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It’s about giving.  It’s that time of year where it’s on most people’s minds to give whether it’s a canned food drive, helping out at a soup kitchen, or giving toys to children less fortunate for Christmas.

Like I said yesterday, there are convictions that the Lord is working out in me that I’m still sorting out.  The heart of it is this: How can our family make it a priority to make giving a discipline we consistently live out?  How can we devote ourselves to live more simply?

Seven years ago, all my belongings that I really cared about fit in one duffle bag and a backpack, a rather large duffle bag, but it was only one nonetheless.  I look at my belongings now.  They’ve multiplied, exploded I don’t know how many times over the amount that once fit in that one piece of luggage and backpack.  Part of the reason why I didn’t have much before is because I was single, living abroad.  Since then, I’ve gotten married, had two kids, and bought a house.  Living simply has changed.  Well, it’s become a lot more complicated. Somewhere along the line, I lost sight of living simply and exchanged it for the American dream.  In this sense, I believe this idea of living simply will be a constant question that will have to be re-evaluated many times throughout my life.

When I was living abroad, teaching English and sharing the gospel in Asia I remember feeling indignant when I’d share with supporters back home about some of the financial burdens I experienced and then hear how these same supporters recently bought the newest, the biggest TV to add to their large home.   I didn’t hear back from them.  I was young then.  Even though I didn’t have a lot of money and was struggling in my fundraising, even then, I’m now convinced that I should’ve given my money to others.  I thought, at the time, it was enough that I was dedicating my life to ministry giving my time, my energy, all the more giving up my potential future-ruining my chances at having a decent career.  Wasn’t that enough?  To that question, I do have an answer.  No, it wasn’t enough because there is something about giving away money, seeing that physical wealth leave your hands and choosing to deliberately remember and be thankful for the provision God’s given to me already.  Funny thing is as I look back on these supporters, I find myself in their very same position.  How easy it is to get caught up in ambition, appearances, wealth and what everyone is doing.  Where do we go from here?

In Yancey’s Grace Notes, one sentence changed my perspective of the story about the widow with her last mites (Mark 12:41-44).  “It made no sense for a widow to donate her last few pennies to a corrupt and crumbling institution in Jerusalem.”  I never thought about the fact that the widow gave her money away to someone or something that wasn’t altogether pure, right and holy.  It’s the excuse I often make.  I don’t want to give my money away because I’m not sure if it’s going to be used in a fitting way.  I don’t want to give to that homeless person because what if he uses it for alcohol, gambling, or drugs?  Knowing that the widow may have given her money to something corrupt and the fact that Jesus championed her, making her an example for all of us to follow causes me to truly consider why not give generously, with abandon instead of with doubt, suspicion or over thinking it.

I believe that we were meant to give generously, give with abandon, give with grace.  I believe that God built it in us this desire to give.  Why else would we naturally see it happening in the world, even when there’s no logical reason to do so.  It’s the sin of selfishness that taints that desire, deforming it,  but deep down I think that it’s part of our makeup.  There are numerous examples of the benefits of giving. Researchers have documented something called a Helper’s High, a euphoric feeling that comes as a result of carrying out a kind act.  There is also research that shows those elderly who choose to give of themselves tend to live longer, happier lives.  Yancey said it best when he writes, “But in truth my need to give is every bit as desperate as their need to receive.”

My husband, afinanceguy (afg), and I discussed ways we could live more simply, realizing we’ve taken liberties with some of our spending habits that we’d like to amend.  There is the question of whether we should live much more drastically and give it all away and live in more basic means.  We have friends who have done this.  However, all I can say to this at the moment is that I’m not sure and I don’t know.  It’ll be a continuing conversation we will have to have with the Lord.  The real question that we’re able to contend with at the moment is this: What does it look like to be financially responsible, be wise with the resources the Lord has given us, yet continue to give in real ways?  We still have student loans from when my husband went to business school, a car loan we’re still paying off, a mortgage on a new home.

As a side note, it’s ironic that back when I was fundraising and had a positive net worth, I was much more limited in my ability to give much money away.  Now that I have a negative worth accounting for student loans, mortgage, car, etc, we have a greater ability to give due to higher income and credit limits since my husband and I are no longer fundraising and he has a regular salary.

How do you decide on your level of giving?  Do you also have debt you have to consider?  How have you followed the high call to live simply?