Richard Illges joins The Redeemed Man podcast. Richard Illges is an investment advisor with more than three decades of experience in banking and finance. While he’s built a successful career on wise money management, the end goal, he says, should always be how we can use those resources to enrich others throughout God’s kingdom, not merely ourselves. “We think money and status can propel us ‘ahead’ of our Dad or brother or neighbor, and we think we can heal a lot of wounds that way—that we can ‘prove’ our manhood by our success with money,” says Illges, who leads a men’s ministry at Christ Community Church in Columbus, Georgia. “But it is never enough. We don’t end up owning money—it owns us.”
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Welcome and Guest Introduction
Good evening and welcome. My name is Paul Amos, and I’m the founder of The Redeemed. The Redeemed is an online community built for men to come together and allow them to share both their struggles in life and their triumphs of overcoming those struggles.
Today we bring to you another round of our Pursuing Restoration, a webcast that allows us to talk to special members of the community about all forms and brokenness and how we can use the life of Jesus Christ to heal our wounds.
Today, I have a very special guest, Mr. Richard Illges, not only is he a financial advisor who can speak to the financial brokenness that we see in this world, but he’s also the founder of Man School, a personal bible study that I attend, and something that has given me a great amount of resources and opportunity to really learn the Word of God.
What does redemption mean to you?
Q: Paul Amos: Since we’re The Redeemed, we will start with a question that I really love:
What does redemption mean to you?
A: Richard Illges: Redemption to me is to come into your true self. Our sin nature just tends to lead us into operating out what we call the false self. As you walk with Christ and He begins to work through you, I think what he’s after ultimately is our heart.
We operate out of so many ways to try to cover our heart up, not let it be exposed, and that false self takes over and we take on these personas of who we want people think we are.
Redemption to me is the process of not operating out of that false self but beginning to learn that operate out of the true. Then bringing to you who I authentically am, I don’t need anything from you. I’m not trying to impress you. I’m just bringing my real vulnerability, my real self to you. That authenticity to me is redemption.
Now, you don’t even get there completely, it’s a process, but the goal is to get as far along that path as you can to where I no longer have to operate out of the poser or the fault self that so many of us are operating in.
Financial Problems and The False Self
Paul Amos: I lived a lot of my life in my false. I still struggle with that on a daily basis, and I know in our Bible study and Man School, we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the false self poser. We had an opportunity with Bart Hanson on the show to talk about the poser and a little bit of the things that are happening.
Q: Paul Amos: Can you tell us a little bit about how to the false self leads into some of the financial problems that people have?
A: Richard Illges: To me, it stems out of a wound, usually shaped by a father or brother or just our growing up experience. It may be have been how we operated at school with our friends. We live in a capitalist society, where I’ve got to go out into the world and prove to everybody that I’ve got what it takes. I feel I have to make a name for myself. I have to validate that I am a man. To show I have what it takes. Whatever that wound is, I think many of us are operating out of that.
Money is just a really easy avenue to go towards to get that validation. The more successful I am, the money I make, the more hot investments I make that turn out to be a big success. Then in turn I can go brag to my friends. OR I can just tell myself subtly, quietly, I do have what it takes, because look at what I’ve been able to do financially.
Money is a lure, a very dangerous one. I’m trying to find something to medicate the wound that I’ve got to make me feel like the man I think I’m supposed to be. So, I just see money as being a tool for that validation, and it is destructive.
Money: The Score Card
Paul Amos: For me personally, performance is the thing that I focus on. The better I perform, the more I was rewarded, the more I was able to actually get love and affection. One of the biggest counters of that is money. The more money you make, the more you perform. Money is society’s score card.
Q: The Bible probably talks about money more than almost any other item. Which is surprising to people when you think about love and all the messages of Jesus. What do you think that’s about? And what do you think is at the heart of Jesus’ heavy focus on money?
A: Richard Illges: Jesus is after your heart. That is what he wants from us. He doesn’t want the performance, he wants your heart. I believe He knew money would be the avenue or the temptation to go down.
Take for example the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler came to Jesus and Jesus said, go sell all your possessions, and he turned and walked away crying. Jesus knew that’s the one thing I don’t want to do it.
Thought Tank: Money vs Jesus
He knew that money was going to be one of the biggest temptations we turn to. He knew it would become an idol, that it would become our god. In America’s capitalist society, how often do we check our net worth on our phone every day? Or look at our stock portfolio or measure our investments, or simply think about money? How often do you think about the next car you want to have or the next house or vacation? Versus how much time we spend in a relationship with Jesus.
Money becomes our god. It becomes our idol. It becomes what we think will make us feel better about ourselves.
Jesus wants us to bring that to Him. He wants to give us what we need. Money is probably the greatest lure we have, and so I think that’s why I spoke about it so often.
Money Mindset: Radical Reversal
Q: Paul Amos: When you look in the Bible, there are things like the widow’s mite that show money and the receiving/giving of money as being so powerful. Can you talk for a minute about tithing and charity? Because in one sense we see the evil that money can bring, but in another sense, God has told us very directly how he wants us to give money and how he wants us to be generous to others.
A: Richard Illges: From my personal experience, giving money away/tithing has been the best counter to the temptation for the idol of money. Andy Stanley, who speaks so well about money, has always said “I give first.” He said, “I do it to tell my money, ‘you don’t own me. I own you.’” Versus paying your bills first, then at the end of the month, seeing if there is some money left to give away.
Radically shifting your mindset to give first, to know it’s not my money, that I’m just the steward of it. It’s like The Parable of the Talents. I think that’s what God’s doing with each one of us, and by giving first and by giving abundantly, we are defeating that idol of money. By giving first, you are saying money is a tool, not an idle. You are using money to bless other people, and then live on what’s left, which is a radical reversal of the mindset that most of us live with.
Charitable Giving: Talents and Abilities
Q: Paul Amos: When I think about charitable giving I think about giving back in multiple categories. Money is just one of those categories. Giving back in terms of our time and our service are essential elements. How do you think about giving back charitably?
A: Richard Illges: I think it’s way beyond just a check you can write. You’ve got a lot of skills and talents that I don’t have, and a ministry might need those skills and talents.
I’m involved with the minister here locally, and they’ve pulled people together on that board who’s got far different skill sets than the founders that are they’re running it. They’re passionate about what they do on the street in the day-to-day ministry. But I can come and not only support them financially, but I’ve got other talents that they do not have. As I look around the room and see the other board members there, you see how God kind of puts this mosaic together, people with all different talents, skills and abilities.
One person might have a heart for something I don’t have a heart for and can speak to that. Where I can talk more about the financial side of things and say are we really thinking about this the right way. I’ve seen the founders of this ministry just radiate with that notion, “You just don’t know how blessed we are to have all this talent around the table helping us accomplish what it is we want to do,” and that’s not money, that’s truly talents and abilities.
Q: Paul Amos: There are so many ways the enemy can take away from a man. He can edge at the heart when it comes to everything from sex, to addiction, to anything that bonds an individual to a loss of a masculine heart.
But financial things can be a loss of the masculine heart too. Often, men are seen as the financial head of the household, and when financial decisions have gone awry, they’re seen as being totally broken.
Can just talk for a minute about what you see and how people make mistakes financially? What can a man do to begin to try and crawl out of that hole?
A: Richard Illges: We all make financial mistakes. You’re right, when they go south on us, what immediately comes on, is the shame. The way it is constructed is, if I do this and I get a pay off, then I’m going to get my reward. The reward of the pay-off yes, but also, it’s going to validate that wound. The reward is going to validate the healing of that wound. If this risk pays off, then I’m going to prove to myself that I have what it takes.
When it goes south, it’s going to have the exact opposite effect and it’s going to crush you. The shame will come in, the condemnation, all those things the enemy whispers to you along the way.
I’ve seen people do it. I’ve seen greed take over as people leverage bets on things. Those people losing track of the real purpose of the money.
The mindset is what you can get from it versus it has verses viewing money as a tool.
When I see people take out an oversized or an extremely aggressive investment, they’re saying, ‘I’m looking for thrill’ or ‘I’m looking for a big pay-off’, or ‘I’m just kind of board I need something to do.’
The root of that is, I’m needing something. I’m looking for something. I’m looking for a validation.
When we do that with our money, just like sex or drugs, and it can be very destructive. When that pay off doesn’t happen and it’s exposed then all that shame comes in and conflict arises.
How do we combat that temptation? First of all, give.
I just absolutely believe you should give radically. Flip the script and just say, for example, from this day forward, I’m going live on 80% of our money, I’m going to give 10% and save 10%.
That’s the abundant life. It’s like, God, it’s all your anyway. None of us are getting out of here with it alive, and we aren’t taking it with us. So why stop at 10%?
Give more. The more abundantly you give, the less a hold it has on you. Be an instrument of God’s money to invest it in places where I can like a kingdom impact.
It’s a tremendously freeing tool to combat the lust of the idol of what money can do. What can you do with money? You can turn around and give it and bless other people to make a significant impact. That’s what you’ll take into eternity.
I want to see how successful I can be, to see how much more I can give away.
Money and Risk Taking
Q: Paul Amos: The idea of earning additional money through investments is about taking some level of risk.
When you’re advising your clients and talking about risk, how do you think about what is appropriate versus what is inappropriate?
A: Richard Illges: When looking at The parable and the talents, there are three guys. Two of them went and invested the money and essentially doubled it. One guy buried it in the backyard because he was so fearful of the master.
We don’t know exactly what the first two men did, but they invested and no doubt took on a degree of risk. But remember, it wasn’t their money. The master hired them to go manage his money. They doubled his money for him, obviously taking on some degree of risk, but it was within a comfortable parameter to win, ie- I’m not going to lose it all, but I think I can make a good return on his money. So it’s an appropriate balance versus the other guy who was so fearful he just buried it in the back yard and did nothing with it.
Money has got a purpose. We want to try to grow it. We want to try to be responsible stewards of it. God doesn’t want us to bury it in the backyard and take no risk, nor does he want us to gamble it all the way on who’s going to win the NFL game next Friday night.
My advice to our clients is always, you spread the risk, you don’t take outside bets, you don’t chase what’s hot because it’s thrilling. That’s where you start getting into trouble.
Grounded in Reality
Q: Paul Amos: How do you keep people grounded in the reality of what Jesus is talking about versus the emotion and the expectation of what’s happening on TV? The expectation that people see with a massive amount of spending that’s happening today, how do you keep them grounded?
A: Richard Illges: Warren Buffet always says, ‘Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.’ That’s just kind of a bedrock of what I believe about investing. When you see the mania and you see the crowd all rushing one way and it appears thrilling… I’m going to be more tempted to pull back and think about the downside versus when everybody’s panicked and fearful and afraid, the economy is never going to reopen and the stock market is going to go to zero, etc. – That’s usually the best time to buy.
I’m not trying to make home runs either way, but I’m saying there’s a time to reap and there’s a time to sow. It’s just a balance, but I always think about it is there’s always a time to sell and there’s always a time to buy, just don’t get greedy and don’t get fearful.
It’s all His money, we’re just trying to give him the best return on his money, and the more successful we are, the more we can turn around and invest in the kingdom.
Overcoming the Fear of Money Mistakes
Q: Paul Amos: Earlier you mentioned shame. How do you get people comfortable with getting out of that shame when they have made mistakes? I think about shame in terms of addiction, I think about shame in terms of the choices that people make, and the fact that there have been so much sin in their lives, and it can be paralyzing. The shame and fear in that cycle is one that can get people to a place where they feel like they can’t act.
I think with money, there’s a sense of, I have lost my money, I’ve made poor choices, now I don’t have the money to spend. How do you get the courage again to go and build the right things as opposed to burying my money and living in fear of what happens?
A: Richard Illges: Jesus is after your heart, and he’s never going to stop coming after your heart. It doesn’t matter how far down the road you are, how destructive it’s been, how much shame there is, Jesus forgives and wants to help us right the wrong.
All Jesus is asking you is, just do it through me. Trust me through the process.
If your life is a train wreck, believe he wants your heart. Believe he is coming after your heart and be willing to try one more time. But this time try through His lens, through His direction and trust His process, rather than the things that got us off track in the first place.
I don’t ever believe it’s too late, I really don’t.
People can make that turn around by being obedient to God, by giving back and by doing the right things, the saving principles.
I don’t come at money for what it’s going to do for me. I think that’s the difference. I think in the past life, it was going to give me something back, not financial return, it was going to give me back an emotional return to help fix my wound. I’m no longer going to do it that way. I’m going to view it as a tool. I’m not relying on money to validate me as a man, I’m not relying on it to fix anything in me. It’s just a tool. I’m not going to view it as something that can fix all my problems and make me feel better about myself, that’s only going to come from Jesus.
Paul Amos: How many times have I made the mistake of viewing it as a tool, of viewing money as something that was going to fix something. Multiple times in my life, I’ve aspired to earn enough money to buy something and what I find is at the end of that journey, it is always one of the least rewarding things that you can never do. On the flip side, every dollar that I’ve given, I find to be some of the most rewarding things that I have done.
Until you experience that, it’s hard to actually hear people and to actually realized that giving back makes a significant difference, not only in others’ lives, but in your own lives!
Richard Illges: When you give money and don’t want people to know, there is a sign of freedom. There is a sign of restoration. That’s a sign of progress.
Paul Amos: The enemy is tempting us with vanity. That recognition is something that is so often sought in charities. They’re constantly putting up different levels of giving different numbers, things that aspire to reach a different level, and the anonymous is not something that you often see. What a powerful message it sends when you can be free from giving and having an expectation of something in return.
Q: Paul Amos: We’ve talked a lot about the wound and the heart that the man has. I think about the wound in my own heart. Can just talk about what it means for someone to overcome that wound and shifting from a life focused on our earthly situation to one of our heavenly situation?
A: Richard Illges: I know this is kind of a repeat of the last topic, but coming at it from a mindset that it’s not going to do something for me, it’s not going to make me feel better, it’s not going to fix my father wound or my mother wound or any wound. I’m not relying on money for that.
Now I’m going to give it away. I’m ready to invest in the Kingdom, I’m ready to impact other people’s lives through this thing, I don’t even want any credit for it. That defeats the shame. That’s restoration! That’s wholeness. That’s living out of your true self. That’s realizing I’m not taking it with me anyway, whatever I’ve got, He’s given to me. He’s asked me to be a steward of it. Giving anonymously is the best way to defeat the dragon of what money can be, which can be just a powerful lure to take you down.
How do you stay focused on God’s message?
Q: Paul Amos: When I think about all the Bible studies that I’ve attended at Man School, and all of the messages that I’ve heard you give, I’m kind of blown away at how God must be speaking to you and all the things that he must be telling you about what he wants this message to be. Can you talk about your way of giving back? How do you stay focused on what it is that God wants you to preach as a message to your audience?
A: Richard Illges: I went to a Wild At Heart boot camp in Colorado, and I came back from that and said, I’ve got to change some stuff in my life. I got off all boards, any civic thing I was involved with it. And I just began to ask God. I want a place to serve. Shortly thereafter, Keith who was leading Man School at the time, came to me and said he wanted me to take that over and lead it. Now, I’ve been doing it for 10 or so years.
I listen to podcasts all the time. I watch sermons all the time. I read all the time. I’m filling as much in my free time as I can, just trying to get fed and get information and hear what God wants me to bring to you guys on Wednesday mornings.
How much bandwidth do you give God?
Q: Paul Amos: I had an interesting devotional the other day that talked a lot about the bandwidth that we can give to God. It sounds like you’re giving more and more of your bandwidth on a daily basis.
I think about the fact that five years ago, I didn’t listen to a Christian song today, I almost exclusively listen to Christian music. I think about what I try to do in terms of the time I spend in my Bible. And this is not for vanity or for anything, it is trying to give God the time that he really wants us to receive.
It’s clear to me that you’ve done that. What do you do to maintain that? And how do you keep your spirits high and focused on what God wants you to know?
A: Richard Illges: I run a full-time job too, and it’s a stressful business and it’s demanding, So it’s a side gig for me, but it’s incredibly valuable side gig, and it’s my priority. This is where I get all of my spiritual feeding is through my preparation.
Time in the woods, time away, nature, I’m big into just time to reflect, to communicate with God and ground myself. It’s restoration to me.
Trying to keep that balance. A lot of times I’ll go at night and just sit in my driveway in a chair, I have my dog out there and we just sit, watch a sunset, I’m just trying to connect with the Father anyway I can.
You mentioned restoration, and we’re very fortunate that next month, we’re going to have a fabulous opportunity to talk with Bart Scarborough about restoration in the ministry that he’s built.