Reallocate: Who gets paid first?

Posted by: Julie on Monday, June 23rd, 2008

paying-bills.jpgI’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately – the subect of reallocation.  When a person really begins to ‘get’ generosity, then their whole life starts to look different.  Their checkbook of course looks different, but so does their Outlook calendar and so does their thoughts and their language.  Know what I mean?

So when someone really ‘gets’ generosity and they are moved to start giving in a more radical way, then obviously other things in their life need to get shifted around so that room can be made for generosity to take top priority.  For example, a selfish lifestyle in terms of TIME might include lots of time at the mall, on the computer, gossiping with friends, or checking out the latest People magazine…. Turning to a generous lifestyle of TIME might include shoveling snow for an entire subdivision, leaving sacks of non-perishable groceries on the doorsteps of each apartment in a nearby complex, spending time with a friend who is going through a divorce and in need of a heart to lean on, or making dinner for your small group.  Those are just a few examples.

And what about when it comes to MONEY?  (As you’ll note above, often acts of generosity with our time require money too, so this is important!)  A phenomenon that recently happened to me (and I have seen happen to a few other leaders on staff at our church recently) is that when we suddenly ‘get’ generosity, then our lives get shifted upside down and the question of WHO GETS PAID FIRST? gets answered in a different way.  Here’s what I mean:

Say your monthly expenses include a mortgage, car payment, car insurance, groceries, gas/transportation costs, gym membership, cell phone bill, entertainment expenditures, just to name a few.  When you think about your FIXED expenditures, what are they from that list?  Well, your mortgage is fixed – assuming no refinancing.  Your car payment is likely fixed.  Your car insurance is fixed – until your next accident or until you add your 22-year-old son to the policy.  Your groceries aren’t a fixed number, but they are fixed in that you have to have them.  Your gas and transportation costs aren’t likely a fixed number either, but again they are fixed in that you have to have them.  Gym membership?  Probably a fixed number each month.  Cell phone bill – fixed except for those roaming charges and 411 calls… Entertainment?  Don’t get me started.

So when we think about how much we can ‘give,’ we often have to first look at our fixed expenses and then see what is reasonable after that.  I’m not talking about tithing here, by the way.  If you are a tither, then you know that 10% gets shaved off the TOP as the ‘first fruits’ of our offering to God.  No, I am not talking about tithing.  I am talking about generous giving.  I am talking about the generosity campaign that comes up at church and you say, “I want to be that $50,000 pledge.  How can I reallocate my finances to make that happen?”  Or “Wow, what an amazing story of life change from that baptism.  I’m going to give $1,000 (instead of a usual tithe of $100, $250, or whatever) and I’ll reallocate my expenses to make up for it.  I want to see more life change like that happen, and it’s worth sacrificing my other expenses to make it happen.”

So when we have those moments described above, our head often tells us, ‘No, you can’t do it.  Your mortgage is ‘fixed.’  Your car payment is ‘fixed.’  Your gym membership is ‘fixed.’ ”  Is it really?  What if you downsized?  What if you traded in your car for a lesser expensive one?  (Or much wiser, bought a lesser expensive one in the first place that you could’ve paid cash for.)  What if you didn’t pay to go out to eat for a month and instead spent quality time with your family grilling out burgers in the backyard?  What if you invited your neighbors over to do that once a week so they too could save on expenditures?  And what if you all decided together that you were instead going to ‘FIX’ your giving to the church so that more people could find their way back to God?

Just some thoughts… I am still thinking through this myself.  I have a little more leeway than most because I don’t have children, and I don’t have a mortgage.  But I do have expenditures that I have cut out of my life recently or significantly cut back on because I want my giving to be ‘fixed.’  The amount itself isn’t fixed each month, it is always above a tithe and increases with missional asks, but I am fixing it as the first thing I’m going to spend and all other things will fall in line behind it.  Sometimes it means I eat Ramen noodles all month if I hear a good baptism story and an opportunity to help more people find their way back to God.  Sometimes it means I don’t buy any clothes for six months because we’re trying to start a new campus or bridge a financial economic gap.  Sometimes it means a generous family I know hasn’t fixed the cabinets in their kitchen because we had a building expansion campaign and they wanted to see more families find their way back to God in their community.

Like I said, I’m still thinking through this ‘Who gets paid first?’ question.  But it has really got me and has shifted my thinking upside down.  I realize the things I downsize on are not as large as the potential possibilities for those of you who are homeowners out there.  Downsizing a mortgage and downsizing vehicles are big decisions that take time and care.

But what if….?

7 Responses to “Reallocate: Who gets paid first?”

Kirsten Says:
June 23rd, 2008 at 9:22 pm

When Scott quit his high-paying career to go back to school and get his teaching degree, we obviously had to give up a lot. But the thing that was hands down the hardest thing to give up was the ability to give generously to causes that came up—whether it was the single mom living in poverty that needed a new car or the YB Building campaign or a refugee family that needed basic household supplies. We loved being able to be generous givers. When we found ourselves living below the poverty line ourselves, God always provided for our needs, but we were not able to give much more than our tithe. And that was much harder to give up than anything else. We lived like that for 3 years. Then Scott finally returned to work–as a teacher making about 1/4 of what he made before. Living in Naperville, even with 2 incomes, we were still not able to do much beyond keep our heads above water. Downsizing and moving to East Aurora has brought with it a TON of good things, but one of the best things has been that we have some breathing room again to be generous. One of the new things we recently started after hearing Rick Warren’s talk, is setting aside money every month that we call our “hospitality fund,” so that we can spontaneously throw a BBQ for a bunch of kids in the neighborhood or help sponsor a block party without fretting about where the extra grocery money will come from. I know we still have SOOO far to go, and money still has a bigger grip on me than I would like, but I just want to affirm that there is little else (except maybe love) that feels as good as being generous. Thank you for helping to make generosity a contagious part of our culture at CCC, Julie!

DL Says:
June 23rd, 2008 at 11:29 pm

I can relate to what Kirsten says about it feeling good to be able to be generous spontaneously to causes that come up. While we are doing that more, we are also sort of budgeting in our extra giving. Sort of saying, we gave x extra last year, what can we do this year? I look forward to sitting down with some people and asking where they want the money to go next year. We’ve been able to do this via 2 incomes, but I think more importantly, not by downsizing, but by not upsizing. We’re in the same house from 16 years ago. I drive a 12 year old car. It’s stuff like that that help make being generous more possible and it does feel good. And Julie, you definitely lead by example. Thanks.

Steve Says:
June 27th, 2008 at 12:49 pm

I know you’ve wondered where my response is so here it is! First of all let me just say that the biggest “win” is that you’re listening to God and responding in loving obedience. The more you do that, and the quicker you respond, is a definite indicator of the growth of your faith and love for our Father. Kudos to you!

Secondly, well there’s really no “secondly” because the “first” is what it’s all about my friend!

casey graham Says:
July 2nd, 2008 at 7:42 am

Hi Julie. It’s Casey Graham from Mountain Lake Church. I have offically launched ReThink Money

I couldn’t find your email address. Can you email me?

Shirley Leak Says:
November 2nd, 2011 at 2:58 pm

You have a good sute Shirley Leak. I’ll be returning again in the future.

kolektory słoneczne Says:
July 23rd, 2012 at 2:11 am

Then yet again, the opposite could often be true. – Golf is a good walk spoiled. – Mark Twain 1835 – 1910

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