Friday, April 06, 2012

Live with the Freedom of a Millionaire on Thousands Less

So if someone wants to be radically generous, to give more and more of their finances away for God’s purposes, what things have to happen? You have to have freedom and wiggle room in your budget; you have to have discretionary, unspoken-for income that you can give away. I asked my friend from yesterday’s post how he and his wife have positioned themselves to be generous; what choices had they made? Here’s what he said:

1) Housing: Thinking in terms of how much space, etc. you need to meet your day-to-day needs rather than focusing on how much the bank says you can afford.

2) Cars: Buying reliable used cars that will last years and years and paying for them in cash (or with a big down payment and quickly paying off any loan)

3) Motive test: Trying to filter decisions through the lens of what a given purchase would provide.  There are a lot of things we buy that we don't absolutely need but that make our often super-busy lifestyles more manageable -- for instance, we buy baby food instead of making our own, we recently bought a new computer, we hire people to mow our lawn during particularly busy times, etc.  We try to challenge each other, however, if we think that a purchase might be driven in part by a desire to impress others. 

4) Keeping a goal in sight: Saving money just for the sake of saving money doesn't work well (for me, at least).  Knowing that managing our expenses specifically provides freedom to follow God's leading in our career path provides a much more meaningful incentive.

5) The last one's not anything we intentionally set out to do -- but at least half of our close friends happen to be pastors or teachers or work at nonprofits, so instead of feeling pressure to keep up with our friends' spending we often find ourselves trying to be sensitive to others who are living on tighter budgets as we make plans.

Positioning ourselves to live generously takes intentionality, making choices that are Kingdom driven, not desire-driven. It takes clear vision. It is helped by a community of like-minded friends. And the Bible teaches us in 2 Corinthians 8:7 that giving is empowered by God’s Spirit – it is a grace given to us by God, if we would simply receive it.

My friend put into words what Diane and I have been practicing for most of our marriage, and I can agree with him that these things work.

So what if you’re in over your heard right now? Start thinking of ways to downsize. Can you sell your car and buy one with cash or one that you can pay off quickly? Can you tear up your credit cards and attack your debt so that it’s gone, freeing up money to be given? Can you downsize your home, reducing your mortgage and energy consumption? Can you choose to eat out two or three times less per month in order to give more away? Can you commit to waiting 24 hrs before making an “impulse” buy when the Groupon hits your inbox?

There is so much joy in living generously for the Kingdom, in getting free from the hold of “stuff.” May Christ’s followers lead in this new way and trust God to bring joy as we do!

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