R.G. LeTourneau, cheerful giver

About 40 or so years ago, as a young lad, I would carefully examine each of the pieces of mail that came to our home. To this day I can recall the newsletters of the R.G. LeTourneau organization. Most of them had a large piece of earthmoving equipment prominently displayed in a black and white photograph - the sort of photo that would have captured the attention of any boy.

Wow. Every American is indebted to Mr. LeTourneau in that his factories supplied 70 percent of all heavy earthmoving equipment used by the Allied forces during World War II.

Here are a few short reviews of several books about him. Notice in the last review that he gave 90% of his income to Christian charities. In view of the fact that Jesus commended the widow that gave all she had, I sincerely believe that the subject is a little more complicated than: "We don't have to tithe anymore - that's the Old Testament."

What we can all agree upon, I hope, is: "The Lord loves a cheerful giver."

LeTourneau, R.G, A Picture Story on Industrial Chaplaincy, Zions Herald, March 14, 1945.

Depression-era businessman R.G. LeTourneau (1888-1969) understood the importance of stewarding one’s work and influence for the advancement of God’s kingdom. The earthmoving machinery entrepreneur said of his various factories, “We are seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and he adds all the rest.” LeTourneau’s goal was “to create an atmosphere that will be conducive to Christian living,” realizing that there cannot be any “respecting of persons” in the workplace. He recognized that from top to bottom, “as an industrialist, he ... cannot exist without the group.” Says this article’s intrigued author: “This is a revolutionary idea! People have used religion for centuries as a sort of ‘personal pleasure,’ but here is a down-to-earth plan that puts religion into the everyday living of mankind.” Note: No downloadable text or audio is available at this time.

R.G. LeTourneau: Moved by God to Move Men and Mountains, Rick Williams. Business Reform 2, no. 4 (July/August 2002).

R.G. LeTourneau (1888-1969) was mostly responsible for equipping the Allied invasion of Normandy with machinery during World War II. His life was changed by the realization that he could serve God as a businessman. LeTourneau’s first business went bankrupt, sending him into debt by $5,000, a large sum in his day. However, a pastor friend told him that God needed businessmen as well as pastors. Eventually he found a construction job and became successful. Amidst his success, LeTourneau remembered God’s faithfulness and gave 90 percent of his earnings to Christian endeavors. LeTourneau lived by the statement, “If you’re not serving the Lord, it proves you don’t love him; if you don’t love him, it proves you don’t know him.”

Mover of Men and Mountains: The Autobiography of R.G. LeTourneau, R.G. LeTourneau. Chicago: Moody Press, 1972.

This autobiography relates the story of how one entrepreneur used his extraordinary business skills and creativity to further the missionary work of the Great Commission and the cultural mandate to cultivate both the natural world and the dignity of human beings created in the image of God. An eminent 20th-century innovator in the world of manufacturing and construction, LeTourneau tithed 90 percent of his personal and business income to the Lord’s work, establishing a foundation and a liberal arts and technical college, as well as making significant contributions to expanding the work of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and Christian Business Men’s Committee. Especially helpful is his discussion of bearing a gospel witness to his employees not by instituting mandatory chapel programs or Christian-only hiring practices but, rather, by diligently promoting a biblical work ethic at every level of his operation. “In that kind of atmosphere your toughest roughneck is very apt to find Christ himself, and then you’ve got something.”

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