Warren Buffett is known for his one-liners and one of his most memorable ones is about financial mismanagement. He says, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out!” By that I think he means that if you are not managing your finances well, then when you encounter a tough time your vulnerability will be obvious to all. That is why we are so insistent that every family needs a financial spending plan. As we discussed in our previous post two out of three families are just winging it when it comes to their finances. And as Mr. Buffett says time will reveal what we are wearing under the water.
But what about when the tide rolls in? What about when you have ample resources? During those times are you a hoarder or consumptive or generous? I hear people talk about winning the lottery and all the good they will do with the windfall. But, I really wonder. If you are not generous in tight times will you really be generous in times of plenty. A telling stat that we see is the lack of generosity in the church (and it is worse in the culture around us). The average Christian is giving 1-3 percent of their income to the work of the Kingdom. A cursory look at the Biblical model of giving across all denominations will reveal that is a pretty low percentage. It is our opinion that we may be missing some big opportunities to impact the culture.
But I guess the question we need to answer is “is the tide out or is the tide in?” Speaking as an American, we are extremely blessed and relatively speaking to the rest of the world- the tide is in! Don’t believe me, let’s answer a basic diagnostic of how we are doing financially.
Do you have ENOUGH?
- Have you paid every bill this year?
- Have you eaten every meal this year?
- Do you still have access to reliable transportation?
- Do you still have access to adequate housing?
- Do you have adequate clothing for your family?
- Do you have some discretionary funds for activities and entertainment?
- Have you been generous?
By these standards, most of us are doing well. We are blessed! With some sound management of the resources we have, many of us can see our way to getting our family “ENOUGH”. But, does having enough ourselves lead us to being GENEROUS? Sometimes, but not necessarily. Generosity is as much a by-product of perspective as it is of extra resources. Don’t believe me? Why is it that some of the most generous people you will meet are among the poor. Many folks in the poorer communities know what it means to have needs and they try to rally around the needs of the community. Ruby K. Payne in her book Bridges out of Poverty says “Money is seen in poverty as an expression of personality and is used for entertainment and relationships.” And while there may be a need in these communities to be better managers of their resources, there is something to be admired when it comes to using a portion of your limited resources for the people around you.
The New Testament gives some direction in the area of generosity. In 2 Corinthians 9: 6-8, Paul writes to the church in Corinth:
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 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. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Observations about Generosity from the Passage
- We reap what we sow.
- We need to decide what we are going to give ahead of time.
- We don’t need to give if we don’t want to.
- We don’t need to give because of guilt.
- We need to be cheerful givers.
- God loves cheerful giving.
- God blesses those who give so that we can be a blessing!
Parents force children to share because we all know that over time they must learn to break the chains of selfishness and self-centeredness. What if I told you that the amount of money that you give away is a tell-tale sign of how you are maturing as a person? What if I told you that a sign of a healthy financial system is generosity? Is it really more blessed to give than to receive? We all know it to be true and in our heart of hearts we long to move to a place of being a loving, caring and benevolent person. How are you doing?
One of these days, we will all experience the ultimate rolling out of the tide. Someday we will stand before the Lord and give an account of how we used the resources He gave us to manage. How did we use our time, our talents and our treasure? As we stand before Him and our actions as well as our motivations are clear for all to see, will you and I stand clothed as a steward or will you and I be caught skinny dipping?
Tim Howington is Executive Vice President for Freedom 5:one and is one of our Financial Life Coaches. He lives with his wife Terri and son Josh in Rogers Arkansas.