One topic that came up during the recent No Spend Weekend Challenge was that of giving vs. spending. It’s a spiritual question that we answer with our physical lives. Choosing how and when to use our money gets complicated when funds are tight. How we allocate our available resources can reveal our true priorities.
I believe giving and spending are very different things and should be addressed differently in a budget. Spending is trading money for something you want. Giving is offering something, money or goods or services, to another person or entity with no expectation of receiving anything in return.
Giving and spending can, on the surface, look a lot alike. It is in examining your motives and potential return that you find the difference. Motives can be a difficult thing to force ourselves to consider because they can appear beautiful on the surface but be ugly underneath.
Let’s make it a little less personal and look at it from the perspective of a business. Suppose the local fitness center, we’ll call it “LFC” for short, sponsors a charity 5k. LFC goes all out and becomes the title sponsor. The name of the organization is used every time the 5k is advertised, as in, “Come to the LFC Charity 5K next weekend!” The business logo appears on all of the event signs and is the largest and most prominent image on the back of the event t-shirt. LFC’s owner is invited to make an appearance at the event and has a photo op with the head of the charity and some cute little kids who have benefited from the charity’s work.
Is sponsoring the charity event giving or spending (specifically on advertising)? Do you see what I mean? It’s complicated. I’m not saying LFC’s owner is bad or phony for sponsoring a charity event. The owner may really want to support the charity. It just seems at some point the sponsorship crosses a line from giving into spending. It’s hard to tell.
Here’s another example, one from my own life. My husband is a minister and as such we are often called to lead by example. We take the responsibility seriously and strive to live up to our calling in Christ in everything we do, including how we handle our finances, even though we know we don’t always do it perfectly.
A few years ago our church embarked on a fundraising campaign and all of the church leaders were called upon to make the first pledges to the campaign as visible proof to the congregation of the importance of the project. Naturally the Senior Minister and his wife were expected to do their part. We certainly wanted to support the project, but it would be easy to ask where one draws the line between the “cheerful giver” of 2 Corinthians 9:7 and merely fulfilling a job responsibility. We had to search our motives to be sure we were giving out of love.
So what about you? Are you giving a gift to impress your boss? To bless your neighbor? To control your children? To encourage your friend?
I don’t profess to have those answers. Only the individual can evaluate his own heart and mind. While I still think gifts given with less than stellar motives can be used for good, please let me encourage you to honestly evaluate how and why you give or don’t give, particularly if you are having financial difficulties. If you are giving out of a grateful heart that is overjoyed to have something to offer during a lean time, then good for you! Just as Jesus honored the widow’s mites I hope he will honor and multiply your gift. If you are giving to get ahead or maintain appearances, please reconsider your spending priorities and get to a place where you are free to give out of joy, not manipulation or obligation.
Isn’t it interesting that God promises blessings for giving (not spending)? In Malachi 3:10 the Lord basically double-dog-dares us to give and promises great things if we do. I suspect He knows our motives even better than we do, so it seems wise to examine them ourselves.
What do you see as the line between spending and giving? How do you prioritize giving and spending in your budget?
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If you’d like to read the three-part series on “Another Chance to Take the No Spend Weekend Challenge” then you will find the first part here. The following posts are linked from there.
Update: This post was shared at Five Star Frugal #17 at A Tray of Bliss.