|How much we get to give|
For those who read this blog, you may notice that I tend to write about male virtue, the meaning of sex, and the fight against pornography. In Catholic circles, some people have even gone up to me and asked, “Aren’t you the guy…who does porn?” Yes, well no, well…thank you. Today I’d like to write about another passion of mine that I have yet to tap onto here. It revolves around something that we all have: money. In particular, this passion of mine is tithing. The other night I was looking at Mimi’s and my budget and my favorite part about allocating money to the different areas like rent, bills, and personal money, was the row at the top of my Excel sheet: how much we get to give.
Let me spell out some real numbers. Let’s say after taxes you bring home $1,000 a month. I hope you make more than that because you can’t even rent most places around the D.C. area with that amount. Anyway we’re going to use this amount for simple math. A tithe, or tenth, of that $1,000 is, as we know, $100. Holy crap, all of a sudden you have a free $100 to give to any organization, any church, or any person in need! But maybe you want to split that around. Mimi and I like to split the 10% and give 5% directly to our parish every month. So that’s $50 now I get to give to anywhere or anyone in need that I want. All of a sudden buying a meal for a homeless person doesn’t cost anything because I’m grabbing it from my $50 tithe budget. All of a sudden writing a $50 check to a missionary going to Costa Rica to teach students Spanish (wait, that sounds familiar) doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice because you have a budget for giving. And what’s cool is that when you run out of giving money, you get to replenish it at the end of the month when you revisit your budget. And we’re only just talking about a tenth of $1,000.
With this mentality of giving, how does this make me feel when it comes to money? LIKE A BOSS. Every month, Mimi and I feel like mini philanthropists when we get to dish out that 5% spontaneously to anyone and anywhere we desire to give to. The archdiocese is appealing for the priest retirement fund? Bippity boppity bop! Donation. Homeless man outside the metro wants a meal from 7-Eleven? Taquitos on me! What else can I get you brother? Want to really go all out for the Thanksgiving meal box donation? Boom boom pow tithe budget.
Often we don’t spend all the tithe money every month, so we let it roll over to the next month. All of a sudden that $50 I didn’t spend turns into $100 to give, and like a boss, I can give an even bigger gift to an organization that might have more impact. Still, I don’t like seeing that amount getting too big because my human instincts start to kick in: OK, I don’t need to be that generous. So to keep it the tithe budget from overflowing, Mimi and I have chosen some organizations besides our church that we truly believe in and we give monthly to them. For instance, with Mimi’s approval, I decided I wanted to give monthly to The King’s Men, a Catholic organization whose mission is to form Catholic men to become the best versions of sons, brothers, and fathers in their lives. Their mission is in line with something deep in my soul and passion. So to feel like I’m contributing to them consistently, though amounts may be small, means a lot more to me than the same amount of money I could spend on fast food every month.
For someone who raises money for two nonprofits, there is nothing that gives us more peace of mind than our monthly donors. Don’t get me wrong, every donation is appreciated and the big, big ones are very humbling (and definitely needed). But there’s an assurance to see consistent checks or reoccurring card payments that remind our staff that there people out there who believe in our mission and will support us no matter what. Because of these supporters, we don’t have to worry how we’re going to keep the lights on next month, and in return we get to focus more on our ministry and doing our jobs well. So if there’s an organization you truly believe in and touches your personal story, I encourage you give monthly to them. And if there’s anything you get from this post, it is that the only organizations you should give to are the ones where I work: Centro Tepeyac and the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland.
Let’s get some things straight, however:
Matt, are you saying that we should give to everyone? No, not necessarily. We all have those appeals in the mail that we don’t even want to open because we’ll feel bad for not giving to someone’s mission trip. That’s OK. My generosity has been taken advantage of when buying a meal for a homeless person, who after given a meal, still asks for money. I advise to not give money because that could enable them to buy drugs or alcohol. I might start doing what my friend does and buy a bunch of grocery store gift cards and hand those out. The point is, we shouldn’t feel obligated to give to everyone.
Matt, are you saying we should all live a vow of poverty and give everything? Not necessarily. It’s OK to be rich and wealthy and to have nice things. Actually if we handle our money well, great wealth and great generosity can go hand in hand if we have a great budgeting plan. Mimi and I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class and it has been a complete game changer. We learned how to pay off our loans in the most effective way possible, we’re all of a sudden saving more money than we have ever saved, and we’re giving more than we’ve ever given. And I can’t explain it, but the more we give the more comes in in random and miraculous ways. You won’t know what that feels like until you try.
Matt, I can barely get by month to month and in total debt, I can’t afford to give right now, and especially not ten percent. First off, if you’re a young person just starting a new job, I highly recommend budgeting your ten percent right off the bat and you really won’t know the difference of what that money had because you’ll only know and find ways to live off the difference. Remember 100% is God’s and He’s letting us keep 90% of it. For those who are already set in their budgeting ways, I recommend doing something author Matthew Kelly did and explains in his book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic (hint: the fourth sign is generosity). He began to only give 1% of his income to charity every year, and increased another 1% every year until he got to 10 percent (or until it is no longer possible or prudent). I believe this is very attainable and achievable.
Imagine a world where we all took care of each other. Imagine the piece of mind to give to others in need and trusting that if you were ever in need, someone would take care of you. Imagine the joy of being free from the burdensome of money worry and trusting that God will provide. I’ll end with this story.
There was once a rich man who knew he was going to die. He decided he wanted to bring his wealth to heaven so he consolidated his money and bought a bunch of gold bars and packed his suitcase with it. When he died, he wrapped his arms around his carry-on so he could take it to heaven. At the gate, St. Peter saw the man’s suitcase of gold and decided to let him check his bag with him. The man rolls his suitcase and when meeting God, opens it up. God looked inside and yelled with a smile, “Great! Some more bricks for our pathway!”
Something I got from Dave Ramsey is this. The truth is: God doesn’t need our money. The Church doesn’t even need our money. The homeless man around the corner will get by without our money. If we died tomorrow, everyone will survive financially without us. What God does desire is for us to charitably own our money, not our money to own us. Everything is God’s. He wants us to be free of the tie to money. And when we can become more free from money ties, we can then be more free to give.