Each month, we introduce you to a Christian who is on the generosity path, and we ask them what God’s taught them about giving.
This month, meet Jonathan Pak from Korea.
1. God May Test Your Integrity and Trustworthiness.
Jonathan’s financial planning firm in Korea has 95 advisors serving more than 10,000 clients. But before God gave him this successful business, Jonathan says, “I was very poor and didn’t have enough to run my family, because I could not find a job during an economic recession.” To secure a job in an insurance company, Jonathan’s Branch Manager wanted him to falsify a document about his career. He told Jonathan, “You need to have been an advisor for four years, but you’ve only been here for one, so just change your career history and I’ll appoint you.”
Jonathan says, “God tested my integrity.” On the way back home after that conversation, “I said to God, ‘I regret being a Christian because I could make more money.’ But that was a lie. My salary was just $1000 (USD) per month. That’s not big money!” “But this is the Christian life. I opened my Bible and the story where the Holy Spirit hindered Paul from going to Asia. I decided that I should not go faster than the Holy Spirit.” I told my company “no.” Then a high-ranking officer in the company—even higher than the branch manager—heard about it and said, to Jonathan, “I heard you are such an honest person and because of your integrity, why don’t you join our company?” Jonathan says, “So God blessed me and I became a good income earner, and I learned how to pray and do business based on prayer.”
As God built his business, Jonathan gave more and more. “I was giving maybe 50 percent at that point” as he started his business. Jonathan says he gave “because I wanted to see what God would do; I wanted to say, ‘You are the One who blesses me.’ I had been poor, but God blessed me a lot. As that happened, people gathered around my company.”
There are powerful, transcendent principles of financial planning from the Bible.
2. God’s Financial Wisdom Changes Advising.
Jonathan connected with Kingdom Advisors in the U.S. and began translating the materials for all his advisors. Jonathan and his colleagues became more confident offering biblical advice to clients. “We let them know that there are powerful, transcendent principles of financial planning from the Bible,” says Jonathan.
For example, children in Korea may assess others’ families’ wealth by asking “How big is your house?” After a woman’s son complained that his classmates laughed at the size of his house, she came to one of Jonathan’s advisors and asked about going into debt for a bigger house. Jonathan asked “Why do you want a bigger house?” She said, “Because my child has been discouraged a lot, so I want to buy a bigger house.” Jonathan’s advisor asked, “How do you think God thinks about your plan?” The lady was surprised, “Is God concerned about my borrowing money from the bank?” This Korean Kingdom Advisor showed her passages on debt and then said, “Why don’t we just pray about this for one week?” One week later, she said, “This is not right for me to borrow money with this kind of motivation.”
“These kinds of questions are a very Christian approach,” says Jonathan. “We tell clients: enjoy giving, prepare your eternity, avoid debt.”
3. God Will Call You to Seasons of Earning and Seasons of Learning.
“As a church member, it is sometimes tough,” says Jonathan. “There can be giving fatigue. Giving can feel like an obligation, like a duty. But when I joined the Journey of Generosity, I was surprised at the different talk about giving. I realized how far away my attitude was from the Lord’s attitude.”
Jonathan has continued to hear from God. He gave his position to new president. “I asked God, ‘Let me know your sign.’ He’s told me to go to seminary, but I’ll also keep speaking and encouraging financial advisors. My wife knows that I was very happy as a financial advisor, meeting with people and sharing the Gospel with them and encouraging them to follow Christ, so we plan to keep doing some of that.” “God wants me to do something in this industry,” says Jonathan, but he’s discerned that his next step is to advise “not as a business, but as a ministry.”
The Bistrians loves to give to:
Rebecca is a Sri Lankan missionary who came to Korea to minister to Korea’s thousands of foreign workers, including many Sri Lankans. Rebecca established a shelter for these workers. “Every week, about 30 Sri Lankan people stay in that house,” says Jonathan, “and Rebecca actually started a Sri Lankan church in our church!” says Jonathan.
One day Jonathan saw her crying and asked her why. “I need someone who understands my ministry,” Rebecca said, “and can help take care of my ministry.” Jonathan prayed and realized, “I could help this lady, but at the time, I planned to buy a car for my wife—a good car.” Jonathan asked his wife. She said, “Don’t buy it for me to prove how much you are good [as a provider]. Don’t try to get that accomplishment for yourself. I don’t need a car right now.” So the Paks made a large gift to the lady with his wife’s joyful agreement as a way to celebrate their tenth anniversary not with consumption, but with generosity.
Rebecca’s visa expired and she has now returned to Sri Lanka. Jonathan laughs, “We gave her a gift that we thought would be her retirement money. But of course, she bought a car with that money to help a ministry. She has now started nine house churches in Sri Lanka since going back.” Some retirement!
Rebecca has started nine house churches since she went back to Sri Lanka. Jonathan went to visit Rebecca in Sri Lanka. But just before Jonathan arrived, Rebecca had a car accident. By God’s grace, she was OK, but her car was destroyed. She could not make her visits to her church members. Jonathan saw how the lack of a car was impacting her ministry. His team prayed together about what to do about her car.
After ten days, Jonathan and his cell group devoted $8000 to her car. Then one lady who does not know this missionary in other city has now joined their generosity. “She gave $50,000,” says Jonathan, “and then Rebecca decided to buy a bus and hired some Sri Lankan members of her church to start a tourism company!” Jonathan wasn’t sure that was wise. “I said to her, ‘This is not small money, so please don’t be in a rush,’ but God told me, ‘She’s my daughter and I’m going to take care of her.’” Jonathan realized, “God just opened the heavens and poured down what she needs because she gave her whole life to serve Sri Lankan people for years and years.”