Most people believe that having enough money is a prerequisite for living a good and comfortable life. For most of us, we need money for food, a home (or apartment), meeting our medical needs, buying clothes, obtaining an education for ourselves and our children, and having transportation to get to our jobs.
Acquiring even more money opens the door to even more – perhaps a larger and more luxurious home in an upscale neighborhood, longer or more exotic vacations … the list can go on and on.
Probably, most of us will never have enough money to meet all our wants and needs, and good budgeting is a necessary discipline to keep a balance between what we have, what we need, and what we want. We also have different needs for money at different stages of our lives – as children growing up, as single and married adults, as parents with young and older children living with us, and as retirees. There are so many variables to consider that can influence what we think we need and what we feel we want.
Have you noticed that I have not included giving to others? The list of ways we can share can also be long: contributions to our church, synagogue, or mosque, to organizations serving people who are living in poverty, helping provide permanent housing, assisting organizations serving refugees and immigrants, numerous charities, peace, and social justice projects, and other groups.
A question that I think is important to ask ourselves is whether these benevolent contributions to others are as important as some of our personal needs and wants. Typically, our personal and family needs are determined first and then decisions follow about how much we can contribute to others. That’s what I would like to briefly reflect on – how important is giving to others in comparison to meeting our own personal needs and wants.
One of the Bible passages that has had the most influence on me has been Matthew 25: 31-46, partially stated by Jesus as “… Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” … Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” This passage is a reminder of the priority of vulnerable people and their needs, and the truth is that Jesus spent most of his time giving of himself to such people in his ministry.
Who are the vulnerable people today to whom Jesus is likely to want us to give our utmost attention? They could be people who are struggling every day worrying about their next meal or having a safe place to sleep that night. Also, people who have serious medical or mental health problems and do not have access to decent medical care and health insurance. And those shunned and ignored because of a mental disability and the stigma that accompanies it, or those pushed aside and overlooked because they are perceived in some way as lesser.
As Christians, I believe we are expected to consciously consider spending our money and sharing other resources with vulnerable people who need our help, often rather than spending on things we may not really need. For example, we can choose to buy a newer car or spend the money on people who need more nutritious food. We can buy an additional computer for ourselves with more power and other features, or support a new Girl Scouts troop or a new pool in the local Y. Or other choices like an additional or more extravagant vacation or a refugee program. An additional vacation home in the mountains or a new group home for treating addicted or estranged teenagers. These examples may not fit your specific circumstances, but I think you know where I am going with this.
This is the journey that my wife, Joanna, and I have been on for much of the last decade. The more that we give to the local, national, and international groups that we think are important, the greater our excitement and ability to give becomes each new year. The more we seem to give to others in this way, the more money we seem to have to give. It takes practice to give thoughtfully, intentionally, sacrificially. We’re still working on it.
Jim Dudley | April 26, 2022
Jim Dudley is a retired professor and Joanna is a retired medical social worker. Jim has recently been in a Money, Faith, and You group. In our spare time, Joanna is a yoga teacher and Jim writes about spirituality and coordinates a Democracy, Voting, and Social Work Project at his university campus in Charlotte.