Monday, March 18, 2013

How Much is Enough? (a sequel of sorts)



Almost a year ago my head was spinning in the murky sea of How Much is Too Much. (Catch up here and here.) We were living in the Betty Draper Rental, in the process of building our new house, sitting on a pile of cash that would soon be siphoned out when we closed on the house. We bickered about the number of outlets we needed in the kitchen and wondered how much of a safety net we should leave ourselves. You have to remember, we were quasi-reformed disciples of the Dave Ramsey School of Life, and the emergency fund was the most fundamental and revered of all his tenets. There was a time when 6-months worth of a generous budget seemed not only preferable but essential. Back at the BDR, we knew times were changing and 3 months of a slimmer budget would probably be fine.

That seems like eighty or ninety years ago.

Here we are, ten months later. I laughed when I read my line, "On the flip side, we do have an emergency fund. We keep handing it over to hospitals and doctors and I'm thankful that we have it. (Thanks, Dave!) Maybe that's too much for some people. Maybe soon, it'll be too much for us." 

In the six months we've lived here, the conversation has taken a hard swerve from "How much is too much?" to "How much is enough?" I have to say, it's a better place to be. But I would be lying if I said the answer for us has been obvious or easy. There have been arguments and tears and maybe for the first time in forever, Cory and I haven't landed in the exact same place. That's okay, because it's forcing us to dig deeper and mine the words of Christ for the truth.

We moved into this house with insane medical expenses and two jail-birds who suddenly relied on us for every little thing, but we also moved into a mortgage payment that's roughly a third of what we used to pay.

Knowing our greedy hearts well, we knew we had to very quickly back ourselves into a corner. So the very first month, that dear, sweet precious month where we had no mortgage payment at all, we loaded up the Giving portion of our budget. We inked our deals and didn't dare look twice. We did it with one eye closed, in fact, then wondered for the next three months why there was always too much month at the end of our money (as Dave would say).

So our scrawnier emergency fund slipped mostly away and we're back to a new beginning - what is the right way to live? I'm not asking what's "responsible" or "safe". I don't want to know what conventional wisdom might say or what your Uncle Ray thinks.

The Jesus I'm getting to know kicked conventional wisdom in the shins and lavished the poor with love. The Jesus I see tells us that He ties our heart to our treasures - wherever they happen to be. The Jesus I love tells me not to worry about the shirts in my closet or the cereal in my pantry. He reminds me that he invented cotton and oats. He owns the patents.

My Jesus blesses the poor and spits out what the world values.
He demands that I love my neighbor (my orphan neighbor, my starving neighbor, my imprisoned neighbor, my living-off-the-system neighbor) as much as I love me.

Where does that leave me? What crosses the line from living by faith into negligence or stupidity? And most importantly, what should be done about the pitiful, banged-up car with no headlights, a trunk that won't open, and windshield wipers permanently stuck in the "Up" position?

We are committed to living debt-free.
It's quite possible that we'll live the rest of our lives largely paycheck-to-paycheck.
We are guaranteed to continue frittering away small sums of money on needless silliness like a new blue dress for no dang reason or the Mumford and Sons cd simply because the sky is clear, the sun is shining, and we need a new tune in our ears.

We'll go out for pancakes after church and we may even sneak away for a few days in May. But this kind of living reminds us of way-back-when, when we were newly married and sometimes over-drafted our checking account. It feels a little scattered; the ground is shakier than it used to be.

There's also this: It's becoming easier to not love money when we see our bank account as nothing more than a temporary pass-through. What was once a solid Holiday Inn Express is now the grimy hostel in Peru.

It's harder and harder to sit on cash when we're surrounded by the sharp drag of poverty. And it's ridiculously obvious that my giving is less about who happens to be on the receiving end and more about cleaning up my own, broken crud.

My instinct is to chuck it all. Honestly, it feels sort of gross to have it if I think it's only for me. But I'm also learning that my pendulum tends to rocket pretty wildly. Maybe it's time for a little middle ground? Maybe in this wacko world where I now live, the easy thing would be surrender, but maybe the wrestling holds its own value?

This is one of those nights where I'm all yammer and zero answers.

All I know is that Jesus calls us to live, move, love, breathe in reverse. It's never the way we thought it would be. It's not what we would have scripted if the pen were in our hands. So maybe our instincts are wrong and maybe peace can never be found in a smooth row of zeros.

What do you think?


79 comments:

  1. I love your blog and I mostly agree with you (on most things). That being said, it is not a bad thing to be prepared for rough times. When (not if) unexpected emergencies come up, you should be prepared. The Lord always gives us times of plenty in between the times of need. Its not a sin to prepare and however responsible you feel for those you see 'in need', you are even more responsible to your kids and spouse.

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    1. What a blessed sentiment to share. How good to know someone understands us, listens and really hears what we are saying.

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  3. I totally know how you feel. Two years ago when we decided to give more, He gave us more, to only give more. I find myself wanting to be more generous, fill up a needy small group girls gas tank, pay for a lunch... Small things, but trying to bless others as we have been blessed. Maybe this is small potatoes. And not what you are looking for. But I'm really trying to give till it hurts and not store up for myself and my own. I know I have more room to grow. Stewardship and comfortable living don't line up for me. And I'm still living comfy.

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    1. It's big potatoes (like 5 lbs of them - peeled!)
      I so understand you and I sure do like it. Yep, I can't shop like I used to. I have to be more mindful. Wah, right? Meanwhile, I'm still SO dang comfy...

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  4. I agree- the less you have, the less you hold on to it. And that's a good feeling. Preach girl.

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  5. I always look forward to google reader sending me your post at night around this time, but tonight you've given me a lot to think about, and I may be up a little longer! :) These are questions I ask myself too. I constantly worry about this money stuff, even when I want to be content with much less and joyful about giving more. I still worry and think about it all way too much.... So basically I still just idolize being comfortable and having control! AHHHHH! I just wrote down Matthew 6:21. Thanks for that reminder! And thanks for sharing your heart :)

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  6. Ummm- wow. Also, ouch. I hope I wont be misunderstood when I say that I have a love/ hate relationship with this post. ;) Talk about crud- heaps of it up in here where this topic is concerned! Thanks, as always, for sharing your heart!!

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  7. I think that if you are convicted you need to step out in faith. that does not mean pour all our extra savings & resources into giving but it might mean supporting a couple other ministries monthly - or opening up your emergency fund for other families emergencies. I don't know what the Lord will ask you to do with it. He may have you save it to bless your own children with the gift of college without student loans BUT what I do know is that if your heart is wrestling with the thought of the "extra" money you might just need to have a heart to heart with the Lord and see what HIS plan for that money is. It is His money in the first place and either way He will provide for you - He promises to!

    I am also preaching to the choir. I know that I need to constantly give my money back over to the Lord and trust Him to help me budget it.

    I love your blog and the newest look. It is so clean and pretty. And thanks for getting me into blogging! I love it times a million!

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  8. Ahhhh, I can relate. God has been teaching us some of these same lessons -- or perhaps I should say having us grapple with these ideas since we certainly haven't arrived. Have you ever read a bio about Lillian Trasher, George Mueller or Hudson Taylor? Their stories might inspire you about how God provided through them for many other people. It is a radically different approach than our typical middle-class America approach. Thanks for today's post.

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  9. Hi - first time commenter here - I love how you're grappling with these issues and reflecting so much of my own heart on this stuff. It really helps that others are struggling to come up with answers for these problems. I'm coming to the conclusion that money and wealth is the world's reward for us not Christs. As I give more i have not found any increase in wealth for us - quite the reverse to be truthful but that does not mean we are not blessed with other things - contentment, simplicity, joy, peace etc. unfortunately the church seems to continue to equate God's blessing with financial abundance ( even if that is in the context of giving it away) which would place my family and I and much of the world outside of his blessing. Doesn't make sense.

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    1. I agree times a million. "Quite the reverse" - YES. I was burned many years ago by the Prosperity Gospel. But that's another post for another day. ;)

      I love how you share that you're blessed by God with other things. Thanks for sharing here!

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    2. I love what you said,"As I give more I have not found any increase in wealth for us, but contentment,simplicity,joy, peace,etc." Thanks for sharing!

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  10. What do I think? I think I have so very far to go on this matter and much to think about. I think all, materially rich and poor, are sinners in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I think poor and rich, in Reality, in God's Economy, have nothing to do with money. I think poor hinges on the currency of money, or intellect, or influence, or eloquence, or wisdom, or DIY skills, or a keen sense of style, or outward beauty, or thriftiness, or athletic ability, or picking the winning team, or location, location, location, or... -- an attitude of self-sufficiency, self-satisfaction, rich in our own strength. I think we ignore the materially poor at our own peril, but I also think, if we're not careful, even our own giving away can become an idol, a matter of boasting. I think rich means poverty of spirit, love for Christ and love for others, and the knowledge of the vanity of all our own efforts -- the knowledge that God invented the currency, prints the money, and dictates the price, namely that Christ is the only thing in our pockets that will spend.

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    1. "Christ is the only thing in our pockets that will spend." Love this so much. You're exactly right. But I do think we have to look beyond that and I always think "bragging" about giving is like bragging about brushing our teeth. It's something that is required of us. All of us. Plain and simple. People get uncomfortable talking about money and giving, and the "bragging" stone fits nicely in the hand, but at the end of the day, this is stuff we should be talking about. It's complicated and the answers don't always rise cleanly to the surface, but it sure helps to dive around in the water with friends. :)

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  11. what do i think?
    i think i still don't get it.
    not really.
    oh i'd love to think i understand. that i can balance financial wisdom ( my husbands & that of our financial planner) and making plans for the future, especially with 4 children...balance that with "do we have too much? do we give away enough? am i dropping the ball on my own homecourt?"
    my heart needs to wrestle with this ....

    we have too much....that's all there is too it....

    i'm making no sense....

    love your words. love your heart. love that the lord is using you in the lives of so many of us my friend!! even those of us who can't string a well formed sentence...

    ox

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    1. Girl. Girl.
      You're beautiful. And you make so much sense to me.
      Or maybe we're both just equally confused.

      :)

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    2. i don't think the bible ever mentions balance. i've looked and looked for it. i do know that he allots seasons of extreme and seasons of rest. and from stories in the bible, we know he allots finances...wealthy and poor. extremes there too. either way, i think the focus should be more on obedience rather than how much do we give, how much do we keep. it's all his. what is he asking YOU to do. and of course that looks so different for every family and person. either way, everyone, no matter what your financial status is, is asked to give generously and graciously with the knowledge that whatever is yours is only yours because God said so. if we look at what other people are doing and how they are giving, it will often jack us up. we take something God is doing in someone's life and then immediately compare ourselves to it. but if we keep our eyes on jesus, and hear his voice, he will never lead us astray. ever. it doesn't mean when you give you get more back. thank you, prosperity gospel for letting us all see how much that principal doesn't play out in real life. ha. it means, when you give, you are pointing to jesus. you proclaim, he is the reward. when you sacrifice, you are saying, he is better. however that looks in your life, praise Jesus for his ability to individualize and meet us in the details of life and bank accounts. and praise him that it will look different for each of us to serve the different needs of the world. those needs are in the suburbs too. those wealthy people need wealthy people to live amongst them proclaiming the gospel. :) i say this as we're moving from the city to the suburbs. sounds almost shameful... and unpopular. but this is his call for us and we can not resist it. ( God is changing my resistant heart even as i vomit out this comment). LULZ. xoxo to you both. we'll all struggle together with this.

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  12. Good questions. Will come back later when I have more time to read all the comments. Just wanted to (briefly) share our story. Medical debt is what got us into trouble in our early married days and it took 7 years to dig out from that, committed to staying debt free. But also committed to going/doing what God wanted. That meant a very low paying job as house parents to mentally/emotionally impaired teens... Then into youth ministry... Now on the mission field. In the middle of all that God also gave us a year in Uganda, out in the bush working with orphans. Poverty so acute it hurt to look and yet unable to close our eyes. Dismayed we couldn't do more. On our first day in Uganda we were told the rules: NEVER give money to anyone without running it by the leadership at the mission. They (both Ugandan and American leaders) had been doing this for close to 20 years and knew who was in true need and who was trying to "milk the mzungu" (white). Have bars of soap on hand to hand out to the street kids when we went to Kampala. Pay your workers the going rate and not more. It was not always easy to follow the rules. Did I mention the extreme poverty? But God used the wisdom of the leaders in that community and we learned from them. Mainly that indiscriminate giving is not always good or beneficial for either the giver or receiver. When we left Uganda we left almost everything we'd taken or bought there, from clothing to household goods to books... And some of it we "sold" because the leaders said things were appreciated and cared for when the new owners had something invested in it (obviously prices kept very low). Most was directly given away to those we knew had a need but not the funds to buy it. Thru out all we checked with the leaders to make sure our giving would bless and not enable (as in the person would turn around and sell the gift in order to buy liquor). We're now ministering in a country where the poverty is not so extreme but "the poor are always with us" and we still try to be discerning and remember what we learned in Africa. I love to give and it's a joy when God provides ways to do that. These days it's often more in the form of time and service than physical objects. Giving isn't just about the money.
    That said, I think it's good and necessary to think thru the questions you're asking. God has a lot to say about giving/serving/money in Scripture so it's important that we know what He wants us to do.
    (Guess this wasn't so brief after all. Haha)

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    1. I just watched a little video about this exact thing late last night. It's like the When Helping Hurts book. It's important to think all of this through. It's hard for me to imagine God ever telling me "I just wish you wouldn't have given that away. I wish you had kept it for yourself." It's so important to remember that OUR ways are so very different from His. We see the world around us through all our jacked up lenses and he sees a world he created for specific reasons. I'm being reminded all the time that my giving is often about my own obedience more than it's about "solving" any one's problem.

      Ugh. That's what I mostly think.

      :)

      Thanks so much for sharing. Your story is amazing!

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  13. Love this post!!

    I have asked myself many times "how much is enough?" And know the feeling of "why are we hanging into all of this- cash, huge house and STUFF when we could be using it to help?" And what I came up with is:

    I don't need all the stuff. I am happier with less. The stuff just weighs me down. I think I will be happier at the end of my life if I helped more, but had fewer well designed chevron pillows and my Lucky jeans were recycled... But that's what works for me.

    I love your heart and thoughtfulness.

    Xo!

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  14. I am blessed in that my husband is firmly and 100% in charge of all things money. Sometimes it doesn't feel like I'm blessed, like when he tells me to go buy a new shirt and I feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable and unhappy in the store (because I second-guess every little thing), but I am blessed. Money stuff is a pain.

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  15. I have too much. That's a fact! I am wanting/trying to change that. It seems obscene to pay what we are paying to put new flooring in the house so we can sell it and downsize! Grappling with those things too.......

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  16. I sure love reading this. Our family is in the midst of what is a lean time, for sure. After years of abundance, we are living paycheck to paycheck. It's not what I pictured at all, especially when I look back to a few years ago of a very fancy, excessive existence. But, I too feel like my heart has been exposed over these last few years and I see that the less I have, the less I truly need. As much as I respect and understand people's deep desire for emergency funds and safe living, no longer having that available to me has shown me that that's not what God's plan for me on this earth was anyway. Maybe that safety net lures you into feeling comfortable in this world and THAT is a dangerous feeling. Comfy turns into complacency quite quickly when what God wants is an energy and sincerity in your heart for others. I LOVE your thought that your checking account is merely a pass through. Oh yes! I heartily agree and understand!

    I am grappling with lots of the same questions that you are and I love reading your words as you talk through it. God is right here challenging our every day existence and showing us that there are so many opportunities for impact and true love. I think you can become a slave to all these financial notions, as well intentioned as they may be. All interesting things to think about, I suppose. Thank you for writing about hard questions in life. And happy Tuesday to you!

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  17. Sometimes I come here and you make me so dang uncomfortable...and I love it.

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  18. Oh, such a struggle for me. My earthly wants and "needs". I'm not there, but I want to be. Ouch.

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    1. When you get "there", will you call me and give me directions??? :)

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  19. I just read this post aloud to my hubby. He pointed out that even Judas carried a money bag for Jesus and the disciples' needs. We are called to live by faith but we should be good stewards for our family and anybody who's in need. It's really a hard call. Maybe that middle ground is different for all of us. (am I making any sense?)
    xo

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    1. You're making as much sense as the rest of us! haha. I love it.
      I see what you mean about the money bag and hello, we all have a money bag! I have SO MUCH MORE than what I need and I spend it up happily on nonsense much of the time. But did Jesus have a savings account somewhere or an IRA? Of course we all need some money, to some extent...I just have a feeling that I've been conditioned to get carried away.

      It's just getting harder for me to fathom stock-piling money in the bank for my "future" when I could use that $ to help fund other people's adoptions or help with other immediate needs around me or sponsor another Compassion child.... I feel like this shouldn't seem so complicated...yet it does! Ack.

      :)

      Thanks for sharing, Deb. I adore you.

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    2. Adoring entirely reciprocated.

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  20. I just love you. We are in a weird season of (kind of embarrassed to say this) abundance. But we're farmers, so when I say "season" it could literally be a season! Maybe it's because we're empty nesters now, and have no college/kid expenses? I don't know. And while I *shudder* to give any kind of nod to the dreaded "prosperity gospel," I swear it seems that the more we have given over the past few years, the more we have. And then I wonder -- does God know I wouldn't hold up under real sacrifice? (Ugh. Could I be more self-absorbed?) So, we're in a season of wrestling too. How much should we do to "help" our grown kids (aspiring church planters)? Are we helping or hindering them by offering financial support? Can we do more for the "adopted" college kid/Haitian missionary nurse/Compassion kids in our lives? And (here's what really hurts), why am I not doing more for the kids in my (literal) neighborhood? Some poor, some in sticky family situations, all in need of love (and Jesus). Wrestling right there with you, sister. (She says, while sitting in her comfy house on her comfy sofa, drinking coffee. Yuck. Sometimes I gross myself out.) Jesus, more of you, less of me.

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    1. LOVE this.

      All I know is, several years ago our county was the hardest hit in the nation. We are the RV Capital of the World, after all, and everyone stopped buying RVs for a while. Cory and I would sit in Sunday School where we were one of only two couples who still had our jobs. And our jobs paid us very well, at the time. It was the strangest situation and we couldn't make sense of it. It felt very weird.

      A year later, all of that changed.

      I obviously think all of us throwing paper money out the proverbial window cannot possibly be the answer. God surely has his reasons for these different seasons in our lives! Honestly, our time of abundance (in its own weird way) put this ball into motion. We couldn't be doing what we're doing now had we not lived in that big house and earned all that equity, etc... We wouldn't have our 3 kids if we hadn't made the kind of $ we used to make.

      I think all we can really do is hold loosely to what we have today - whatever it is. We can keep our ear to the heart of Jesus and when he says to do it, we do.

      Thanks for wrestling with me! (I'm on my comfy sofa, too, at the moment.) :)

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    2. Ah. Holding loosely, listening closely. This I can do. We do acknowledge the source of our blessings (when your living largely depends on the rains and the soil and the sunshine, it's hard to take too much credit) and we ask Him to make us a blessing to others.

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  21. I'm not the best one to ask (you did ask, yeah?) cause I'm in a serious backpeddling game from where I was when my kids were younger. We've lived frugally our whole lives, did without fancy cars and houses, shopped at Aldi, avoided the mall and bought clothes at Goodwill, and gave a big honkin' percentage of our gross income to the church every paycheck. Gotta keep that air conditioning going, and that parking lot paved.

    I'm all about me right now. Me and my family. Me thinking I let the 'other' take precedence over my own kids too many times. Me taking care of ME. I hope this hard swing to caring for myself and my needs AND wants (yes, I will have a two-person soaking tub in my new house, thankyouverymuch) will eventually trickle down to the 'other' in more appropriate ways.

    We have only hub's 401K for savings. We use a set amount of cash for weekly family needs and wants. We live paycheck to paycheck. Always have. It's a choice we made when I decided to stay home with our kids. We are always paying off debt (which came not of spendy purchases, but simply caring for our needs, and unfortunately giving so much to the church when we were young.....) I may sound bitter, and I'm seriously ok with that.

    BTW, Mumford and his boys are always a good choice. My brother happens to be their booking agent, and I've LOVED getting to 'know' them via my bro. They're the real deal. Go see them live if you ever get the chance...if they ever come our way (prolly not) I can get tix.

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    1. I'm so loving this discussion. Thank you for sharing here. I get it. Truly.
      Do not even get me started on tithing to the church... that's a whole 'nother ball of wax! I have grown disillusioned by the whole "pave the parking lot" sort of thing. That cannot be what Jesus was talking about.

      We cringe a little when we think of how much money we signed over to the church during our heyday. And I don't think it was mis-used at all...my mind has just shifted over the years.

      I need to be careful or I'll end up writing an entire post in this comment. :)

      And Lordy, would we EVER love to see Mumford live!!

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    2. I almost chased that same rabbit -- I love our church and it's absorbed so much of our "charitable giving" through the years. But...so many bricks...so much mortar...I'm just kind of over that.
      (I'd love to pile in on the Mumford concert, by the way!)

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  22. All any of us can do about deciding what God would have us do in our very individual circumstances is learn to hear His voice more and more clearly, I think. (That wasn't even what I was going to write, but it came out of my fingers, anyway.) FWIW.

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  23. What a weighty post. I need to wrestle for a bit. One thing is entirely clear to me - I have too much.

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  24. If that's yammer, then it's chock full of wisdom yammer, ha!

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  25. Oh I am chewing this over and over and over. I will have to get back to you.

    xxoo

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  26. Thank you for writing this post, so much. In the last six months God has grabbed my heart for the hungry and poverty-stricken. I volunteered at Feed My Starving Children and haven't been the same since. He has made ways (read: showing me what I can give up) for me to sponsor a child and support a few ministries that help with these issues. He has also helped me change my view of my own circumstances.

    By American standards, I am poor. I am a single mom/widow, I drive a 13 year old car, I have a mediocre job that covers the bills with little left over. I recently purchased my first home, completely by God's grace. It is a little 2-bedroom townhouse that has a mortgage equal to the lot-rent I was paying for my mobile home. But God has shown me how amazingly rich I am compared to the rest of the world.

    My whole mindset is changing on "things". I so understand the "gross" feeling you are talking about. I was searching for something in my closet over the weekend and came across 2 huge boxes of clothes that I haven't even unpacked since I moved 9 months ago. I kind of wanted to throw up. Everytime I say I "need" something, I hear this little voice whisper "no, you WANT it".

    Now, I'm rambling.

    But God is so good and I also beleive we are expected to give and then give some more. I also beleive that we are all called to different levels and types of giving, which is why my new attitude is giving my mother an anxiety attack every single time we talk about these things. :) I'll be forwarding this post to her. Maybe you can help explain my heart. :)

    Bless you so much!!!!!

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  27. There are so many more ways of giving "a hand up" rather than the usual, (maybe) expected financial "hand out".

    God loves a cheerful giver... no matter what it is.

    I have found dear folks in my own life who certainly know how to squeeze blood out of a turnip (just for their own mere survival)... and yet they still feel like they are not giving out and blessing enough...to others. Which isn't true.

    In turn they teach us a lot. So much.

    Sometimes the giving is just about Words (saying something or nothing at the right time).
    Time.
    A hug!

    Sometimes it is only a quarter... calling someone who cares... because you care.

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  28. As my Dad always said - Easy Come, Easy Go. I've had times when I've had more than enough and times when I've not had enough. If it feels like I'm saving too much, it won't be long until something comes along to spend it, whether it's giving or bills or whatever. If I'm in a season of abundance, I try to save a little more, give a little more; and when I'm not, I learn to trust that "God math" usually finds a way to make the too-short ends meet, whether it's being the recipient of someone elses abundance or spending the savings.

    If you're drawing near to Him through this wondering, it's served a purpose already. Ask Him what to do and wait for His answer... He might say, hold on, I've got a plan...

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  29. 1 Timothy 5:8
    But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.


    I think there is a clear difference between hoarding up our money selfishly and practicing good stewardship with whatever riches God blesses us with.

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  30. "Your young men will be frittering away, FRITTERING AWAY their noon time supper time chore time too.."

    Music Man FOREVAH!!!!!!
    its not an amount, its an attitude and you've got the right tude dude. I'm sure you'll figure it out!

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  31. Jesus said to set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth---not an easy thing for me to do, because I like "things". I think it's about finding our joy in Christ. I think you're on the right track!

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  32. thanks for putting into words what my heart has been struggling with for some time. i am learning that the struggle is part of the sanctification and that grace covers all! i am learning to evaluate my idols - if i will not be okay if something is removed then it is an idol. sometimes $ and stuff is an idol and i have to stretch my giving muscles. sometimes my idols are other things like my time or my relationships.

    one thing that i have realized lately is that for me "giving radically" had become a way to earn my salvation. it was prideful and legalistic. so i am learning to listen to the Holy Spirit and give out of love and grace not out of duty or fear.

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  33. What do i think? I think this one takes a good long afternoon and a number of cups of coffee (the coffee for me!:) ). However, Vaughn and i have always said that the biggest red flag is when the tension of this question disappears...for it is when the tension is present that we are forced to press in to the Father, seek His will, and wrestle with what it looks like to live the Way of Jesus. Half the time i think this is right where He wants us. Sometimes i wonder if it's not only about the issue at hand, but also simply a way to get us to engage with Him in such an intimate position as that of "wrestling." I think He delights in this "closeness" even if it's hard stuff! So much more i could say, but i'm going to pretend that there will be time to process this stuff face to face in the sometime future...yes!?!?!:) Love ya girl!

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  34. I'm lots of yammer and zero answers, too
    We've done Dave Ramsey for too many years to count....
    we're not what I'd call "fanatics" about him, but the idea of living within our means and being on a budget and planning for things instead of being irrational, impulsive buyers is always a good thing.

    Trips around the world have reiterated what Jesus has taught us about loving the poor and serving them...but as Americans, there is ALWAYS a need for constant reminding that it is not enough to love them from afar.
    Andy and I have always had hearts to help with International poverty, but we haven't been truly dedicated and determined to do as much locally, other than through our local church, which happens to do a lot. We give to those places, but our hearts are to get involved...truly invested in some local things here in Athens. We want our giving to be much more than just about money.

    You're always challenging me, and I'm so grateful for it.

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  35. Gosh...just love you. We've never really gone through what I'd call a time of abundance (married young, I'm in med school, he's still in school type of thing) but even the things we do with what money we have seems selfish, fleeting, and foolish in the face of the needs I know are out there. But even as I type this, I realize that probably the bigger problem is not that I'm not chucking enough money at things, but that I don't know the people and the needs that are here in my city.

    I've been reading for over a year now I believe and your life inspires me so. I am an out-in-the-boonies girl stuck in a city, and I feel so strongly that though I'd prefer the country, I can be more useful to the people that God loves here. Your blog has been so instrumental in bringing clarity and encouragement along with this feeling. You've become a part of your city...you know and are meeting needs out there. That's what I've been missing and am seeking right now...the knowing and the meeting.

    Ultimately though, I feel as though very few people are in danger of giving too much. I know that I'm much more prone to giving in to my selfish heart than to allowing it to break over the same things/people that God's heart breaks over. The only problem comes when we view giving as something that we can boast in or as our salvation, instead of something God allows us to do by His grace that helps others and changes our hearts.

    Seems as though I've done a lot of yammering just to say I don't know. I don't know where that sweet spot of good stewardship between irresponsible and greedy lies, but I know that the more we press into Him and His word, the more we will love the people He has created...whatever that may look like.

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  36. I don't know where God says that he 'spits out the rich', but I've never read that. He came to give love to anyone, money or no, who would accept it. He said money can get in the way of that love, but never that having it makes you 'less spiritual' by default -- even though that's the trendy way of thinking. Jesus wasn't about social justice or making all things equal. He was about 'making all things new' and our spiritual worth isn't based on the amount we spend, it's about giving love and never, ever giving up on that.

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    1. Point taken. I'm changing "spits out the rich" to "spits out wealth". Scripture is clear that God detests what the world values.

      I guess I still wrestle with how I can blissfully live in wealth (as I do) when the world around me is crumbling. That just doesn't seem like loving my neighbor AS myself. Of course I'm not sure what to do about this dilemma.... I haven't given away all I have and committed to a life of poverty. I'm still filthy stinking rich compared to most of the world. The gears are turning...

      Thanks!

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    2. But it isn't the rich or their riches he spits out. It's the LOVE of money He said was the root of all evil. The Pharisees gave jillions compared to the widow and her mite. He didn't spit on their money; the Bible said he detested their heart. Even giving tons can be wrong if you don't start it with love.

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  37. Oh, I resonate with this post! Our family just made some significant shifts towards giving more, simplifying, and freeing up resources to use as a blessing to others instead of as service to ourselves. Those are some tough choices, but so good. God is faithful. The great thing about being debt-free is that it allows you to live more paycheck-to-paycheck without the added stress of how on earth emergency bills would be paid. There's always something to sell, adjust or go without in times of need or 'stress'. If we're not making 2 huge car payments, we could always sell a car in a dire emergency...or eat simpler for a few months, maybe even move if it came to that. Somehow our Christian culture in America seemed to align itself precariously close to 'comfortable, you-deserve-more, individualistic' mainstream culture. I find it sad that the sort of thinking you're speaking of comes off as radical, crazy, reckless...when it's the very fabric of what Christ taught...die to self, serve others, the last shall be first, etc. Thank you for sharing about such a sensitive topic. You've been an encouragement to me this afternoon. Bless you in your endeavors to whole heartedly pursue service to Christ.

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  38. Wow - what an amazing and thought provoking discussion - well done Shannan for putting it out there. Thank goodness there is grace to cover all of our confusion, thoughts, efforts, fears in this. I live in Northern Ireland and I've noticed an increasing number of Christians asking similar questions. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. x

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  39. Oh this is such good stuff~~I love all of the wrestling going on here, in the post and in the comments!!! I share so many of the same questions and situations, milestones and weak spots,so I'll spare you all the story!! This gives me comfort, knowing that others are actively wrestling through what we are supposed to look like and it gives me hope for a world that is so self-absorbed and bleak - to see so many of us working out our faith and relationship with Jesus.....I know that He is smiling down on each and every one of us!!

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  40. LOVE:


    "It's becoming easier to not love money when we see our bank account as nothing more than a temporary pass-through."

    and

    Your new blog!

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  41. i'm gonna comment. even though i kinda don't know what i'm saying really. i think there is a balance. i really appreciate that my husband works really hard on having us live debt-free & have a small savings account. but a couple of years ago, our pastor talked about the parable of "building bigger barns." you know, where you spend your money building this beautiful home & then you get done and it just isn't big enough so you build a bigger one....in luke 12. that has really impacted my life. because i think it can go that way with savings too. like, are we saving so much that we aren't giving away just so we continually have a bigger savings account? i never ever want to build bigger barns. i reall yhave a desire for God to be teaching me my whole life to live as if what i have is enough for today.

    i feel that i make no sense.

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  42. i am the worst with money... worst ever, so am absolutely not even close to being someone anyone should listen to about finances. just a disclaimer.

    i live in Kenya where having even $10 in my pocket makes me rich. my American friends call me 'radical' for thinking savings accounts should not even exist for followers of Jesus, but He hasn't convinced me otherwise yet. I don't have a family to support, so am very aware my thoughts and convictions might change if/when that is the case. But how can we have full pockets when our neighbors pockets are empty? it doesn't make sense to me. also, so what if we are the ones who need to be recipients of the giving from other's pockets? i think we fear the junk out of this. let us always be the givers, but never be in a position of need where we gave our "emergency fund" away this month and here is an emergency. God is not limited to provide for us only through pay checks and planning ahead.

    i think the place where our obedience meets believing and living in His promises is trusting we will be provided for. Period. Trusting that if obedience is taking care of our neighbor then we do it, and trust Him with the rest. I am scared to death of storing up wealth. Better to be begging on the streets than sitting on a pile of earthly treasure. I want to depend on Him for my daily bread. I NEED to depend on Him for my daily bread. The end. haha.

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  43. First of all, thanks so much for sharing because this is something that so many of us struggle with. I am in a little bit of the same situation as far as medical bills. I've read a lot of info from godly experts, and the one thing they say is if you are going into your emergency fund you are either spending too much or didn't set up a budget that adequately mirrors your needs. Your childrens medical care is obviously not frivoulous spending. As hard as it is not knowing what is the right amount, I would look at your last year and see the expenses you had. Although we are not our bank accounts, I think there is a fine line that we can walk between giving and taking care of our responsibilities. Again, thank you so much!!! I never feel alone reading your blog, your writing and thoughts are beautiful. Keep it up!

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  45. Such a challenging and inspiring post! Thank you

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  46. Shannan ... thank you for writing some thought-provoking stuff. Here's a little encouragement for you. My mom said when she was a young pastor's wife and brand-new mom that an older missionary woman told her that living here in the USA was tougher, in some ways, than being an overseas missionary.

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  47. God says that he cares for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, He certainly will care for us. We can't out give God! If He is calling us to give, we need to give. There have been times (several) when He called us to give and give more than we had, we did and He provided. Money/wealth is the only thing He says we can test Him on.

    Eighty percent of the world lives on less than $2 a day. Since I make more than that I am in the wealthiest 20% in the world, with that comes responsibility. "It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter Heaven."

    Wouldn't it be amazing if we would live on a tithe (10%) and gave the other 90% way!

    Just the thoughts of a fellow traveler

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  48. i wasn't even going to leave a comment
    cause who could say anything else that has already been said
    so i will say what first comes to my heart
    praying for more of your heart...
    that more of that would empty into my heart
    God looks to and fro for heats that are His...is mine
    i want it to be..my biggest fear is that i will wander away
    and not give Him glory..
    or even worse my trust
    that would be worse than anything..to be without Him
    i can imagine the world turning upside down with hearts
    like this..chucking it all
    but then the brain kicks in and says...well maybe ya ought not to go that far
    but deep down
    i believe we must...
    love your heart...xo

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  49. This is definitely a post to make us think. I don't pretend to have any wisdom about such things and after almost 29 years of marriage (no children) I can tell you that I'm pretty sure God does not intend me to be rich or have everything I think I need. And to be honest as I've gotten older I have wanted less and am even now feeling burdened by a lot of the stuff I've accumulated over the years. We have moved several times, and each time it came with a purge, but we still have too much stuff. Money wise we have been all over the map with income - we went through a few years where each year our income was divided in half. That was an interesting time. But, we never once felt deprived. Our bills always managed to get paid and we always had food on the table. I can see many patterns of giving and blessings - we once spent a year where we gave very little and in that year we ended up having to pay out a lease on an apartment that probably totaled more than what we would have given to our church. I am convinced that God used this to show us a lesson about giving. I always dreamed of having an emergency fund and some future savings. In recent years we were blessed with a house bigger than we needed and when it was time to sell, we were blessed to sell before the market plunged so we actually made a good amount of money on the house and around the same time we had some inheritance money come our way that enabled us to get out of debt and allow my husband to go back to school debt free. Sometimes I feel guilty for having spent so much of our "future" money and other times I feel blessed that it has enabled us to do what we have and be where we are without going into debt. The one thing I have learned is that if I am selfish with the resources God has given to me, then it has a way of dwindling and being used up anyway. I would rather have used some of the money we have been blessed with on giving to others rather than using it to pay off debt that we had allowed to accumulate earlier in our marriage. Either way it is no longer in my pocket. I would like to think going forward that I have learned how to have a balanced relationship with the money entrusted to me. I do think it is responsible to be wise with our resources and plan ahead so we are not a burden on others but at the same time, I don't think it is God's plan for us to stockpile resources when they can be used to help others. The New Testament talks about giving out of our abundance and doesn't set a limit. That tells me that the more we are blessed the more we should be giving. I don't feel that I'm really there yet. We have seasons of giving and maybe seasons we don't give as much - whatever season we are in, obedience to God's will is the main thing. He has plans for us and he will always provide what we need. Sometimes it may be that others have to help us and other time we need to help them. It requires balance and a thankful heart that trusts his provision above everything. A really good book to read that talks about money among other things is MARGIN by Richard Swenson - I think he has some good points about how to look at money. Sorry for such a long post - keep seeking God's will for you and he will give you the balance you need.

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  50. man, i love you fpfg!!

    .. on a night where i just had the blow up of all blow ups with my hubs cause i spent too much money at target today, can you say "conviction" as i read this post?? dang. i hate it/ love it when God shows up all over the place. think i better close this screen down and go make some things right here.

    thanks girl. you never know when you open your heart and share your yammer who on the other end needs to hear it.

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  51. what i think starts and ends with this: i love Him. and i love you. (and Him IN you, that too.)

    ps the 'passing through' bit--yes. right now i'm in this weird phase where i don't want to purchase anything (and i mean not even a kitchen timer) that we can't take with us to africa. and so often lately i'm thinking, oh. this is the thing with this LIFE. i need to pour our resources into stuff that lasts: people and God's kingdom. that's my list.

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  52. "It's just getting harder for me to fathom stock-piling money in the bank for my "future" when I could use that $ to help..." from one of your comments. Yes. My husband and I were having this very discussion tonight. Thanks for the dialogue here.

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  53. just had this convo with some friends last night. do i give enought to scratch the surface of a need? do i give til it hurts? do i give of my money, time or talents? i feel you in this post. i don't want my heart to be tied to things of this world. i want to learn to trust Him more, no matter what size my bank account. i want to be kicking the left shin of conventional wisdom while Jesus kicks the right! thanks for this post!!

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  54. I have been silently reading your posts over the course of a few weeks and I am leaving a comment today because this dialogue spurred me to action. Last night, I started to sponsor a Compassion child. It is her birthday today, and she had been waiting over 230 days for a sponsor. I have a story that I've used as an excuse not to give more, a sad one I keep in a shadowy recess of my heart, but looking through the faces of the children and hearing their words on video -- I could not excuse myself any longer. There is no greater feeling than in following God's leading. The peace and joy and down-right giddiness I feel today is worth every penny for the next 15+ years of support I can give. My only prayer now is that I will be made worthy to be part of this child's life and that I may squeeze out more dollars out of my pay check to sponsor another child in the future. Thank you for sharing the words you do!

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  55. Well, last fall we went thru FPU and it looked like we might actually get that emergency fun Dave talks so lovingly about...started. Then life happened. Unspeakable tragedy. Tears and grief.

    And, then I got notice that I would be laid off.

    Then the cat died. (No joke. Wasn't even 4 yrs old.)

    At some point you just have to laugh, at least I do.
    I mean seriously, "The cat died?!"
    Well, isn't that the cherry on the grief sundae.

    Now we are looking at things very differently. We thought we were frugal before? Now we are downright cheap. But, it's a whirlwind. Because we're full of love...and grief. And, we've got so little in the bank, but we are so rich. And, well, I don't want to lose perspective that every day get a paycheck - the money came from GOD. Full stop.

    I hear what you're saying about conventional wisdom. Heck, we don't follow conventional wisdom with the rest of our lives...why should savings and retirement be any different, huh? I dunno. I'm more questions than answers, too. But, Christ has a different playbook. And, in the Human User Manual, also known as the Bible, he doesn't say, "Store away till your silo is overflowing and then, only then, offer the pieces that have fallen to the ground to a passerby."

    Thanks for making me even more confused.
    In a good way.
    The brain is a muscle.
    Wrestling can be good.

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  56. As much as I think Dave Ramsey has a great plan for finances, it totally negates the story of the rich man who, when asked to sell ALL that he had, walked away in grief.
    Give! Give some more!
    When I go to visit family in Europe, I'm amazed at what tiny houses they live in. They are amazed at what huge houses we live in. They always say the same thing... "WHY would you want to be burdened??"
    Burdened....
    We live with burdens for the wrong thing.
    I think you are TOTALLY on the right track, Shannan. My parents, who always gave so very much, have never lacked for anything. It's such a cool opportunity to see God providing and working in their lives instead of relying on a system of money building for a cushion one may not even need. Who is to say how long we will all live?
    Don't be foolish with money. Seek God and His will. Give to those who need. Let Him sort out the details because, after all, they are ALL His details!

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  57. I'm dog tired and I don't have any answers or brilliant insights to add. I just know that when we - the hubs and I - see a need, we help. Or offer to. We actively seek out people/organizations to give $$. There really is no budget, rhyme or reason to it. That's probably breaking a big rule in someone's book, but at the end of the month all our bills are always paid, the pantry is full, and there's most likely been a few unnecessary purchases. Our income is small, but it's amazing how those dollars can stretch and multiply. We always land in the black. Could we give more? Absolutely, 100% yes. I'm praying about what that looks like....

    Above the money and material things, I desperately want us give of ourselves. Time and service, kind eyes and listening ears and open doors. Even if it's that 5 minutes chatting with the cart guy at the Wal-mart who everyone thinks is CrAzY and steers clear of, but really has wonderfully smart, witty things to say once you get to know him.

    *sigh* I just want to be Jesus' hands and feet.

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  58. I am just reading this now.. months after it was written and commented on. I read this, nodding my head in agreement and giving you an "Amen, Sister!" Then, my practicality snuck in. I find myself thinking, no, no, no! What if something happened to you and your husband? What would become of your children? Are you going to work forever, cuz that is what that Million $$$s is all about. It isn't always about retiring rich, sometimes it is just to be able to retire. In the future, you are still going to need a roof over your head, food to eat, and clothes to wear. Maybe not a lot, but they are necessities. I admire you for wanting to give, but think with your head and listen to your heart.

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  60. I stumbled across this post and it's a topic that hits the deepest part of me. After reading all the comments it makes me even more confused. So many of us, sisters in Christ--believers in Jesus, and we all have such different opinions. So what is the truth? How much is too much?

    "This is one of those nights where I'm all yammer and zero answers" You said it best. I think (there I go thinking again) that Christ convicts us through his Spirit and speaks to us in different ways. We are are on the journey together and at different places and in different seasons. I have to remind myself of that or I get frustrated. It's a beautiful thing that we experience God in our own unique ways.

    I will keep praying about this very subject until my earthly, fleshly body is called home.

    Thanks for sharing your heart as it beats so similar to mine!

    Shaina
    Marriedtorestoration.com

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