For us, living a generous life started with giving away 10% of our income. As I've already written, we quickly found that our finances never suffered in the wake of generosity. Jason and I started thinking about the Biblical command to give and realized that while money was one of our resources, it certainly wasn't our ONLY option for pouring into the world. In fact, when we looked at the stories of the original givers, we recognized that they gave flocks, oil, wine and crops to the Lord as a way of communicating their trust in His provision. When we took stock of all the things God had entrusted to us, we knew there was more to this idea of living a generous life. It's amazing how when we shift our focus away from what we WANT and focus on what we HAVE, we realize that we live in an embarrassment of riches.
Jesus said it best:
We got curious. What ELSE could we give away? We had cars and clothes and talents and time. For some reason, that last idea rang most true. When we had been short on cash, we trusted, gave it away and found, somehow, a full measure returned to us. Of the list we had complied, our scarcest resource was time. We were still early in our careers, raising littles who needed our constant attention. We were short on sleep and NEVER had enough minutes in the day to get it all done. Giving away what we quite literally had NOT ENOUGH OF seemed crazy. Then we re-read the story of the widow who gave her only coins and the promise that she will be remembered for the whole of human history because of her faith. Our thoughts turned to the boy who gave the 2 loaves and the 5 fish, which turned into MORE THAN ENOUGH in the hands of a capable Creator.
It was decided: God can expand our offering. He was faithful with our finances and now He was calling us into the deeper and dare I say, more difficult, area of giving our time. Writing a check is one thing. Money can always be made. Time can't. Giving away our minutes and hours and days was a much more daunting task.
We set a goal of giving away 10% of our year - 36.5 days. We researched options and ended up with a list of places that were desperate for help. Some were local, others far away. We prayed and made a plan.
Our list of places to give time included:
- a women's prison (25 minute drive)
- our home church
- mentoring a group of middle school boys (Jason did this in our home, their homes and at local establishments)
- a homeless shelter (45 minute drive)
- an orphanage in the Dominican Republic
With the exception of our trips to the Dominican, it is all, really, quite simple. Here is our basic recipe:
- hire a sitter
- drive to where we were going and have UNINTERRUPTED conversation in the car
- hang out with totally awesome people
- have ANOTHER conversation on the way home.
- hold hands
- finish our sentences
It's laughable now that we ever viewed it as sacrifice. It was one of the very best things we ever did for our marriage, and, in turn, for our kids.
We experimented for a year, trying to out-give God in the area of time and it turns out that He is just as faithful with our days as He is with our finances. Every time it seemed like our calendar would burst, we chose to give away the thing that we needed most, and always found it returned to us, a good measure, pressed down, overflowing into our laps.
We've been doing this for almost a decade and when people ask us HOW we manage to give away 10% of our time, I'm a little sad that it seems like such a massive lift. It's not. Every place we go is just a normal place where normal people can get involved. I guess that's the reality of living the Gospel, though, it's not as complicated as we make it. Being kind, loving our neighbors and doing what's right have never been EASY, but they've always been simple and straightforward.