When our children began earning money through their first jobs as teenagers, we gave them some simple advice regarding the use of the pay. We thought it would be wise for them to use the money in three ways: give some away, save some, and spend the rest.
I don’t remember prescribing amounts or percentages for any of those options…we wanted it to be a choice of their heart.
The choice for the use of our money is the same, even today, for all of us. Reader, you and I have three options with every penny we possess – we have a choice to give, save, or spend.
Now, many of the “spending” options aren’t truly optional…bills being chief among the obligatory. So, perhaps, we could even add a fourth option to the list – paying our obligations. That would relegate the spending option to the use of funds for discretionary items.
So, we pay our bills, put some away for a rainy day, give some away, and then have the rest available for spending.
And, now, the key question for each category: How Much?
If you’re still reading, you’ll now learn that I’m not a fan of prescriptive amounts. I realize if you’re a legalist – and wanting percentages -- you’re frustrated with that statement. Give me a moment to explain…
Paying Our Bills
Your bills are what they are, month after month. To avoid debt and other financially induced stress, you’ll need to pay what you owe. That’s the How Much for this category, and that’s about as prescriptive as I get. Please, meet your obligations.
Saving For Tomorrow
We’ve always tried to save as much as we can, while still paying our bills and giving away as much as we wanted. If you’re simply placing money in a simple savings account, you probably have determined a target amount. If you’re working with a financial planner, I’m sure you’ve seen the projections and graphs reflecting your investment plan. The really good financial planners will remind you it’s just a plan to reach a certain future goal. And plans can change over time, as life circumstances change. However, as changes are made to “the plan,” you may have to adjust your goals as well.
So, the How Much for savings will be as much as you can afford, while paying bills, giving money away, and having some to burn. Just make sure you are saving something.
Giving to Others
Now for the scariest scenario of all – a fundraiser making a recommendation on how much you should give.
Please, read on…you might have a pleasant surprise…
Once again, I have no prescriptive advice for this category. Many folks want a percentage or a formula for their giving. But it’s not that easy.
Math can’t resolve what is ultimately a matter of the heart.
Through my lengthy career in the stewardship/philanthropy world, I have found that peoples’ giving is either out of surplus or out of some degree of sacrifice. Surplus givers aim at preserving their standard of living and comfort.
In other words, think of a bowl of M&Ms in front of us. We would consider the contents of the bowl to be ours, and our desire is to consume all of them. Only as more candies are poured into our bowl and the bowl overflows are we willing to share with others. We are giving to others out of our surplus, if and when there is a surplus over and above what we feel is ours, and that which we desire to consume.
Surplus givers are much the same. A standard of living is not altered, and they only give in ways that will not impact that standard. Now, these folks can be super generous, but the giving is largely determined by the amount of overflow.
They give out of their “wealth,” yet they reveal by what they retain where their trust remains.
Just as the world looks at what we give, God cares about what we don’t give and what that says about our hearts.
And this takes us right back to who really owns our stuff in the first place. The wisdom of Matthew 6 just can’t be ignored. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. So…do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.
So, what kind of a giver are you? Take a moment for a self-evaluation.
Do you give gladly, but only out of your surplus? Or, do you consider what God would have you sacrificially give to your favorite causes, as you depend on Him for your daily bread? Do you dig deep into that bowl of M&Ms to give to another?
So, the How Much for giving is actually a reflection of our heart. We don’t have to give anything. Rather, we get to give from all we have received.
Let Me Be Clear…
As the chief development officer, I’m not sharing these thoughts because of what I want from you, rather because of what I want for you. Honest!
Joyful giving, and gracious & radical generosity while on earth…and two simple but profound words when you meet Jesus – “Well done!”
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