Lessons Learned From Hobby Lobby

Have you ever shopped at a Hobby Lobby store? The arts and craft supply store was birthed from a small picture frame business, started by David and Barbara Green in 1970, and has grown to be the largest privately owned company of its kind. Based out of Oklahoma City, Hobby Lobby has 800 stores in 47 states and employs 32,000 people.

But what you may not have known when you were shopping for your latest DIY project is the incredible story of stewardship that is the ethos of the company. David Green has been quoted across many sources for the way he talks about himself as a steward, not an owner. The family and the store have a rich history of stewardship and extravagant generosity. And it all began with a faithful grandmother.

Lessons Learned from Hobby Lobby

Generous History

To date, the Green family has given away hundreds of millions of dollars. I am a personal recipient of their generosity – they once donated $60 million to the university I attended to fund the scholarship program that paid for half my college education. But the family was generous before their small company exploded into a billion-dollar chain.

Mart Green, David and Barbara Green’s son, has recounted the story of his grandmother’s generosity while speaking to Crown’s CEO, Chuck Bentley.  

Mart shared that his grandmother was the wife of a Pentecostal preacher who served in very small country churches. She didn’t have much to her name but was faithful to give to the Kingdom. Yet, every time someone gave her a gift, she would politely ask how much it cost so she could tithe 10% on the gift.

Can you imagine? How much would you tithe if you practiced this at Christmas time? How much would you tithe if you just did this with your tax refund? Mart’s grandmother also didn’t have much cash lying around the house, so as you can imagine, this habit was a sacrifice.

But it became just that – a habit. If you’ve never run a mile, the first few times you do it, it’ll probably be difficult. But the more often you use those running muscles, the more adept you become; you can run faster, better, increase your capacity. Giving is the same way.

Generosity is easy when it’s an integral part of our lives. It breaks the mindset that we own it all; it’s the antidote to materialism and comparison.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

This sacrificial habit Mart Green’s grandmother practiced solidified the mindset of stewardship – that she’s just a manager, not an owner. Habitual, sacrificial, generous giving does the same in our hearts and minds.

The legacy of generosity Mart’s grandmother left allowed me to start one of my own. Since I was able to graduate from college debt-free, largely in part to the donation her grandson made, I’ve had the margin to give generously without the burden of debt. Her sacrificial giving decades ago laid the foundation for Kingdom work that is being continued by young people she’ll never meet.

Becoming Generous

Giving on a tight budget can be difficult, especially if you’re working to pay off debt. But God asks (doesn’t command) us to give because He is eager to bless us. It aligns our priorities and focuses our resources on building God’s Kingdom, not our own “Thingdoms”. Giving helps us “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Both giving and saving should be part of your monthly budget. Even if you can only give 2% of your income or $5 here and there, start now. Get into the habit of giving. Not only will it become easier to give, you may even find more to give. Take a page out of a faithful grandmother’s playbook and give even when it’s difficult.

Remember the story of the Widow’s Two Mites in Luke 21:1-4 –

“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

God doesn’t need your money: He already owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). But you can experience the blessing of generosity – and pass it down for generations to come. This quote from David Green is a great summation of the way we should think of our daily lives:

“I don’t care if you’re in business or out of business, God owns it… How do I separate it? Well, it’s God’s in church and it’s mine here. You can’t have a belief system on Sunday and not live it the other six days.”