How Generous Does God Expect Us To Be?

Don - September 2, 2005

I have experienced a few ups and downs in my life financially.  If I would have kept my Microsoft stock I could have retired many years ago, but that’s another story.  I have had times when our income was well over $100K and years when our income was literally negative.

I have felt that I have been a good steward to the money when we had it.  Our children didn’t know how much we made and we worked hard at trying to have the negative years not effect us much either.

Maybe my perception of being a good steward is off.  What does God expect? 

Here are areas I see, and I’m not saying I do all these, they are just what I see locally as opportunities to be generous with our money.  Tithing, of course a "full and honest" tithe…whatever that means.  Fast offering, yes a generous one, really generous.  PEF sure it is an inspired program and seems to be working, so put some money here.  Humanitarian fund, again yes, what a great way to help those in need, where you know nothing extra is getting skimmed off the top. The local food drives, scouts, newspaper carrier, grocery store, local church, yes all of them.  Donate clothes etc. to Salvation Army.  Local charity auctions, public television…I’m sorry I guess I could go on and on.

My point is where to we stop.  I can drive my 1995 car one more year and give move to the PEF.  I can downgrade the resturants when my wife and I have our weekly dinner/date night and give more to the humanitarian fund.

On the other hand I could cut back, (pay my tithing – that’s a given) but cut back by only giving $25 for F.O. (generous considering there is only two of us now), maybe a few bucks or none to the PEF and Humanitarian fund, skip the food drives, ignore the charity auctions, let the rich people support public television and let the Salvation Army get the money from their own soldiers.  With the extra money I could put more aside for retirement, a mission, spend more on my own kids.

Do I need the big house I’m in?  Do I need the Mercedes and the SUV?  I could downsize and be more generous.  Am I waiting until "called upon" by the church to consecrate everything…is that my excuse?

Heck! I deserve all this.  I’m paying my tithing, F.O. giving to the other funds, so why not enjoy the fruits of my labors.  Nevermind the question, I think I’m just continue doing what I’m doing…it’s a positive income year again so I’ll enjoy it while I can.

14 Comments »

  1. As long as you aren’t giving any money to BYU you’re ok!

    On a more serious note, this is something that I’ve often considered without coming to any conclusion. I know that there is good that I could do in the world by spending less on things that I honestly consider to be luxuries. While I do give to various causes I have never actually made what I consider a sacrifice to do so. Facing that fact disturbs me.

    Comment by a random John — September 2, 2005 @ 3:18 pm

  2. I wish I had something pertinent to say….but, I don’t. I will, however, join with you in introspection.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 2, 2005 @ 5:03 pm

  3. I have occasionally told myself that if I ever managed to be able to make $1 million per year I would pay a full tithe, pay off all my debts and then take about $100,000 per year for our family and give the other $800,000 per year (after tithing) to fast offerings and related donations. (If I made $10 million a year it would be $9.8 Mil to fast offerings… you get the idea). In theory that allows the judges in Israel to discern where to spend that money.

    Now that ever happening to me is an inredible longshot to be sure, but since I am an entrepreneur it is not completely impossible (I mean it reamins logically possible anyway)… But I have noticed as my businesses have slowly grown to at least pay my bills that these things are not at all as cut and dry as I naively hoped at one point. For instance, it is my corporation that makes all that money and I take a small amount of that to live on. But my corporation doesn’t belong to the church and doesn’t tithe. So now figuring out what my “increase” is takes a lot more work than when I was on a salary. And then there are questions about future security and investments if thngs go wrong. Entanglements galore. Not to mention the ever-present allure of consuming ever more myself.

    I’ve posted on several occasions on a subject I dubbed the Devil’s GPA (Basically Greed, Praise, Appetites). The scriptures make it pretty clear that greed is the final and most difficult of those main classes of temptations…

    Comment by Geoff J — September 2, 2005 @ 5:30 pm

  4. Geoff, both the bridal store and the theater are corporations. If I only tithed on what I took as salary, the Lord owes me a big rebate. As you point out, it is difficult to distinguish exactly whose it what, how much and what are my benefits, and which ones I should tithe. It would make it a lot easier if someone would hire me for what I think I’m worth, give me more freedom than I have now and guarantee me the position until I choose to retire. Oh, woe is me.

    Comment by don — September 2, 2005 @ 6:47 pm

  5. I love the plainess with which we are instructed in Jacob 2. We don’t hear many public discussions of this chapter in America, maybe because it makes some people uncomfortable. I think it is plain that no matter what we did (hard work, sweat, tears, luck) to get what we have, it is not what we “deserve”. I think many LDS Americans are comfortable with saying “I worked hard for this, so I can enjoy it” when obviously many people work as hard and harder and are never rewarded as we have been.

    I find it interesting that you don’t feel you have sacrificed. I wonder if mothers feel that way too. Many stay home with their kids and while they enjoy it, they also give up income that might make some aspects of life better.

    I think that you are in no way sinning as long as you are grateful for what you have. I also think it would be a noble action to give more (or to give more wisely).

    Comment by Charity — September 2, 2005 @ 9:06 pm

  6. I think we can look to our leaders for guidence.

    Most are quite affluent. I think what you are doing, is grand.

    If your heart feels comfortable, then you are in the right place.

    I might reconsider the SUV. *chuckle*

    Comment by Lisa M — September 3, 2005 @ 1:20 am

  7. This was a really hard one for me, especially when I came home from my mission.

    My parents had recarpeted the house and bought some new furniture (first time since we moved in 15 years before) while I was gone.

    I remember feeling that the luxury to which I had returned was obscene, and that I did not deserve it in the least compared to the saints (LDS and of other faiths) who worked so hard and had so much less.

    I’m somewhat sorry to say that I’m mostly over that guilt now, although I like to think that keeping my ’92 Camry running with my own labor until it exceeds my skills to fix is something I can do to demonstrate the gratitude Charity urges.

    Comment by Justin H — September 3, 2005 @ 2:15 am

  8. You’re right, you need to spend more on your kids.

    Comment by Rusty — September 3, 2005 @ 9:28 am

  9. I remember hearing somewhere (don’t remember if it was in General Conference or where) that it isn’t really a sacrifice unless it hurts a little bit. So if you’re giving $25 for FO but you don’t feel it at all, then maybe you should give $100. If you don’t feel that, maybe you should give $500. It’s no set amount for anyone, but it’s a sacrifice for everyone.

    I’m not saying that’s doctrine, I just thought it was good advice.

    Comment by Rusty — September 3, 2005 @ 9:31 am

  10. I don’t see why you don’t just buy a few indulgences and go look at a few relics and not worry about it anymore…
    Seriously though, I always thought this church taught us it’s not how much we DO, but what we BECOME in this life. I agree that it is very difficult not to get all bogged down in trying to serve, but when we BECOME a servicable, a charitable person, all the other things will fall into place. I think if we work on that then we won’t have to worry about how much we are giving.

    Comment by Bret — September 4, 2005 @ 9:45 pm

  11. I have always struggled with balancing anything in life, but when confronted with so many options to do good, and not enough money or time or ability, and also confronted with feeling guilty for not doing more, I try to figure out what sort of balance there is in my life.

    I do not feel that enjoying some of life’s pleasures or luxuries is needed to be felt guilty about; it helps us recharge our own batteries, soothe our own souls, create a relaxing environment for us, create a safe, comforting haven for our families, provide opportunities for recreation that both relax, and provide marvelous memories to be cherished, and many other productive positive things. So I don’t not feel or see the need so much to feel so guilty, because what helps me, in the end will help me have more resources inside from which to be of service to others.

    I can’t tell you how much of a learning process it is, recently, through psychotherapy, and such, to learn that it is OK to enjoy things. It is OK. Man is, after all, that he might have joy.

    Now, if that is ALL you do, there might be a problem, but again, just try to think of balance. There is a time and a place for play and enjoying “luxuries”, and times and places for being more serious, and sacrificing and such.

    Just MHO.

    Comment by sarebear — September 5, 2005 @ 2:55 pm

  12. I dont see it a matter of how much you have, but how you feel about what you have. If its “mine! mine! mine!” (e.g., Daffy Duck in Ali Baba Bunny) then youre in trouble no matter how much you have. If you view what you have as a means of serving/helping/benefiting others, then youre in the right place. I think thats the point of Jacob 2:19.

    If a dollar bill represents to you something you can do for yourself, then its bad. If it represents to you the power to help others, then its good. Its just a piece of paper with little intrinsic value. The value it has is how we individually and collectively feel about it. How do you feel about it?

    Comment by Kurt — September 6, 2005 @ 10:09 am

  13. Kurt,
    Very well put.

    Comment by Rusty — September 6, 2005 @ 10:57 am

  14. Yes. While each indiv. is the steward of his/her covenants; they require consecration. The only meter to gauge with is whether you are multiplying your ‘talents’ and have the Spirit in your life.

    Comment by lyle — September 6, 2005 @ 11:20 pm

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