Giving money and possessions to others is a sign that our heart is in the right place.
Paying our bills is good, too, and an important responsibility. When we are trying to sort out our finances, that’s the obvious place to start. Maybe, we can lower our bills. Also, good.
I was never very good at long-term financial goals, but paying for your kids’ education, or funding your retirement, take a very long-term approach. The earlier you start, the better. These days, I believe one of the best things Patty and I can do is to build up our neglected retirement fund, so we won’t have to be dependent on the government or our children to provide us.
Then we get to whole discretionary area, what to do with what’s left over. Paying ahead on a bill might be smart. Sometimes we need things, especially when things break. It seems everything is breaking around here lately, including the very computer I am typing on. So, we need to buy new stuff.
Then, we get to the things we want. I have a thing for electronics and guitars. I don’t have a large sum invested in these things, but I think (dream) about upgrading, or adding to the collection every so often. It’s okay to buy stuff. We just need to be wise and thrifty, getting everything we can out of something before replacing with something newer and better. It’s fine to appreciate our worldly possessions, along with whatever degree of financial stability we have.
I have noticed with some of my wealthier friends, and even myself, that possessions can take over your life. If you own it, your will need to repair, maintain it, insure it, and eventually sell it, give it away, and maybe, replace it.
Stuff is a pain. Simplicity is beautiful. Sometimes, I wonder why my bookshelves are full of books that I will never refer to again, why my closet is full of clothes I don’t wear, and why my basement is just full of stuff nobody uses. I love cleaning this stuff out; it actually improves my quality of life. You have more space. You can find the things you are looking for easier. You can bless someone else, and you begin to seriously think about how little you really need.
There is something very healthy, although counterintuitive and almost un-American about giving funds and possesses away. For former churchgoers, we need to break through the wall of guilt that constrains us to give large sums of money only to the local church and Christian organizations. That’s a fine thing to do, if that’s where your heart is.
For years after pulling out of church, I looked for a Christian ministry or two to regularly support. I found one in this country that was a wonderful grace-based teaching ministry, and another one that helped African leaders battle easily curable diseases by working with them to drill wells, so they could have clean drinking water. We have also given one-time gifts to local arts institutions that we frequent.
Lately, we have been more focused on getting our own financial house in order. Several times a year, I need to travel to Missouri to help my family there. That is a basic financial responsibility to me. That is giving. I feel like I should be supporting Wisconsin Public Radio because I benefit so much from their morning programming. I probably eventually will do that.
I function through sensing purpose. So, I look for the giving opportunities that are the closest to me, the closest to my heart, and that are a part of my world.
The point is, this thing is wide open. Give cheerfully, meaningfully, and in a way that causes people to be thankful to God. It might be helping out a family member, a neighbor, a homeless person, or someone on the other side of the world. Give to someone or some cause close to your heart.
Of course, giving is not just about money. It’s about time, and our abilities, too. Those things are often more difficult to give because time is currency, and most of us value it very highly. Making a donation is quick and easy, but the deeper our involvement and the greater our sacrifice; the more meaningful is the act is for everyone.
If we can give our money and possessions to others in a meaningful way, we experience a new level of freedom. We are not shackled to our wealth and our stuff, and we can use them to be a blessing to someone else. Knowing that our sacrifice helped someone else and caused them to be thankful to God is the icing on top of the cake.