Practical Guidelines

Lauren and Robert had some great ideas in the comment section yesterday (or the day before).  The whole conversation about money and hoarding can be a tense and vague one (at least, when I'm having it).

I have a tendency to want to keep things vague in an attempt to keep them from getting too tense.  But both Robert and Lauren brought some practical guidelines to light.

Lauren raised a question about the amount.  Somewhere between $2 and $2 trillion dollars, hoarding becomes a sign of distrust in the Lord.  Maybe the problem isn't with saving, but with saving too much.

And this is a fuzzy idea.  How much is too much? 

When buying life insurance, I bought enough to pay off the mortgage and to give Amy some time to grieve without having to worry about money.  I feel like it's the right amount.  Not too much.

But for saving, for retirement stuff, getting to the "too much" is tough.  Is it too much to have enough in my retirement account to provide clean drinking water (via biosand filters) to 1,500 people?  Well, that's not enough to support my family in retirement.  If I keep saving at this rate, I'll have $700 / month to live off of when I retire.  How much is too much?

I think, Lauren, that you're totally onto something with the idea that saving becomes hoarding when we gather too much.  My problem really is that I don't know how much is too much.  And even if I did have a number in mind, I wouldn't trust that number. I know my tendency to be foolish and greedy.

Maybe we could work with our Small Groups or close communities and come up with (admittedly arbitrary) numbers to use as cost-of-living caps and savings caps.  Could you say, when I make $40,000/yr I'll stop increasing my standard of living and give the rest away?  Could you say, when I've saved $500,000 I'll stop saving for retirement and increase my giving?  Maybe.

This echoes something Robert said in his comment.  He's very attentive to his motivations - why am I saving? - and this awareness allows him to save (or not to save).  If his motivations start interfering, start dragging him away from the Lord, his savings will be dumped like a load of Hutt spice from a space freighter being chased by Imperial stormtroopers.

I love Robert's idea but don't trust that I'm ready to be aware enough to notice that first sign of going astray or disciplined enough to do the deep surgery required if that cancer should manifest itself in me.  Practices like the ones Robert and his family use (giving more than they save, cutting giving as a last resort, etc...) are incredibly wise.  But I wonder if they would be enough to protect me?

God is more concerned about who we are becoming than about what we are doing.  Behavior isn't the main thing.  But our past behavior is a good indicator of our future direction.  I'm hesitant to make plans for tomorrow that require me to behave radically differently than I'm behaving today.  I'm concerned that, if I purpose to be generous tomorrow but am not today, when tomorrow comes I won't have developed the sort of life and character that supports generosity.

I don't know what to do about this (yet), but I am at least aware of the problem/temptation.

Thanks Lauren and Robert for your generous and thought provoking comments.  I'll keep thinking about this.  You do the same.  :)

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