What are your thoughts on personal savings (emergency funds, college funds, retirement funds, etc) verses giving of the extra money from an increased salary. Where is the balance found between radical giving and financial responsibility?
How much money is enough?
Here is an issue that so many of us want to keep private and
off-limits even to good friends, much as we would refrain from discussing
politics at a family reunion. But we
need to come to grips with the need for a limit on our lifestyle before, not
after, we make a bunch of money.
The tendency is for lifestyle to expand to eat up the
available salary as it grows. Better to
pray about it and pre-determine to cap your lifestyle. For example, if you begin your career at
$25,000 and you keep getting promoted so that your salary is $125,000, how much
of that extra $100,000 do you spend on yourself?
When Karen and I had just graduated from college and went to
as missionaries in 1980, my salary was $14,400.
Our one bedroom apartment cost us $100/month and our food budget per
month was also $100. We took public
transportation. We managed to live on
about $3000 that first year.
After having had five children, three of whom are in
college, our expenses have ballooned. We
are not ascetics, but we are frugal. And
we recognize that everything we have belongs to God.
We are stewards of all the time, money,
relationships and opportunities that he has given us. We are
stewards of even the ideas that come into our minds
as to how we could potentially help the widows and orphans who populate the
Yes, Karen and I take vacations and go out on dates. But we recognize that we live in a world
where we are in the top 1% of humanity in terms of resources. And we serve a God who said, “To whom much is
given, much is required.”
Few of us get rich overnight. Most of us have to pay off debts and finance increasing responsibility in a society where education and healthcare costs are
skyrocketing. But just as “bracket creep”
can cause our tax rate to increase, so “lifestyle creep” can nudge us into ever
more costly places in life. Even though we have more and more actual
dollars to spend, we somehow continually decide to allocate them to ourselves.
I don’t know how exactly God is going to look at my
stewardship, but when I stand before him, I want
to have lived a considered life, a life not characterized by self-absorption
and small-mindedness. I don’t want to be
a victim of lifestyle creep.
One of the best ways I’ve seen to combat this phenomenon is
to pre-determine what the cap on our lifestyle will be if our salary
increases. The simple lifestyle is
something that doesn’t happen by accident in America. It must be fought for. It is the fruit of the person who recognizes
the most successful traps laid by our enemy and prays through a thoughtful
response to them.