Frugal living is sometimes a cover up for fearful living.
We live frugally, not because we are free, but because we are afraid. Afraid the economy will collapse or our investments will crash. Afraid that the government can’t guarantee our Social Security or our employers can’t guarantee our job security.
So, we freak—in a frugal sort of way. We hoard our money. We scrimp and we save and and we stuff it all in a coffee can, and then bury it in the backyard so no one can touch it. That way, it will be there when we need it.
This is Week 12 in a year-long series on finding Better Balance in 2013, and the second part of my sub-series on Becoming and Staying Debt Free. For last week’s post, click here. For all of the posts in this series, click here.
Early in my journey as a Christ-follower, I sensed God calling me to be a giver. I don’t mean just paying 10% to my local church, though that is great. I mean giving beyond that. Giving generously. Giving extravagantly. Giving recklessly, even.
Debt-Free Tip #1: If you want to prosper financially, give your money away.
I believe one of the main reasons Jon and I are debt-free today is because God has given us opportunities to bless others both financially and materially, and we have done our best to take those opportunities.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
Three Things Right off the Bat that Make this Post Difficult to Write:
1. I don’t want you to think we give money to get money. God is not a line-item in my investment portfolio. We give money because we want to obey God and bless other people.
2. I can’t show you how the math works on this (or how the math works on anything, really, because I suck at math.) This debt-free tip makes no sense on paper.
3. It’s almost impossible to write about generosity without violating the following scriptural principle:
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Matthew 6:1-3)
It’s tricky, trying to make my point about how giving has impacted our finances without pointing directly to myself and all the ways I’ve given. I don’t want to be all vague and cryptic, but neither do I want my only reward to be the nice comments you leave at the end. No offense.
So, please bear with me while I stumble through this post.
Growing up, my family didn’t give anything away, that I know of. (This spoke more of our economic state than it did our spiritual state.) We saved things. We re-used things. If stuff broke, we fixed it (mostly with duct tape and super glue) and then we used it some more.
We passed down clothing, toys, furniture and bedding from kid to kid to kid. We squeezed every bit of life out of every item, until it was too broken or too worn. Sometimes, even then we STILL didn’t throw it away. I’m amazed at the items my Dad still has in his house.
This ultra-frugal mindset was so ingrained in me (still is, obviously–see above shower image), that as a young college student and new Christian, I had a hard time knowing what an “extravagant giver” looked like.
At first, I determined to tithe my $5/per hour income and make a pledge for our building fund. This level of giving was uncomfortable, (because I barely made enough money to keep gas in my little Chevy Monza), but it wasn’t impossible. I was happy to write that check each month. I felt like I was making a difference in God’s kingdom.
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. II Corinthians 9:6-7
As a newlywed, I started giving away household items I didn’t use and clothing I didn’t wear. This may not sound extravagant to you, but considering my parents wore the same clothes and used the same household items my whole life…I felt rather radical, thankyouverymuch.
But it was a radio broadcast from Joyce Meyer that really shaped my definition of a giver. She said that true giving is not giving up your extra thing or your old thing. It’s giving away your best thing, your favorite thing—your only thing.
This gripped me. I was praying for God to create in me the heart of a true giver. But could I get to the place where I gave away items I used? Clothing I loved? Money I needed?
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. I Chronicles 29:14
It wasn’t long before God gave me an opportunity to find out.
It was the year 2000, and we were in the process of adopting Elijah. Glenda, our adoption coordinator asked me if I had any maternity clothes I could donate to Bundle of Hope Ministries for her pregnant birth moms.
Yes, I did.
In fact, I had a giant bin of maternity clothes. Nice ones. Well, nice ones for that decade. I mean, nothing says “I was pregnant in the late 90’s” like a pair of maternity stirrup pants.
Problem was, I was still hopeful we’d have more biological children and maybe I’d get a chance to wear those maternity clothes again. Plus, many of the items I wore when I was pregnant with Noah. They were super-sentimental to me. I loved those clothes. I needed those clothes. For so many reasons, I didn’t want to part with them.
But Glenda challenged me, “Why let them sit in storage? Why not bless someone who can use them NOW! If you get pregnant again, trust God to bless you with new maternity clothes.”
So, with hesitation, I said, “Okay, God. I will give my giant bin of maternity clothes to pregnant birth moms. And I will trust you to provide my need if I get pregnant again.”
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. II Corinthians 9:11
It would be a cool ending to that story if I told you I got pregnant again and God provided me with brand new maternity clothes. But that’s not how it happened. I never had more biological children, so I never had the need. But God blessed me in a different way. A better way.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
When Elijah was born, my pastor and his wife (who had 2-year-old twin boys) gave all their baby boy clothes to me. That means two sets of everything! This continued until Elijah was 3 years old and we moved to Kentucky.
Once we moved here, our friends Kevin and Cindy (who have two boys a few years older than Elijah) began passing all their boy clothes to me. These clothes are mostly department store and designer clothes, some with tags still on—way nicer than anything I would buy for my own kids. Again, because they have two boys, I get two of everything! I get so many beautiful clothes, I usually just take what I need and pass the rest on to my nephews.
Elijah, the baby I was adopting at the time I gave away my maternity clothes, is now 11 years old. Other than a few filler-items like underwear, sox and school uniforms, I have never had to buy him clothes since the day he was born.
For you number lovers: That means I donated about $1000 worth of maternity clothes to pregnant birth mothers and have received more than $11,000 worth of boy clothes in return. Give or take.
And I never made that connection between the giving and the blessing until I sat down to write this post.
I’m seriously sitting here with tears in my eyes at the way God has blessed us.
I’m so thankful I didn’t hang on to those stupid stirrup pants.
“Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:10-11
That single act of giving away maternity clothes released something in my heart. It set me free from any fear I ever had about finances. From that point forward, I completely trusted God to provide for us financially and materially, no matter how much we gave away.
Over the last decade, God has given us multiple opportunities to give extravagantly. Jon and I have learned to discern that holy nudge that says, “Give here. Give now.” Sometimes we both think of the exact same amount–and that’s way cool. Other times, I just defer to my generous husband to decide how much and watch excitedly as he writes the check.
Sometimes it’s a small amount, and sometimes I feel like we’re squeezing our eyes shut, holding hands and jumping off a cliff—trusting God to catch us or stick out a branch for us to grab or maybe hook a bungee cord on us or something. It’s fun.
As I was discussing this post with Jon, we laughed as we realized the more we give, the more God GIVES us to give! It’s insane, really. There has never been a time where we looked back in regret and said, “I wish we wouldn’t have given that money (or that thing).” Even through job loss and two expensive adoptions, we determined never to withhold our giving. Instead, we continue to plant our feet firmly in the soil of God’s promises to provide our needs.
And He has.
If your goal is to be debt-free, don’t live in fear. Look for someone in need and give them your stuff. Do it big. Do it often. Watch God provide.
“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.” Psalm 37:25-26
Q4U: One of the first arguments against giving is some version of this: “What about giving to people who may not use the money or items wisely—like beggars on the street who are notorious for using our money for drugs or alcohol?” What do you consider to be a Biblical response? Do you give or do you not? Discuss.