Thrivent, the not-for-profit financial-services organization for Christians, recently had a one-day conference on Faith & Finance. Among the session topics discussed while I was in attendance were faith and economic opportunities, values and consumerism. There aren’t too many conferences on money I have attended where speakers referred to the influences of Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber, Chinese consumers and Rembrandt. The broad scope of ideas was engaging.
One comment in particular stood out for me. During his welcoming remarks, Brad Hewitt, chief executive at Thrivent, quoted from a proverb he said meant much to him: “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.”
Generosity is good for the spirit. Giving away our money is one way we express our generosity. Giving consistently also turns out to be key to managing household finances smartly over a lifetime.
Several years ago, I was on a book tour for “The New Frugality.” Audiences were receptive, especially to the idea that thrift is the opposite of cheapness. What surprised me was how often the concept of tithing came up during our discussions.
Tithing traditionally has meant giving away one-tenth of household income. Some people tithe a higher percentage of their income and others less than 10 percent. Although tithing is commonly associated with religion, people tithe for all kinds of reasons.
Whether you adopt a tithing approach of a percentage of income or not, the benefits of regularly giving money compound with time. At first making a priority of giving isn’t easy. Perhaps you are launching a career and family and you’ve committed to giving away 5 percent, 10 percent or some other percentage of income? Maybe you have lost your job and money is tight.
Yet I have been told many times by people that have maintained disciplined giving through good times and bad that generosity becomes the anchor to a strong household balance sheet. One reason is a commitment to regularly give money away pushes households to learn where their money is going. Another factor is the embrace of consistent giving leads us to ask the right questions about household finances. How do we want to express and live our values when spending and saving money outside of our giving? What values would we like our household income and assets to reflect?
Struggle with questions like these and your world gets bigger and bigger.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, Marketplace,” commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.