Generosity (flickr.com/photos/91247384@N00/97084199)

Photo Courtesy: Olivier Durand Creative Commons 2.0

 

Generosity vs. Greed

I have sought to be rich on more than one occasion. In my 20s and 30s seeking wealth was a life theme. From Charles Givens in the 80s (remember him?), to Amway in the 90s (yes, me too) to real estate investment in the 2000s I have tried it all. I have “pierced myself with many arrows” and thankfully lived to tell. The credit card companies I’m still paying off love me….

The only thing I’ve done consistently well with money in my life is give it away. It is generosity, not greed, that brings blessings and peace.

The Measure of Wealth

For 15 years, I have been part of a group of 12 men who encourage and challenge each other in our faith. Grey hairs now claim more surface area, spiritual maturity has grown, and the meaning conveyed by facial expressions has become more powerful. We don’t see each other often, but we pick up where we left off whether its been days or months since last connecting.

The men in the group vary widely in resources, race and backgrounds. But we have several things in common: There have been ups and downs in all of the lives represented. We have all been redeemed by the grace of One who owes us nothing. We all have done our best to give back, not out of obligation, but with joy. Whether that generosity is financial or giving our time and gifts, there is great satisfaction in the giving.

Are we wealthy financially? For the most part, no. But good marriages, inner peace and wisdom are abundant in the group. Some things are better than money. Way better.

$450,000 for Clothes

My wife and I watched a TV show recently documenting the life of Beverly Hills debutantes living on their parents money. We watched in amazement as they spent $40000 on Cristal for a party involving their 12 friends. Then, one of the young women spent $450,000 at a Beverly Hills clothing store. Yes, $450,000….the clothes were just for her, not for all of greater Los Angeles. Oh, and they fit easily into her two seat Mercedes.

I was dumbfounded. Your initial reaction may be like mine – mumbling about the sickening excess of our nation. Thinking about how that money could’ve been spent to help the poor. Wondering why her parents let her get away with that. (And, of course, wondering why I don’t have any friends like that!)

Sure, people in third world countries look at us the same way when we complain about “only” making $50,000 a year. It’s all relative, after all. Though, you actually NEED the $50,000 to make ends meet here in our first world country. Housing, food and transportation come for a bit less in the third world.

But, how do you justify $450K for clothes?

$2B for New Stadiums?

One member of our group of 12 is a former Major League Baseball star. At a recent meeting, he was sharing a bit of back story associated with the new Atlanta Braves stadium. We discussed the new proposed Atlanta Falcons football stadium also and marveled about the two projects totaling around two billion dollars.

In Atlanta, we have hungry and homeless sleeping in the shadow of the foul poles, human trafficking conducted openly, and we choose these expenditures. Why? It’s simple – the stadium expenditure is made in hope of financial gain. Spending $2B to feed homeless or jail a bunch of pimps would be difficult to recoup. With a stadium, it’s easy enough to convince yourself that the investment will have a financial return. We choose based on our values.

But, is financial return the primary factor that should drive our decisions?

So, what about us?

We all do this on a much smaller scale in our own lives. We super size our already gargantuan meals, we opt for the leather seats (after all, we’ve earned it…), we buy second homes….there a million examples.  

Is this meant to be a guilt trip? No. It’s just a check, for me as much as for you. It’s a check to make sure I’m not judging others for doing the same things I do (even if their expenditures are “impressive” and mine aren’t). God looks at the heart behind the action, whether its $450K for clothes or buying a $75 golf shirt. My heart when I “treat myself” with a financial splurge is little different than the young lady spending half a million on designer clothing, our scale is just different.

I pray that I would have a heart for others – for the world’s needs. That I would have wisdom to know when and where and how to use my resources: time, money and energy, in the way God would have me to. I pray that my kids would miraculously avoid the selfish nature of our society, the one that I battle myself. 

To Give or To Consume?

Generosity instead of consumption. Where can you do that? What parts of your life, whether its time, money, a room in your house, or forgiveness, can you offer in greater measure? You don’t have to stand the world on its head tomorrow. Just give one more compliment. Forgive one more offense. Offer one more prayer. Share your art. Your “small” act means a lot to the person who benefits. Be a “yes” person. Live generously.

Jeff McKinney
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Jeff McKinney

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Jeff McKinney
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