More Blessed

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

This week’s podcast guest is Celeste. Celeste and her good friend Priscilla visited our church some years ago. They came from Argentina as missionaries. They blessed us immensely. However, I felt guilty throughout their visit because I didn’t have much time to spend with them. I didn’t get to see them very much at all. I didn’t have them over for a meal or anything like that. In fact, though my daughter spent a bit of time with them, I felt like their whole trip passed in a blur and I pretty much missed it.

At the end of their trip the church threw them a farewell party. Somehow I managed to make the time to attend that. And for some reason I felt it was right to give them a gift. Just a small gift of  money. I wrote a card, put the dollars in, and gave it to them at the party.

They were a bit taken aback. They told me that they were on their way home now, the trip was over, and they didn’t need the money.

Tithing

I’m used to getting that reaction, people are not used to being given gifts and they often don’t know how to react or don’t want to take the gift. But the thing is, we put money aside to give to people. This is money we will never use on ourselves. Sometimes we give it to the church, sometimes to visiting missionaries, sometimes to a charity organisation. We give away about 10% of our income.

This doesn’t make us special. Tithing, or giving 10%, is a Jewish law, and Jews and Christians through the ages have given their tithe, and often given offerings on top of that. I’ve heard of people who give 90% and live off 10% of their income.

 In fact, if you’re having money problems and you come to me for advice, the first thing I suggest you do is tithe. It’s counter-intuitive. But it’s one of those laws of the universe. Your money management will go more smoothly if you put aside 10% to give away. 

God doesn’t ask us to test him much. Almost never. But he asks us to test him when it comes to tithing. In Malachi 3:10 he says, ‘Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’

A quick aside, I am not talking prosperity gospel here. I am not saying give money and you’ll get rich. I am saying that if you give your 10% as a sign that you trust God to provide, then he will provide for your needs. And he’ll bless you in other ways as well. And this story that I am telling you (yes, I’ll get back to it) is one of the ways that God has blessed me through my giving.

Had I failed?

When I got home from the party I felt a bit strange. Why had I only given this money at the end of the trip? Was this just another failure in being part of the church response to these beautiful two girls? Should I have given the money much earlier? I felt bad, but what was done was done. I got on with life. I forgot about it.

I forgot about it until Celeste reminded me in this week’s podcast. She tells us the end of the story. And I’ll share it here too.

Perfect timing

Just before Priscilla and Celeste flew out of Hobart, they found out that the flight from Sydney to Argentina had been cancelled. They had to spend a night in Sydney and then catch the next flight out. And the money that I gave them covered the cost the hotel room for the night.

It had been right to give them that money at the end of their trip. It was a necessary gift to cover an expense that they hadn’t seen coming.

When I heard Celeste tell me this I had truly forgotten that I had even given the money. And when I heard that it was me that God had used to provide for their needs I was truly blown away. I had done the right thing. I had heard God correctly and done what he asked. He used me to provide for these girls. What a blessing! To them, for sure, but also a huge blessing to me!

There is joy in receiving a gift, and there is also so much joy in giving.

Let me challenge you. Test God. Give 10% of your income. Find out just what an amazing blessing it is to give.

Do you have a joyous giving story? Or a story where someone has met your needs at just the right time? Please share with us in the comments! Let’s encourage one another.

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Time is like money

Beani of doom

I was talking with my friend Sarah one evening about how difficult it was to say no to worthwhile activities and she gave me a very good piece of advice.

“Time is like money,” she said.

Now we’ve all heard “Time is money” – that we need to make sure that we’re using our time to make money, or that the use of our time is worth money, but that’s not what she was saying. Instead, she was saying that just like we need to budget our money, we also need to budget our time.

Let’s start with money.

The other day I met with a friend for coffee in the city. I wasn’t exactly running late but I was on a tight schedule and I was eager to spend as much time with my friend as possible.

As I turned the corner to the door of the coffee shop I was accosted by a very friendly man with a large smile and a grey beanie. (It was winter in Tasmania, it was cold).

“Hi, nice to meet you!” he said with great enthusiasm and shook my hand and gave me his name and asked for mine.

My heart sank. I knew what was coming.

I don’t like to ignore people and just walk on, especially when they give me a warm and genuine smile. It is just rude to completely blank them and I find it impossible. But sometimes I wish I could.

He was a ‘charity mugger’ – you know, one of those people from a non-profit organisation who is out on the street and wants, not a donation, but a commitment of “just $40 a month, less than a coffee a day.”

What do you do in that situation? The needs in this world are huge, and if you are reading this you are probably one of the privileged few.

I love my cup of coffee a day. I would find it hard to give that up for any charity. I need to provide for my own family, pay my own bills, save for my future, and I also want to put aside some money to follow my dreams.

In one way I would like to give every cent that I have to help a child climb out of poverty, and to help a girl escape child marriage (this is what the guy in the beanie was about), and to help a woman in a developing nation start her own business, and to boost medical research. The list goes on and on. The number of charities in Australia is doubling every decade. Pro bono Australia counted 56,894 charities in Australia in 2016. We can’t give to them all.

What are we to do?

One of my major breakthroughs for this issue was to realise that it is not my responsibility to solve every problem in the world.

I can’t get my head around how many people there are in the world. There are so many people. My brain can handle the thought of ten, one hundred, one thousand people. I have at least a thousand people that I know personally. I think I can almost hold that number of faces, personalities, in my head. After that it gets fuzzy. When I’m driving home of an evening I look at all the cars and realise that each person in each car is a personality with their own dreams and trials and families, hurts and loves – I tell you it spins me out a little.

If I gave every cent of my own money to charity it wouldn’t help that much. But if everyone in the developed world gave a little of their money to these charities, then we could do a lot to make the world a better place.The charity-muggers are doing an important job if they get someone who is not giving to start giving. It’s a numbers game.

Let me tell you what I decided to do, not to blow my own horn but to maybe help you to make your own decisions. (And remember, we’ll be applying this to time later.)

I decided how much of my income I was going to give away. I’ve decided that 10% of my gross income is a good way to go. I’ve heard of someone who lives off 10% and gives away 90% and, to be honest, I’d like to get there one day. But 10% is a good place to start. Sometimes I give a little more out of my savings, especially when I feel like money is getting a hold on me. Giving is an excellent way to combat both greed and fear that God won’t provide. But that’s another story.

Once I had decided how much I was going to give I looked at my personal values and found a number of organisations that suited my values. I’m going to give you a general idea so that you can hopefully use it to make your own list. I give to local and to international mission, I sponsor some children in the developing world, I give to a non-profit that supports victims of child abuse and one that supports research into cancer, and I support my local church. That’s it.

I made the decision thoughtfully and prayerfully. I took my time over it. And I revisit it occasionally when I have time and brain-space. But for most of the time the decision is made.

So what did I do when the friendly man in the beanie attacked me with his very worthy cause? I said no.

At first, (and this turned out to be not a good idea) I tried to tell him that I gave already to five charities (yes, I forgot some) and that I had made my decision, but he was having none of it.

“That’s great! You’re just the kind of person I want to talk to! If you give to five, why not six?” he said.

Then I realised that I didn’t need to justify to him, or to anyone, why I was not giving to his particular charity, worthy though it might be. His charity was an SEP (someone else’s problem). I have decided where I am going to give and that’s the end of the story.

I’m sure he gets knocked back all the time and that he can deal with it. The person I have to live with is me. When I was trying to make each decision about giving on the spur of the moment I was pushed around by my own emotions, my guilt, my compassion. It was not pretty.

I’m very sure that God doesn’t want us living under a cloud of condemnation all the time. In fact, he says so: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

I don’t need to feel guilty because I can’t solve the world’s problems. Solving the world’s problems is not my job.

Giving is excellent. Giving is my job. It is good for me, it is good for each of us, and it is good for the world. Let’s make a decision about how much we will give, and where we will give. And then give. But let’s not get hung up on feeling guilty that we can’t be the saviour of the world.

“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

Next post I’ll tell you how I transferred this idea to my time management issues, how it helped me say no to invitations to worthy causes. In the meantime, do you have any ‘charity mugger’ stories? Have you been a mugger yourself? How do you feel about saving the world?

This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.

You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42

If you would like to hear more about my writing journey as it comes to the pointy end with my first novel (a cosy mystery), please drop me a line on rijamos@gmail.com and I’ll add you to my newsletter list. The newsletters are more writing focussed – what I’m doing with my writing, and what I’m reading myself. I look forward to hearing from you.