not more but how

Things always get strange when money comes into it. I don`t know why but it just does.

The idea for this week was to take the money you would spend on yourself and spend it on others. I did that but it was far from a perfect science.

Ultimately I found that I’m still fairly selfish. I’m happy to be generous with others and to give, but when it comes to money I still want for myself.

Here’s what I mean.

There were all kinds of opportunities to be generous and I took a bunch of them. No problem. A couple times I thought, I’m going to get a coffee, then didn’t and spent the money on someone else. Good it worked.

But when I checked my wallet at the end of the week I spent more than I usually do. Great right? More generous than I usually would be.

Well, sort of.

I just spent more. I was generous with other people and gave money away. But in the end I probably only didn’t spend the money on myself twice. 2 coffee’s I didn’t get. In all the other instances I spent the money I wanted to spend on myself and then also made a point of being generous too.

Kind of an odd response, especially considering it was my idea.

I suppose it’s a good first step. I was more generous with the people I my life than I normally would be. But I still felt like I needed to spend money on myself. I couldn’t just for one week leave myself totally out of it and be entirely generous.

I have no idea if it’s good or bad but it’s something for me to think and reflect on. If in the end I only had $10.00 would it go to me or someone else? Or would I try to rationalize why I should split it?

I don’t know.

So we’ll call this week a successful failure. I did it and I was more generous, but I’m not sure I ended up in the space or mindset I was hoping for. I’m going to ponder it some more and hope that I can really start to put others before my need for coffee or whatever else I bought. It’s not about spending more but how I spent what I have.

So many baby steps.

reallocating

This week I’m asking you to take the money you usually spend on yourself (buying coffee, eating out, new shirt, whatever) and spend or give it to someone. Ideally not a random act of kindness sort of thing but someone you’re in relationship with.

Random acts of kindness are fine, but I’m asking you to leverage this generosity for greater depth and love.

You know someone who’s struggling to cover bills? Help them out. Cover their cell bill this week.

Someone at work having a terrible day? Take them out for lunch, your treat.

You see how this requires relationship.

How awkward and strange to just tell someone you want to cover their phone bill when you don’t know them? You’d need to know them, talk often and understand their life. Know that bills are hard and with Christmas coming up things will be even tighter.

Maybe you say “Hey, I know things have been tough. I got this gift card so you can get your kids something cool for Christmas.”

Or just drop off a coffee on someone’s desk and say “looks like you needed one.”

Spend you actual real money on someone else this week.

And no it’s not a rule. You can buy yourself coffee too or eat out with your family. But if you spend $200.00 on yourself and family this week with dinners out and Starbucks, then pass along a $1.50 Tim Horton’s to a person at work, you’re missing the point.

don’t get me wrong prayer is important…

Prayer is important.

I worry every I write about prayer that people will get the impression that I don’t see it as important. I do. I value it a great deal. If you’ve been following along here you know that I wrote three prayers (here, here and here) and then reflected on them the following week (here, here and here).

Prayer is important.

But so often we stop there. I’ve written about it before. The temptation to just pray. To see or know someone in need and just pray. We are so much more than that.

That’s why this week’s challenge is for you to think of someone who you have recently said or have been tempted to say “I’ll pray for you” and go the next step. Make sure you pray for them, but also draft a list of the things you’re really and honestly prepared to do to love and support them. Then give it to them.

Most of us truly mean it when we say “let me know if there is anything I can do” but I’ve found this to be more impactful. It shows time, caring and thought. It wasn’t something that just slipped out or was said out of duty.

They’ll know you’re serious and that’s the point.

To be serious about our love and to not just pray for support but answer that prayer with tangible support as well.

fair, earned and the choice of generosity

It wasn’t going to be fair.

Well I suppose it had the potential to not be fair.

I was out with my volleyball team after our game. We had gone out the week prior and got the split of the bill wrong. Nothing big, I needed to have left another $3 or $4. Instead of giving over the money this week I just covered the beer of the guy I owed the money too.

If you don’t drink you may not be aware that $3 does not get you a beer.

He said, like most would “Thanks, I got it next time.”

Perfect!

It all worked out. I was short her covered. I pay more this week and next time he’ll make up the difference.

But what if it doesn’t happen?

Or if next week he gets drinks, then I get drinks, then he gets drinks, then I get drinks, then our season is over. When will I get back the drinks I’m owed?

Because my mind does crazy things like that process I just described I need to be intentional. This week I suggested you be generous once a day. I suggested you try to pick someone who hasn’t earned it. This case isn’t’ a great example because I actually owed him money.

But it shows why I need intentionality.

Without it my mind wanders in to fairness.

Without a decision to just be generous I start to think about how fair or unfair what I’m doing might be. I start to worry that he may not follow through next week or that I’ll end up on the short end of the deal at the end.

I start to think about me.

Maybe you’re not the same. Maybe you’re really good a just keeping others first.

I find it so easy to just slip back to me getting what I need. Me getting what I think I have earned or deserve.

So what do I do?

I should probably just buy again next time. I should just stop thinking about me getting what I deserve and being the generous person I keep telling you I want to be.

But the idea is the easy part. The hard part comes when I need to put down more money next week while my mind tells me I’m actually owed something.

a simple warning

This will cost you money.

Like I said yesterday, I try to be up front and transparent. Sometimes I get ranty and long winded. I get complicated and intricate.

Not today.

A life of compassion will cost you money.

You are going to put yourself in relationships that will cost you. You are going to connect and engage with your neighbours and those who have been marginalized by society.

Money will come up and you will give.

And it’s FANTASTIC!

Giving is amazing. It’s like exercise. It hurts and you often try to find ways not to do it but it’s rare that after you’ve been generous you regret it.

Sure there will be times you get taken advantage of just like there are times you pull a muscle at the gym. And it holds you back. It makes you tentative. You start out small and build back up to where you were.

I’ve said it before and I really mean it. Generous people get taken advantage of. So if you’ve never been taken advantage of you may not be a generous as you think you are.

Don’t think for one second you can live a life or compassion, a life of love, a life of grace and it not affect your bank account. It will cost you money, of that there is no debate.

So don’t be taken aback when it happens. Don’t be surprised when the request comes and God says “give.”

You’ve been warned.

it must be money

So we tithe.

It’s a part of the life of compassion. We tithe to the church and I suggest we start at 10%.

Our giving certainly doesn’t end with the church or with the 10% but it starts there. As part of our source and our community and our commitment we start there.

And our tithe IS our money.

I may have heard every possible interpretation of giving and tithing.

“I tithe my time.”

“I tithe my cottage.”

“I tithe my expertise”

“I tithe me ….”

NOPE!

You give your time out of generosity and love.

You’re gracious with your cottage and the blessing you have.

You pour back into community that has poured into you.

You tithe your money.

If there is one lasting thing I can impress upon you this week let it be this.

If you strive to live a life of compassion you need to give money away.

We spend far too much time thinking of reasons why we don’t need to give our hard earned money. We create reasons and systems that tell us we can keep our money if we do this instead. We hoard our money and then cover up our guilt with good deeds.

We need to give our money.

Generosity includes time, effort, resources, knowledge, it’s all there. We are called to all of those graces and to be generous in each of those spaces.

But none of those change our need to be generous with our money.

is 10% a taboo number?

I think more than the idea of tithing the amount one tithes is where it gets tricky. Frame a tithe as “we as members of the church should support the local church” and people are on board. Set a number and they get weird.

No one likes to be told how to spend their money. And for all the talk about how all we have is God’s, they are still the gate keeper. Everyone has their interpretation of how God wants their money spent. It’s a deeply personal thing which people often don’t want any input on.

And since I’m a man who respects and understand how deeply personal this is…I’m going to tell you how much you should give.

Start at 10%.

The big key in the sentence is START at 10%. It ties into the why we tithe from Monday, but if you commit to giving as a way of breaking money’s hold on you and showing your support for the local church I think just how I encouraged you to start with giving to the church we start at 10%, then go up.

Yes it’s Old Testament and yes we’re not forced to do it but I think the plan Jesus had when He abolished the law and called us to live by grace was not for us to regress to less than the law.

Often when I talk with folks about how we don’t have to tithe 10% because we are called to live by grace and not law it segues in to them not giving. It’s the reason why they don’t have to give. It’s the little gilt valve release that lets them hold their money.

“Well I haven’t felt Jesus call me to give recently so we’ve just been waiting for God to speak.”

“I’m just in a season where I can’t give and you know I think God has placed me here. I’m being faithful to the commitments (read debts) I have and God will honour that.”

I can’t recall a case where someone has argued that they are not tied to a tithe and then followed that statement up with how they are now giving more. If your giving more you won’t argue over if you must give 10%. You’ll probably say while it’s not a rule it’s probably not a bad idea because you get that it’s not about the number but the heart and that discipline helps the heart.

Bruxy made the point that grace calls us to deeper and greater commitment. Love your enemy kind of stuff. So wouldn’t it stand to reason that grace would call us to deeper generosity, or MORE than 10%?

Giving and generosity is a discipline. It’s hard to do sometimes and needs to be worked at and committed to. It’s not something we do when convenient. I think the commitment of a tithe sets our hearts and actions in line to the discipline of generosity. A tithe is the starting point of a generous life. We start there and go forward with more generosity. It is a good start to break the hold money has on us and our excuse making over why we can give.

For context, shortly after my wife and I got married we ran into some tricky financial times. I got laid off from my full time job and Sarah only worked part time while in a full time master’s program. We had two cars, a mortgage and all the expense of life.

So I get not being able to afford it, I really do.

But it still needs to happen to keep your heart and your actions in line with this life Jesus has called us to, which generosity is an important aspect.

We could have stepped back and said “God has blessed us with this house and these cars. We need to stop giving so we can afford the blessings God has given us. We will in the long run waste so much more of God’s money if we give up our home or car and have to buy it back. We wouldn’t be good stewards of what God has given us. This is a season where we can’t give but when it gets better we will.”

But we committed to giving back to God what He’s given us. We were blessed in such a way that we didn’t have to give up those things, but that was by no means a guarantee. We could have lost a car or our house. And admittedly that would have been a far harder discussion about tithing at that point. I’d like to think I’d have kept tithing but I don’t know.

Maybe you’re in that spot between giving and heat. I don’t have an easy answer for you. It’s a cop out on my end. I think you should give but I’m not you in your place. I’d love to hear your side about it.

But more than likely if you’re reading this on a computer with internet things might be tight but it’s not a choice between giving and paying your hydro. It’s between do we keep eating out or give? It’s between do we buy new clothes because ours are tired or give? It’s between do I have cable or give? It’s between fulfilling your desire and fulfilling the desires of Jesus.

I think Jesus is clear that as a follower of Him giving and generosity must be a part of your life, poverty or not.

tithing is outdate right?

If you are not a churchy type of person I’d skip right to the bold words even if you’re not churchy this stuff still applies, because today I’m going to talk about tithing and giving to church to start, but there is something I think for you at the bold marks (also thanks for reading, let me know if there are some other not so churchy/religious things you’d be interested in reading about or stuff I’ve written that was applicable to you. You’re just as much a part of this journey even if religious churchy stuff isn’t your thing).

Ok back to talking about money.

This is not the first time I’ve touched on it. I like talking about money here, here, here and here. I suppose it’s because I like taking about things that we often don’t talk about. Money is definitely one of those topics.

Bruxy talk about it on Sunday and so it’s on my mind again, specifically the idea of tithing.

Couple of starting points.

No your time doesn’t count.

Yes it should go to the church.

No you don’t have to do it anymore.

There we go all sorted, right?

Ok, so were starting at the same point and I suspect you’re thinking “do you have anything remotely helpful here or are you just filling space?”

I hope so and not the just filling space part.

To start then, why the church? The tithe is to help the poor and widow and others group do that.

Support them for sure. I wrote about giving to cbm (which you should go do right now). But do that over and above. Let the tithe to the church be the starting point or a primer for your generosity not the end.

I think where our money goes says a lot about what we value and who we trust.

I think when we keep out tithe from the church what we’re really saying is “I don’t trust you with my money. You don’t love the world the way I think you should and I’m going to put my money somewhere that does it right.”

I think it says “while I appreciate all that you do to pour into me and support me I’m not going to help sustain this. I’m just going to take.”

I think at times it says “I know best.”

You think that helping orphans in Uganda is more important than the work your local church is doing.

If that’s true you’re part of the problem. Why are you not connecting with your leadership and asking them to support orphans in Uganda or whatever you think is more important than what the church is doing now? Why have you not started the ministry through your church that you are so passionate about or made the connection to the group that supports orphans for the church? Why does none of this misuse of dollars involve you, an engaged member of the local church?

Again, remember you should still support MCC or World Vision or cbm. But if we gave generously to the local church and those in leadership knew the heart of their community was for the work of cbm, cbm could be supported by the church organization. But we do it as a community, pulling our resources together and working as a community.

Instead we take OUR money and give to OUR charities because the church isn’t going to do it right.

If you’ve spent much time here you know I’m hard on the church, but I really believe that’s the way it was supposed to be. A community pooling it’s everything to support what God has called them as a community to support. And I get that sometimes your passion and the vision of the church or the leadership can’t seem line up. We’re a bunch of imperfect people doing imperfect work. But you need to start there. Give church a chance to be what it was meant to be first. Do your part to build church the way Jesus wanted it.

We need to be committed to the church. There has been a long period of my life where I struggled and questioned if that was true but we do. Jesus called us to church. We need to support and foster the community it was designed to be and committed giving is part of it.

If you still don’t believe me go read your bible. 1 Corinthians 16 sounds an awful lot like a community (the church) consistently pooling it’s resources.

Re-cap:

  • give to the church first
  • if your church doesn’t’ give the way it should your responsible for that miss too
  • if the ministry you’re passionate about isn’t there go start it with the support of your church (or at the very least try first)
  • keep giving to worthy organizations. This is not an excuse to stop giving to other spaces.

Even if you’re not churchy this stuff still applies.

The idea of a tithe, committed consistent support of a cause you are passionate about, is so important to this life of compassion.

I run a community centre and when we get donations it really speaks to me. It so clearly shows that the person believes in what we do and that what we do matters to them.  We don’t have anyone that gives monthly to us. But that commitment would be amazing. It would speak volumes about how that person sees the work that we do.

Pick something that your passionate about and invest in their work, consistently. It may be a stretch and it may be hard but the life of compassion is hard. It opens you up to being a more generous person on the whole. Continued, committed generosity breaks the hold money can have our lives and lets us be the generous people a person marked by compassion should be.

Tomorrow, how much.

this migth suck: part 2

I wrote a while back about motives. It was in the week where we talked about all the reasons we don’t move into the life God has called us to live. If you haven’t check out week 5 (this might suck, only if, beauty and brokenness). I highly recommend it. It’s really important stuff.

But I was thinking again about motives and generosity. I was thinking how I keep encouraging all of you to get into people’s lives, to be generous with your time and your money and to recklessly love people.

I was thinking how I continue to tell you that this is life you were made for, this life of compassion is the life you were meant to live. Life in relationship and community, a life marked by love.

I was wondering though if I may not stress enough a point that I think was best articulated by Bonhoeffer when he wrote “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

I hope I haven’t given you the impression this is easy. I’ve said before, while it may be simple it’s not easy.

Giving sucks sometimes.

Giving hurts sometimes.

People hurt sometimes.

Relationships hurt sometimes.

There’s that old idea that it’s better to give than receive, and while it may be better it’s not necessarily easier or going to feel better. Sometimes it’s going to feel like it wasn’t worth it.

But we are called to die to ourselves, our desires and be obedient. Obedience isn’t always fun and it is going to require us to do things we don’t want to.

C.S. Lewis wrote “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditures on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among  those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.”

I’m asking you to be generous. I’m asking you to live the life you were made to live and it will be better but not necessarily easier. It may have more hurt, more pain but I will also have more depth, more love, more meaning.

Be generous. Give knowing it will hurt and stretch you.

I need to be reminded over and over, I don’t give to get something back. I don’t give for a reaction or praise. I give because God has called me, and you, to this life where we die to ourselves and place others first. Called to be obedient to loving others more than myself.

a little more for me

This week has been all over. Less thematic than I often do.

So to follow along with the lack of theme I thought I’d go back to money. It’s just what’s on my mind and as you know if you read Wednesday’s post, once it’s there it’s just kind of there.

I was wondering what I’d do if I had $100,000,000.00?

What would I do if I had some outrageously large sum of money?

To be honest, it’s fun to think about. Great way to kill a half hour drive home.

Think about it. Tomorrow you wake up with One Hundred Million Dollars! What do you do?

First I thought about how great it’d be to give so much money away. Not like $20 here or there but to set out and say “I’ve got $10,000,000.00 to put towards ending poverty in the Waterloo Region” or “I’ve got $2,000,000.00 to support a real effort to end homelessness.”

How cool would that be!? You could be a part of making serious change.

The best part? I could give away $30 million, invest $50 million so I could keep giving millions away for years and still have $20 million to support my family. Pay for my kid’s school, pay down my brothers mortgage and STILL have loads left for me.

I’ve always wanted really silly things. A big house and fancy car aren’t’ really that interesting to me. I’d love to have a fridge full of the strangest beers, loads of energy drinks and a giant TV to watch while I drink them.

What would you want?

So much good could be done! If only I had more.

Then God had to step in. I don’t know if I can say He’s a jerk but sometimes it feels like He’s a jerk.

It was subtle too. He just slid in and asked “what if you just found $1,000.00 in your bank account today? What if you tax return this year was more than you expected?”

And instantly I thought of all the bills we have, the savings we don’t have enough of, the stuff I wish I could have.

Not even a cent for someone else. Just me…

It would be so easy to be generous if I had everything I needed. If I had all my cares and worries taken care of, I’d be the most generous person in the world. How noble of me.

I live a good life and I have more than I need now but still, if I got just a little more, it’d be for me.

I guess I still need a lot more work being other centred and putting others first.

How are you doing?