walk around Target like us. I cannot wait. I wanna see what this looks like. But I am thinking that we probably should change the names of the people just to protect their identity. 

JESSE EUBANKS: I totally agree, so we’re going to do that. And, welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


JESSE EUBANKS: So according to CNN, in the year 2016, Americans spent 80 billion dollars on lottery tickets.

LACHLAN COFFEY: That is so many McRib sandwiches.

JESSE EUBANKS: But the point is that we’re obsessed with this idea of having more money.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Which is weird because I think we all know that money doesn’t buy happiness and that getting rich is not the goal in life.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well maybe so. But a recent study from Pew Research asked folks this question — what is essential in your view of the American Dream? And the lowest answer was wealth. Only 11% said outright wealth was essential. But the top three answers were freedom in choice on how to live, having a good family life, and being able to retire comfortably. And what do you need to have all three of those things?

LACHLAN COFFEY: A genie in a bottle, to quote Christina Aguilera. I’m just kidding. Uh, you need money, Jesse. You need money for those three things.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, that’s right. You know, in high school, someone used to tell me that money doesn’t give you happiness but money gives you options. And options give you happiness.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Yeah, so what you’re saying is even though most people don’t outright say they need more money, it’s almost inseparable from our view of the good life.

JESSE EUBANKS: Right. And the desire for more money — it’s not just an American thing. And it’s not new.

So in the gospel of Luke chapter 12, Jesus is surrounded by thousands of people. He’s in the middle of teaching his disciples when someone in the crowd shouts, ‘Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.’

LACHLAN COFFEY: Which he’s appealing to Jesus’ sense of justice, right? I mean, we’re not told the context of what’s happening exactly between this man and his brother, but he knows enough about Jesus to know ‘Jesus is gonna do right by me.’

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, but in his typical fashion, Jesus answers the man with a parable. And the parable starts out like this — “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. And he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do?’”

LACHLAN COFFEY: Which is a fundamental question, right? That’s part of being a good steward. You have to ask yourself, ‘What am I going to do with what I have been given?’

JESSE EUBANKS: And in fact, it’s the exact same question that a guy — um, let’s just call him Tony Hauser — a guy named Tony Hauser had. So Tony was actually not wealthy. In fact, he grew up in a very modest home.

TONY HAUSER: Lived in a little ranch house, so I used to think people that had an upstairs, ‘Wow, they’ve got a house with an upstairs.’ I remember going to Burger King, maybe a ‘wow, we’re going out to eat’ kinda thing. But we were never — I never thought of myself as poor.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Tony’s family wasn’t poor. But they also knew money was a limited commodity.

TONY HAUSER: My dad’s advice, he said, ‘If you don’t remember anything I teach you, remember these three things: save, save, save.’

JESSE EUBANKS: And so Tony took his dad’s advice to heart, and that’s exactly what he did.

TONY HAUSER: Right outta college, I worked for a company, I did get a job. I remember it paid about 17,000, which I thought ‘Wow, this is a ton of money.’ And uh, it was a white collar job, it was in a marketing position, it was a pretty large company, and uh, but there’s opportunity for growth.

JESSE EUBANKS: Eventually Tony worked his way to a low-level management position in the company. And by this time, he also had a wife and kids. They were a typical working middle-class family. Life was comfortable enough, but they still had to watch the budget.

TONY HAUSER: Going out to eat, I’ll order water because it’s cheaper than ordering a soft drink or what not with my meal.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Hold on Jesse. I thought you said this episode was going to be about millionaires, six, seven figures. I don’t wanna hear stories about water. (laughs) I wanna hear stories about the good life, like this guy’s drinking Dom Perignon or unicorn blood on ice or something. Y’know, Tony just sounds like an average guy.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well Tony was an average guy. That is, until his father-in-law passed away.

TONY HAUSER: My father-in-law grew up in a very humble situation, a dishwasher as a young kid, and put himself through school,  just was a hard worker, smart.

JESSE EUBANKS: And in fact, by the end of his life, Tony’s father-in-law actually had done extremely well for himself. Uh, he’d become very successful at his work. And Tony had had a good relationship with his father-in-law. I mean he knew him well, and he knew that his father-in-law had been successful.

TONY HAUSER: I remember we were called into the accountant’s office. They were just kinda laying out ‘Well here’s kinda the plan of the plan of his will and how things would be turned over and so forth.’

JESSE EUBANKS: So the accountant starts going over what Tony’s father-in-law had left to him and his wife. But really at this point, Tony is mainly just grieving the loss of his father-in-law. I mean, his wife is grieving the loss of her dad. Like they aren’t thinking about the money. And if they are thinking about money, they’re actually thinking about what was going on at Tony’s job at the time.

TONY HAUSER: My company, at the same time that all this was going on, they were laying off a third of the department that I worked in.

JESSE EUBANKS: So while Tony is grieving, there’s also this looming fear in the back of his mind that any day his job might be gone.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Man, what a tough season. Worrying about providing for your family while also losing a member of your family. I feel for this guy.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, like with everything going on, his mind is in so many different places at once. And so there he is, he’s in the accountant’s office, the accountant starts going through the will…

TONY HAUSER: ‘Okay, this is probably what you can expect when it’s all said and done.’

JESSE EUBANKS: And then eventually he tells Tony and his wife a specific dollar amount, and Tony can’t believe it.

TONY HAUSER: And I thought, y’know, ‘That is crazy that one year is more than what I would had thought I would make in a lifetime.’

JESSE EUBANKS: In a matter of seconds, Tony was suddenly receiving an incredible amount of money.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Wait, there were like bags of cash with the dollar sign on it sitting on the guy’s desk that he just handed it over to him?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well no, I mean the money would be dished out in yearly increments. But like did you hear what he said? The amount of money that he would be given each year was more than he expected to make over his lifetime. So, let me ask you. How much money do you think you would make over your entire life? Rough figure.

LACHLAN COFFEY: I hate mathematical questions. I don’t know. A couple million. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, now let me say this. Now imagine getting that amount of money every single year.

LACHLAN COFFEY: I like what you’re saying.

TONY HAUSER: It just was like winning the lottery.

JESSE EUBANKS: Which is exciting. This opened up a whole new set of possibilities for Tony and his family.

TONY HAUSER: ‘Wow, do we keep working?’ And y’know, I did have a tendency to work probably later than I should’ve in the office and that kind of thing, and I remember my wife saying ‘Now you don’t have to work such long hours.’

JESSE EUBANKS: But here’s the thing. This wealth didn’t just come with new possibilities. It came with a whole new set of questions.

TONY HAUSER: I mean it was exciting. It was kind of humbling too and a little nerve wracking like, ‘Now what do I do?’

JESSE EUBANKS: Coming up — a Mercedes, a food bank, and the Bible’s 2000 verses on money. We’ll be right back.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

LACHLAN COFFEY: And I’m Lachlan Coffey. Today’s episode is where the gospel meets wealth. So Tony was an average guy, he got an incredible amount of inheritance from his father-in-law. So, what is he gonna do with it all?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well so one of the first things that Tony did actually was quit his job. One, because he no longer needed the income. But the bigger reason was actually, remember they were laying folks off from his department.

TONY HAUSER: And I remember thinking, ‘They’re doing it by head count. If I stay, that means somebody else is gonna lose their job.’

LACHLAN COFFEY: What a nice guy looking out for us non-wealthy folks who still have to go to work and stuff.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, and being able to quit your job is a lot of people’s fantasy. We would have so much free time and do whatever we want. But for Tony, while the wealth increased possibilities, I mean it also increased his problems. And one of those problems had to do with raising his kids.

TONY HAUSER: They, they could have a private education if they wanted to. They could have — if they were involved in sports or if they’re involved in some kind of extracurricular activity, well it’s not like ‘Oh, it’s not in the budget. We can’t do it.’ But then it’s also, ‘When do you say no to some of these things?’

JESSE EUBANKS: So one of the reasons that I wanted to do this episode is because I read a book called David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. 

LACHLAN COFFEY: Whoa, whoa, whoa. We’re using Malcolm Gladwell in this episode? I heard that he’s not the most scientific guy.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well here’s the deal. Yeah, there’s some controversy around him But I think with this one, I think that he’s onto something and I think that it’s worth us talking about.  In this book he talks about what he calls the inverted U-curve. Basically there comes a point at which gaining more of something no longer makes things better but can actually make things worse.

LACHLAN COFFEY: So essentially there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Like I love mashed potatoes, but I don’t want a bathtub full of them. You know? Ain’t nobody want a tub o’ taters.  

JESSE EUBANKS: No, nobody wants a tub o’ taters. Gladwell actually takes this idea, and he connects it to how money relates to parenting. So a parent who makes insufficient income will struggle to provide basic needs for their kids so that their kids can live normal lives. But on the flip side, a parent who makes an excessive income will also struggle to raise their kids in a normal, well-adjusted manner. And that was a reality that Tony was starting to realize.

TONY HAUSER: I don’t want my kids to have this expectation like ‘Well, we can afford it. Let’s do it’ kinda deal, and I want them to appreciate it. And growing up I can remember appreciating a board game that I bought with the money I earned cutting grass or whatever it was and, y’know, not having it causes you to appreciate it more. And part of me, I fear that my kids may — I’m robbing that opportunity from them that they can really savor ‘Wow, I finally got this thing that I’ve always wanted.’

JESSE EUBANKS: And here’s the thing. It turns out that parenting isn’t the only struggle that comes with having more finances. But before we talk about other struggles with wealth, I’d like to introduce you to a man named Stephen.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: What’s the subject? 

JESSE EUBANKS: We’re gonna talk about your money.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: Well I’ve got plenty of it, so that works out (laughter)

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so this is Stephen Williamson. Stephen is from a family of very successful businessmen. His father built his own company, which Stephen now runs. And so for him, being wealthy has always been in the picture. He grew up with it. So unlike Tony’s case, in which there was like a clear distinct moment of going from average to wealthy, that’s something Stephen has never experienced. So I asked him if there ever was a moment for him in which he realized ‘Oh, wow. We are wealthy.’

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: Somewhere in the 80’s probably. We met up in a parking lot, and my dad bought a used diesel huge Mercedes. But it was a big deal, like I now own a used diesel Mercedes.

JESSE EUBANKS: And for Stephen, like this was the defining moment.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: Mercedes equals wealth. We have arrived. We have gone over the edge of just kind of making it. We have achieved wealth.

LACHLAN COFFEY: I love the language he uses there. ‘We have arrived.’ Because I think so often we think about  like it’s a destination. There’s a dollar amount, that if I could just get to that dollar amount, all of a sudden life is gonna go great.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well and for Stephen, like his family had reached that destination. He was where he dreamed of being. But it actually didn’t mean life went great.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: It’s a lot of stuff that you gotta do. You just gotta do a lot of stuff that’s not fun stuff.

JESSE EUBANKS: So it turns out that managing large sums of money — it just required a lot of work. Like even if you are able to quit your job, there’s still plenty that needs to get done.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: You know, you have to have attorneys and accountants always paying attention ‘cuz by mistake you can do terrible, bad things that can cost you a lot of money. And so you have to have all that infrastructure, those systems, and then investment people and all that stuff.

JESSE EUBANKS: And even if you get all these parameters in place, you can still do things wrong. Which Stephen found out for himself.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: I remember early on working for my father in his company and I started getting a larger income as he was starting to kind of let me take over more things.

JESSE EUBANKS: And Stephen knew, as we all do, that making a larger income means you pay more taxes.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: And my tax situation is complex, but it had just started getting complex. And I remember having to pay way more taxes than I was able to. I just felt confused by the whole thing. It wasn’t like ‘Aw man, I just bought this Porsche.’ It wasn’t that. It was like ‘Why did I make this mistake, y’know?’ And I remember having to ask for money, and it was super embarrassing.

JESSE EUBANKS: But managing money and taxes and even navigating parenting aren’t the only problems that arise with excessive wealth. According to Stephen, there’s also relational problems.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: If I were to say, ‘What’s your biggest issue with having wealth?’ I would say it’s people viewing me as having wealth and that’s my actual identity and purpose for their relationship with me. And if it was gone, people — good people — who would say, ‘No, no, no, I like you for your personality’ or would have a hard time finding space to be with me. And inside the church, it’s just like exemplified like — it’s like magnified.

JESSE EUBANKS: And the reason is because churches are always needing money. People in church are always fundraising for mission trips or new building projects or additional staff needs. And if you have wealth, you’re going to hear from these folks. But you won’t hear from them any other time. It’s only when they need money. I mean I can even be guilty of this. Y’know, I lead a nonprofit organization and there are times where folks only hear from me when I’m reaching out to them for financial support.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Which shows something about the nature of their relationship. I mean ‘I only want to know you because of what I can get out of you.’

JESSE EUBANKS: And Stephen said one of the most obvious ways that this comes out is when he’ll cover a tab and people simply don’t pay him back.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: How many times does this happen where I don’t pay this person back before we look back and go ‘we’re a thousand dollars in?’ ‘I never pay him back. I pay everybody else back, but I never paid him back. Why? Because he can afford it.’ Like when you start to talk about the narrative that that’s creating, you’d just be annoyed that you’re out all this money. But I would never get annoyed that I’m out money. I would get annoyed that it doesn’t matter to you.

JESSE EUBANKS: So Lachlan, this was actually something that came up in every single interview we did. Every wealthy person we talked to expressed the difficulty of knowing who your friends are and the real hindrance that wealth creates to having meaningful relationships with folks. Including this woman.

VERONICA SMITH: I think it was a bit of a differentiator in good ways and bad I guess.

JESSE EUBANKS: So this is Veronica Smith. And like Stephen, Veronica also grew up wealthy. In fact her father actually works for a well-known company, and I can honestly say with 100% confidence that every single one of our listeners has used the products of his company. And so while Veronica grew up enjoying the benefits wealth can bring, she also experienced the isolation of wealth. She remembers being teased in middle school because of her family’s financial status.

VERONICA SMITH: Spoiled rich girl, those kind of things. Y’know, and I’d go talk to my dad about it and he always would challenge me, like ‘Show ‘em different. Y’know, if they’re gonna say that stuff, show ‘em different.’

JESSE EUBANKS: And Veronica did her best to show them different. In fact, her and her family were very responsible with their wealth. But deep down what Veronica really wanted was just to fit in with everybody else.

VERONICA SMITH: I just wanted to be normal.

JESSE EUBANKS: And Veronica thought maybe it would be easier to blend in and be normal as she got older. But once she became an adult, Veronica learned something that most of us already know — that those of us who don’t have wealth, we love to judge those that do. And we think we know exactly what they should and should not be doing with their wealth.

JESSE EUBANKS: And even now as an adult  – Veronica still struggles with the identity that her wealth seems to give her.. A fact for which Veronica sometimes feels pressure about.

VERONICA SMITH: Sometimes there’s this perspective on wealth in Christianity that like if you don’t give to only gospel-centered things, like you are not using your wealth in the right way. And it’s so black and white sometimes, and I think there’s so much gray.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay so let me give you an example of what she means. So Veronica works for an organization that acts as a support system for area nonprofits. And most of these nonprofits are not Christian-based, including the local food bank. And the food bank decided to stop giving food to a ministry because the ministry would only distribute the food if people attended their Bible study first. Well the food bank just wanted to feed hungry people with no strings attached, which is actually something Veronica agrees with.

VERONICA SMITH: Like if I look in the Bible as to what I feel called to, it’s like feed the hungry, take care of orphans and widows, like just go do that. Like step into that stuff, and y’know that relational component of your faith is what shines through.

JESSE EUBANKS: The bottom line is this — relationships are more important to Veronica than money. And the reason is because Veronica has actually witnessed a lot of suffering firsthand.

VERONICA SMITH: One of my family members has a chronic illness and so like we had a lot of life/death situations growing up and um, I still see her struggle with it today.

JESSE EUBANKS: But Veronica also knows that though she wants to help people as best as she can, there are some things that money just can’t fix.

VERONICA SMITH: Seeing her struggle, if we could pay for her to be well, we would in a heartbeat. No questions asked. But like, lilke money doesn’t provide everything, y’know. You can’t pay to fix everything. I can’t help but think that that kind of experience makes that money not as valuable.

JESSE EUBANKS: And one of the other things that money can’t fix is the need for community.  And Veronica wishes she just knew more folks that she could relate to. But the truth is — sometimes wealthy is a lonely place to be.

VERONICA SMITH: Yeah, there’s not a lot of people that you can talk to about this. And I think if there’s other people who are wealthy in Christian community, I don’t know it. I mean it’s not something you talk about all the time.

JESSE EUBANKS: When you’re wealthy, of course you need to have friends who aren’t. But the reality is you can’t talk about your wealth problems when your friends are talking about struggling to pay the mortgage. So as a wealthy person, y’know, where do you go? And y’know, the Bible talks about money quite a bit. I mean, more than 2000 times. And many of these verses are warnings against the dangers of it. Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. The book of James tells the rich to weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on them.

LACHLAN COFFEY: One I’m thinking of is in Ecclesiastes — ‘Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.’

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, God wants us to be aware of the seductive power of wealth. So again, here’s Stephen.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: Me and the Lord probably talk about this more than he wants to talk about it. I spend tons of energy saying, ‘Lord help me to understand what it looks like to have a healthy relationship to my money.’

JESSE EUBANKS: I heard this one time, and I think that this is true. ‘Show me your credit card statement, and I’ll show you what you love.’ And I think that we can follow our money, and our money shows us what we can really adore in life.

LACHLAN COFFEY: What you’re talking about is a correlation between greed and also irresponsibility of the way you’re handling your money. And sometimes I think, I think those things are in parallel with each other. I think if you can recognize that I’m not very good with my money, I would actually wonder if you have more greed in your life than what you think. It’s not necessarily — it could be that you’re just not wise with your money, but a lot of the times I think it’s actually because you’re greedy in the sense that as soon as you get it you use it on something.

JESSE EUBANKS: And I feel like that’s kind of a window into greed. Where are we spending our money? And I don’t think that we as middle-class folks are the only ones that are struggling with this issue. Y’know, so I asked Stephen what it’s like for him as a wealthy person to read the Bible’s verses on wealth.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: I write them down, I’m gonna say ‘the top ten verses on wealth’ as per google, and I think about them and I contemplate them and I go, ‘Y’know, let’s distill them down.’ It’s super hard for Christians to be wealthy, deal. It’s super hard for wealthy people to become Christians, correct. You have a heavy burden. Much has been given to you, much is expected of you, yes. And the poor will always be with us. And I just distill it all down to every day wake up and ask the Lord to help you because you are always in danger of relying on wealth.

JESSE EUBANKS: And it isn’t just relying on wealth that you have to wrestle with. For Veronica, it’s also a matter of justice.

VERONICA SMITH: I think a lot of times I’m like ‘Why me? Y’know, why are we able to have so much and then there’s so little over here?’

JESSE EUBANKS: When I was talking to Veronica, she recalled a day when she was at the grocery store shopping and she was struck by this inequality.

VERONICA SMITH: And I was walking behind this woman and I had a ton of stuff in my cart and this lady was pulling things off the shelf, looking at the price, putting it back. I was just curious because she had like peanut butter and bread. You could just tell that something was going on, and so I just asked her like ‘Do you need help? Like is there something I can help you with?’ And she had five dollars for food. Like she was my age, and she had five dollars.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Jesse, I see what you’re doing here. You’re sanding down the glitz and the glamour here of wealth. I’m just wanting to talk about the Kardashians more if that’s possible. I mean, these guys are wrestling with some really tough stuff. I mean I had no idea life as a wealthy person was like this.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, and the point isn’t so we can all have pity on the wealthy folks. But for those of us who aspire to do well and be financially successful, or even those of us who just dream about it, I, I just really don’t think we understand the life that comes with abundant finances.

LACHLAN COFFEY: And I know for me, when I’m struggling through something or things are hard, I have people around me that I talk to. Y’know, whether it’s career ambitions, trying to figure out what I want to do in life, or family struggles, there’s people around me that I talk to. But with all the relational problems that these people have talked about, I guess I’m left wondering — where are these people going for help? Like they all have talked about God — I’m not discounting their relationship with the Lord, but God made us to be relational with one another. And it sounds like these folks are just out there fighting the wealth battle all alone.

JESSE EUBANKS: That’s a great question. And to answer that, we’re actually gonna need to go back to the ‘80s. Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: Welcome back to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

LACHLAN COFFEY: And I’m Lachlan Coffey. Today’s episode is where the gospel meets wealth. So we’ve heard the stories from Tony and Stephen and Veronica. But Jesse, where do they go to get help when navigating all this wealth stuff?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well the answer’s a little different for each of them. Uh, so for Tony, who had absolutely no experience in managing large sums of money, he got connected with a company called Ronald Blue Trust.

MICHAEL GRABER: So Ronald Blue Trust is a nationwide trust to help clients make wise financial decisions.

JESSE EUBANKS: This is Michael Graber. He is a private wealth adviser with Ronald Blue Trust. And Ronald Blue isn’t just for wealthy folks. They’ll actually work with anybody from any financial situation.

MICHAEL GRABER: With money and with wealth comes different types of complexity, so we understand that people in each one of these different situations would have a different type of need.

JESSE EUBANKS: But some needs are universal. Like the need to constantly be reminded what money is and what money isn’t.

MICHAEL GRABER: What money is, I’d say the purpose of money is it’s a tool designed to fulfill a purpose. So money, many people think that money is a status symbol or it’s a measure of their worth. So we would say that God does not judge us by the money that we have.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so like Michael went on to say some really, really wonderful, helpful, clarifying stuff. The problem is that we don’t have any of it.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Wait, wait, wait.

JESSE EUBANKS: Technology is like wonderful and terrible sometimes, and for reasons that we don’t understand, the last 10 minutes of his interview, like, completely got erased. Like erased on his computer, erased on our computer, erased from the server. We have no idea what happened. So to help recollect what was actually in those last 10 minutes, Lachlan, I’ve actually asked producer Rachel Szabo to come sit with us for a second.




JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so you listened to the interview. And in this interview, there’s this moment where Michael starts talking about the special services that he offers to a lot of his clients that is more than just like spreadsheets and just good counsel. Like he kind of takes this interesting, unique approach at the end. Like tell me some about that.

RACHEL SZABO: So Michael will sit down with a client and, y’know, this client will be struggling with some issue regarding their finances. And so they’ll talk through it, okay whatever, that’s good. And they’ll sit down with their next client, and it might so happen that that client is also struggling with the things that this previous client was also struggling with, and so what Michael will do he’ll be like ‘Hey, I was just talking with so and so about this very same issue. Why don’t you guys get together and you guys can talk about it?’

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh, so he like pairs them up like in friendship with one another.

RACHEL SZABO: Yeah, so he’s creating like these little pockets of community for folks who are having certain financial struggles that they don’t have anywhere else to go to talk about.

JESSE EUBANKS: Man, that just seems like so important because that’s one of the things that keeps coming up. Like people will say ‘I need other people to talk to about this stuff because it’s hard to find people who relate to my situation.’ And so man, I can see why this could be really, really helpful for folks. Okay, awesome. Thanks Rach. Super helpful. 

RACHEL SZABO: Yep, no problem.

JESSE EUBANKS: So, but an organization like Ronald Blue Trust isn’t the only thing that can help us stay grounded when it comes to money. So one thing that has really helped Stephen is actually something from all the way back in his teenage years. So when Stephen was a teenager, my favorite movie of all time came out. Do you know what my favorite movie of all time is?

LACHLAN COFFEY: Is it Simon Birch? I love that movie. I’m obsessed with Simon Birch. You know that line where he’s like ‘I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’

JESSE EUBANKS: No, and please stop guessing. Uh, the greatest movie of all time is where Michael J. Fox goes back in time to save his family.


STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: There’s two things that matter in that movie to me. I mean what matters to you is probably the DeLorean and going back in time, but I saw the first scene where there’s speakers and the guitar and the pick. And he just plays like one note and blows up everything. Like awesome. And then what does he do? First he cusses, which is crazy cuz that’s what every ‘80s movie did, and then he jumps on a skateboard.

JESSE EUBANKS: So that guitar and the skateboard had Stephen like hooked. And he decided like that was what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to play guitar, and he wanted to skateboard. Which back in the ‘80s was synonymous with one thing — punk rock.


STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: I spent a lot of time with kinda punk rock kids and they didn’t have much money and they lived in the basement of their house. I think everyone — I mean I can’t remember a household that wasn’t broken, like I think through like ‘Was anyone married in any of these kids’ homes?’ That’s how it felt.

JESSE EUBANKS: Not surprisingly, the punk rock environment was really different from the environment that Stephen grew up in.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: But back then it was like, that was the scene for the marginalized right? And there’s a lot of poverty, a lot of emotional poverty and physical poverty.

JESSE EUBANKS: So spending his days with like all these punk rock kids and being in and out of all these different punk rock kids’ homes and eventually touring in a punk rock band, like Stephen’s outlook on wealth, it changed. And not because he simply saw poverty firsthand, but because he had real relationships with these punk rock kids.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: So it gave great conversations of ‘You’re wealthy, y’know, you’re better than us maybe or you think you’re better than us. And we’re poor.’ It was very easy to talk about.

JESSE EUBANKS: And it was easy to talk about because in punk rock it’s like almost your goal to offend people, right? And so the reality was these punk rockers would be brutally honest. Stephen knew what they thought about him, and he knew what they thought about his money. And just being in that punk rock environment has really shaped much of Stephen’s outlook on wealth and poverty.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: Like it’s fine to interact with poverty by going ‘Hey, you’re poor. Here’s a dollar,’ which you don’t really do but that’s the idea. Like ‘Let me give you something. I’m American. Let me fix you.’ But just going — just be around poverty for a while. Just be here.

JESSE EUBANKS: In fact, Stephen is still friends with some of these same guys from his punk rock days. And it’s because he finds something in them that honestly he really struggles to find in the church.

STEPHEN WILLIAMSON: You know it’s nice to have someone who can outright call you out because they don’t care. Um, living in the Christian community, in the Christian world, the church, people are nice. So you don’t form a lot of friendships where people don’t care to offend you. Like we’re always making it our goal not to offend people. We really want to say things that we won’t because we’re not supposed to. I guess I miss the honesty a lot of — y’know, when you’re known to have a lot, even if people don’t want anything now, they may one day, let’s not burn that bridge. And so to have someone that long term doesn’t really care is very refreshing.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Man, you hear like a cry for honesty. And it breaks my heart because you think that would be assumed in the church, and it’s not obviously by Stephen’s experience. 

JESSE EUBANKS: I think it’s really important that those of us that are in places where we might need to go to those that have more money that we’re clear about the nature of the relationship. What we don’t want to do is hang out with folks and it’s a long game where we’re just hanging out with them to build a friendship in order to one day try to squeeze some cash out of them. That’s super manipulative.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Yeah absolutely. It’s a challenge. It takes a lot of self-reflection, I think, on the non-wealthy Christian’s part. To be self-reflective enough to go — to realize ‘Is there hidden motives I have for engaging with someone like Stephen where he or she, I just seek their dollar signs behind them? That’s their identity to me.’ And we do need to reflect on that and be aware of that in ourselves. 

So Tony’s got his advisers. Stephen has got his punk rock crew. What about Veronica? Let’s go back to her. Who does she have?

JESSE EUBANKS: Well the truth is this is something that Veronica is still working through. I mean with all the burden that comes with wealth, so the responsibility, the struggles at times with community, the seduction toward greed, is her wealth even worth the fight?

VERONICA SMITH: You know, and I think sometimes I wonder like ‘Do we need to give it all away?’

JESSE EUBANKS: And I think I sympathize with that question. Y’know, if your identity to people in the community is, y’know, they see you as the person with wealth and it sort of impacts so many of your relationships, I mean there would be a great temptation to just let go of the burden. But then here’s the other thing. Veronica struggles with that, but then she remembers — her wealth? It’s not really for her.

VERONICA SMITH: Like even in my job, I find that like when I’m just in my office a lot, I start losing a lot of joy in what we do. And then it’s like I gotta get out and start seeing the impact of this again or meeting the people that we can actually help. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So remember Veronica’s job helps support other area nonprofits. And oftentimes we can think of the wealthy being a gift to the poor, that the poor need our help. But Veronica has found that actually it goes both ways — that the poor are really a gift to her.

VERONICA SMITH: There’s a daycare that we help with, and um, there’s this woman that runs it named Ms. Rose. Every time I go in there, that woman gives me the longest hug and just, y’know, she’s excited about what’s happening, she wants to show me what’s changing in her classrooms, and just her joy and her expression — that’s a gift to me.

JESSE EUBANKS: So in Luke chapter 12, the man in Jesus’ story gains wealth and stores it up for his own use. And then Jesus ends the story with God speaking to the man — “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Jesus is saying the purpose of wealth is the same purpose as everything else — relationships. And so, Lachlan, do you wanna know what Tony ended up doing with most of his money?

LACHLAN COFFEY: Let me guess. He was determined to give all his money away to the first podcaster he could find who uses King James language in their podcast title, and lo and behold, Love Thy Neighborhood just got its biggest donation ever.

JESSE EUBANKS: That would be amazing, uh, but no. He actually kept pretty much the same lifestyle he’s always had, minus the job. 

TONY HAUSER: And I still will clip coupons, and I still ‘Okay, should I order tea or just get water with my meal?’

JESSE EUBANKS: And he actually spends a lot of his time each day and a ton of his financial resources to support his friends who are in missions.

TONY HAUSER: What profit a man to gain the whole world and lose your soul? And it’s just you can get wealth, you can have all this money, and it’s great and whatever, but, y’know, if your soul, y’know, the love and the compassion and all that, that you’ve got the ability to use your wealth for and you don’t use it, what a huge waste.


JESSE EUBANKS: If you’d like to learn more about Ronald Blue Trust, you can visit them at For more resources on this topic or to hear past episodes of this podcast, you can visit our website at


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thank you to our interviewees for this episode — Tony Hauser, Stephen Williamson, Veronica Smith, and Michael Graber.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Our senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks.

JESSE EUBANKS: Our co-host today is Lachlan Coffey.

LACHLAN COFFEY: And our producer, technical director, editor, and very good at Donkey Kong 64 is Rachel Szabo.

JESSE EUBANKS: Music for today’s episode comes from Lee Rosevere, Podington Bear, and Blue Dot Sessions. Theme music and commercial music by Murphy DX.

LACHLAN COFFEY: Apply for your social justice internship supported by Christian community by visiting Serve for a summer or a year. Grow in your faith and life skills.

JESSE EUBANKS: Which of these was a neighbor to the man in need? The one who showed mercy. Jesus tells us, ‘Go, and do likewise.’


This podcast is only made possible by generous donors like you!


This episode was produced and mixed by Rachel Szabo. This episode was written by Rachel Szabo with Jesse Eubanks.

Senior Production by Jesse Eubanks.

Hosted by Jesse Eubanks and Lachlan Coffey.

Soundtrack music from Murphy DX, Lee Rosevere, Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions.

Thank you to our interviewees: Tony Hauser, Stephen Williamson, Veronica Smith and Michael Graber.