Spend, Save or Give

Spend, Save or Give

Confession time: Sometimes I dread opening Facebook or Twitter, knowing someone new will be asking for money and I won’t know how to respond. I’ll admit, I tend to tune them out, even when I know I could, technically, help. It’s just too much to take in.

When I started receiving an allowance at age six or seven, I started giving to the church. My parents would hand me ten dimes and an offering envelope so I could tithe. Give some, save some, spend some: these habits were instilled in me before I knew there were any other options. I learned that generosity brings freedom and joy—not because someone told me so, but through the process of letting go.

For the greater chunk of my life, then, I took John Wesley’s maxim to heart: Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can; with the corollary, obvious to me, that this means reducing my own expenses as much as I can. I was determined to be as responsible for my money as I possibly could.

It didn’t take too long, though, to realize that following Jesus and having money is not as tidy as a dime in an envelope. As time went on, this responsibility extended to my purchases: fair-trade coffee and thrift store clothing would keep my hands free of the stain of supply-chain slavery, right? The money saved on clothing could make up the difference on the more expensive coffee,right?

But every time I thought I had my budget “correct,” complexity again asserted itself. What about the fact that charities often end up doing more harm than good by creating dependencies rather than empowering people? What about the carbon footprint of my purchases? What about retirement savings? What about the role of governments in alleviating poverty?

What about the intense grocery-store anxiety and the simmering resentment produced by my inability to answer all these questions?

See, I have two theology degrees—I see the world through the lens of the abstract, the immeasurable. I write every day about faith: the reality beyond what we can see. But money is maddeningly concrete, finite, and I cannot force it to fit my preferred pronouncements about it. Nor can I just ignore it: the parable of the talents makes that much clear. Money is power, and that means it matters very much what I do with mine.

Then again—maybe that “money is power” phrase doesn’t just have to be cynical.

What if spending isn’t simply purchasing things, but also empowering the organizations that produce those things?

In other words, money isn’t fundamentally for saving, spending, or giving.

Money is for investing.

Being intentional with my saving, spending, and giving means asking where my money goes and what the return will be. When I spend money at a local business, I’m investing in the thing I purchase—but I’m also investing in my local community. I’m supporting a local entrepreneur, the people they employ, and the impact they all have in making my neighborhood a nicer place.

Giving money is the same. When I give money to an organization—contrary to popular belief—I’m not buying an outcome, purchasing a feeling, or paying for power within the organization. Instead, I’m investing in others’ expertise and passion by making sure they have the money they need to carry out the work they’re called to do. I do my research on the organization’s leaders, then let it go—trusting those people to do their jobs with intelligence, integrity, and care.

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My budget feels a little less fraught now that I’ve traded the compunction to “give, save, and spend” correctly for the imperative to invest well. I feel less guilty scrolling past most of those requests for money, knowing I’ve been intentional about my choices.

But every once in a while, I feel a nudge of the Spirit to help meet a need without being sure exactly why.

And other times, I can immediately see how my gift is an investment in a better future. I’m so excited to be a part of that thing, giving feels like an absolute privilege. The Rise House is one of those things.

I’ll be out with it: I’m “only” giving $10 a month. I don’t mean that $10 is an insignificant amount; it’s just that in the past, I would have agonized for months over the “right” amount to give. I would have thought, If this is really a worthy cause, it probably deserves more than $10, right? I would have handed over some crumpled bills, sweaty with fear and trembling that it was too much or not enough. I would’ve lost all the joy in giving because money felt so fraught to me. Or—just as likely—I would have postponed giving until I could come up with some excuse for why it was too late; not because I didn’t want to give, but because the decision felt too difficult.

Now, I understand that money is not a cosmic test, but a tool. It helps me invest in my friendships and family, my future, my career, the people whose work I admire, the causes I believe in, the companies I trust, the places I care about, and even sometimes in myself. I’m not just called to give money; I’m called to love all sorts of people and places, and I get to use money to benefit them all.

Somehow, there’s freedom in that: freedom to trust others will take care of all the GoFundMes of people I don’t know—and to give with joy to the causes that call to my heart. When I heard that Rise was looking for people to give $10 a month to support the Rise house, I was finally able to simply answer “yes.”

Yes to space where women can rest, encourage, and be accepted without having to meet any qualifications.

Yes to a space of creativity—space for a podcast, for women to share their gifts on retreats, for new ways of funding Rise.

Yes to a home for a ministry that has already made a beautiful space of care and connection for me.

Yes, it is an honor to be a part of all that in my small way: to cast a vote for Rise, to invest in empowering others, to watch my ten dollars grow and grow and grow, to plant my money in Dallas, Texas, and see love radiate out from there around the world.


Photo by Jack Harner on Unsplash

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