Generosity is grounded in our connection to one another as the body of Christ, and in our desire to share God’s mercy and love with all whom we encounter. However, there are practical struggles that come with this. In my years as pastor, I have had many a conversation with individuals and couples alike, both young and old, involving financial struggles. Though our culture puts a high premium on wealth and the lifestyle it can buy, we do a poor job of educating our populace about how to manage money, budget, and save.
This has been a challenge for me, personally, as well. Over the years, my spouse and I have struggled to live generously, especially as a young couple with children. The demands of family life and our desire to give our children the best has often put us in money troubles. Add to that our student debt, and you have a recipe for a lack of generosity. So I confess that I have not always been faithful in the ways that I have managed my personal finances. I have often meant well, but, as we know, meaning well does not mean doing well, or being healthy in that aspect of our lives.
Some years ago we made the commitment to sacrifice so that we could move towards tithing (10% of our gross income). We wanted to live into our commitment to have “all things in common” with the congregations that we served. It has been one of the most difficult decisions we have made. It has made us vulnerable at times, embarrassed to admit that we had made many irresponsible decisions with our money early on, and has often made our monthly budget extremely tight. Adjustments had to be made.
I would love to tell you that it has become easier with the years, but actually it has become more complicated. As our children get older they want to do more things, have more things, and experience more things. Due to our financial commitments to the body, we have had to learn to say no. We have had to ask the question, “what is enough?” many times.
Jesus spoke about money more than any other topic. I think Jesus knew the human penchant to hoard treasures on earth, to see our financial resources as our source of safety, privilege, and a sign of our good relationship to God.
More than once, my spouse and I have found ourselves praying the prayer Adam Hamilton gives in his book Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity: “Lord, help me be grateful for what I have, remember that I don’t need most of what I want, and that joy is found in simplicity and generosity.”
It has not been an easy journey, but it has transformed the way my spouse and I understand generosity, our relationship to God, and our calling to be part of a community that is actively changing lives every single day. It is still a process of discerning what is enough, but we are grateful for the journey that has opened our eyes to so much more than material goods.
So, I invite you to join me in prayer for how God might be calling you to a life of freedom and joy through generosity and simplicity. I invite you to join a small group or a Sunday School class that is studying Hamilton’s book, and to be in conversations with your brothers and sisters in Christ on what it means to have “enough.” I invite you to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in your home through examining and rearranging your financial priorities. And finally, I invite you to renew your commitment to live into the promise to support this body through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.