Scott Lively on Money and Materialism

Having entered adulthood as an often homeless drifter with alcohol and drug addiction, I never had much in the way of money or material possessions. For quite a few years everything I owned fit in a backpack, and I knew how to live on what I could scrounge. During my “on the road” years I developed my own survival system built around short-term jobs in restaurants. I would take a job as a dishwasher (or – later on – as a cook) for two pay periods which was about a month. I’d take draws on my first paycheck and borrow from people until the first payday, at which time I’d pay the lenders back and live on the remainder for the next two weeks. Then when I’d earned my second paycheck I’d quit the job, take the cash, and hit the road again.

Many years later, as a saved and delivered former addict with a family and a stable life, my money-making potential peaked when I became the managing partner of my own four-attorney law firm in Southern California. My formal, office-bound legal career lasted seven years, and I was billing $250 hr on a book-of-business of about 75 active cases at any given time. But my mentality on money matters didn’t change all that much. The biggest difference was upgrading my diet from hamburger to rib-eye steaks. I actually regularly drove to court in my beat-up 1981Volkswagon Vanagon, and my common retort to anyone who noticed was “Hey, when you get to be a successful lawyer, you can drive whatever you want.” The joke was that was what I actually wanted to drive even though I had lots of money.

The money was not sufficient motive to continue in that lifestyle, and through a transition from mid-2006 through early 2007 I turned the firm over to my partners and went back on the mission field, living on donations again. That was the time-frame of my 50-city speaking tour of the former Soviet Union I often speak about.

During that law-practice period, I kept my ministry organization alive and active, but deferred my salary, and taught myself how to invest in the stock market. I had a phenomenal 40% annual return on my investments, building the fund to around $225K, and had a program that issued $250 to $2000 seed-money grants for pro-family projects (giving away around $25K). After the crash of 2008, which took a big bite out of our balance, I liquidated the account and bought 455 State Street in Springfield to house the inner-city mission we launched that year. I used my legal skills to established that mission as a church, used the balance of the investment account cash to renovate it, and then donated the building from my original ministry organization to the church.

That made the (still thriving) Redemption Gate Mission sustainable on a very modest budget, which I largely covered myself either personally or through fund-raising since everything we offered at Holy Grounds Coffee House (our storefront church facility) was provided without charge.

During that same chapter of our lives (2008-2015), Anne and I bought 60 Sherman Street, an abandoned former crack house on the verge of being condemned. It was a 2800 sq ft well-built Farmhouse Victorian built in 1887, on a quarter acre of land with mature trees, but it was so run down and dilapidated that we acquired it for just $25,000 cash. We called it Redemption House, and we spent seven years and about $50,000 renovating it (the last of our savings from the law practice) – intentionally setting the example of “redemptive living” to our neighbors – and when it was fully “redeemed” we sold Redemption House, at cost, to an admirable longstanding charity next door to us called the Children’s Study Home, which served troubled youths. We considered our seven years rent-free living there sufficient compensation for our labors.

We spent the next two years (and the proceeds of the sale) touring 27 countries of the world on a personal fact-finding study of the anti-Globalist movement.

So, basically, I never stopped living the lifestyle of interspersing periods of work with periods of travel until I fully matured as a writer and speaker, and ever since then my travel is my work – or at least is the context in which I do my work.

One personal conviction that arches over all of this is my commitment to let God be my provider in all things, and the vehicle I have employed to make this practicable is The Lively Letter, my typically twice-monthly postal-mail newsletter I’ve been publishing since 1993.

I don’t sell anything. I don’t charge any fees. I live by donations I solicit through The Lively Letter, which, after overhead and operations costs are paid, is our sole source of personal income in the form of a monthly salary slightly less than the US median income. And everything that I produce for and through this ministry – all of the books, articles, other media, consulting, speaking, counseling and intangibles — are offered freely, without even a “suggested donation” solicitation in most cases.

If I had stayed in private law practice I would undoubtedly be a multi-millionaire today. If I had created a large-scale ministry organization I would almost certainly be able to command a high six or even seven figure salary which is not uncommon among big “non-profit” organizations. If I had hoarded all of my earnings and used my investment skills full time to achieve maximum profit I might very well have become a very rich man by now, sailing the world on my own private yacht. The valuable and diverse skill set with which the Lord has blessed me could have opened the doors to many different financially lucrative paths.

But none of those options are appealing compared to the great blessing of a life of service to Christ. I live what I consider my perfect life – virtually unlimited personal freedom to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in any project or direction He urges, and enormous personal impact for the cause of Christ in this world far beyond what one would expect from our tiny, streamlined organization.

What makes this lifestyle possible, by God’s grace, is my ministry family, the subscriber base to The Lively Letter. If in reading this short appeal you believe God wants you to become a financial supporter of my ministry, please make a donation of any amount and make sure we have your postal mailing address. You’ll then be part of our ministry inner-circle that makes this ministry possible. On-line donations are certainly welcome, but we just couldn’t survive on what comes in via the Internet. People so much love getting things of value for free that only a tiny fraction of them give anything online. (Frankly, that’s why the traditional newspaper business – even the good part of that industry — is almost extinct today.)

February is Subscription Month at Scott Lively Ministries, and I solicit your financial help by subscribing, or renewing your subscription, today.

Many Blessings,

Dr. Scott Lively

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