Spending Money as a Benevolence Strategy

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I’ve talked a lot about giving and the dangers of materialism on this site.  One of my recent posts that really encapsulated my thoughts on the subject was called missional frugality.

However, I’ll be the first to admit there are some economic flaws when you only promote giving as a way to help others.

Honestly, I’m really surprised that no one has called me on it.  I was expecting to see some comments that talk about the importance of spending, not just giving.  All I would have said is, “Yes, you’re exactly right.”

Here are some of my presuppositions.

  • Working for money is a healthier way to get money than to receive it as a gift.
  • People who work for money feel better about it than people who are forced to ask for money.

Thus, the reality is that much social good can be done through spending money.

Majority World Animosity Against Corporations

Here in Alotau, because of the theory of limited means, people don’t often have much positive to say about the large companies here in town.  The biggest company here is an oil palm plantation.  They employ about 6,000 people.  However, it’s not unusual for local people to complain about the presence of this company and the amount of business that is going overseas. 

There is some truth in this concern.  The company certainly could be doing justice to their employees by paying them more.  However, there is also a danger in giving more wages to workers.  Higher employee wages mean higher prices.  Higher prices mean the company could earn less money.  If the company goes under, that is not good news for anyone.  So there is a balance to find.

How spending money helps people (using Alotau as an example)

  1. A successful company makes a profit.
  2. They hire employees.
  3. Those employees take their paychecks and buy groceries.
  4. This allows the grocery store to continue in business.
  5. The grocery store clerk takes her salary and buys vegetables from the market. 
  6. The allows a market seller to make a profit.
  7. The market seller spends money to travel by bus to see her family.
  8. This allows the bus driver to make a profit.

We see that spending money is a way to bless other people – indirectly.

Several weeks ago I did a guest post at Get Rich Slowly.  In that post I talked about how living in PNG has helped me improve my economic situation.  There were some negative comments insinuating that I’m getting rich off the backs of the poor. 

However, I (like we all do) make a positive contribution to the economy here.  I do spend money I earn.  I buy diesel for my truck, groceries for my family, food at the restaurant in town. 

Now, I could feel guilty about that (and sometimes do), but the reality is that every dollar I spend helps someone’s brother, aunt, or uncle have or keep a job. 

If I stopped spending and instead gave all of that away, the results would mostly be negative.

People might eat for a day, but since they may not have learned how to manage money, it would likely disappear.

People would be less motivated to work expecting for gifts to provide their needs instead.

There’s been a lot of talk about Dave Ramsey’s house, but one thing is for sure.  He’s helped a lot of other people by building his house.  I’m sure it took a fleet of workers to build it.  I’m sure there are several people employed to clean, maintain, and check everything.   Say what you want about the house, but if Dave said, “I want to build this massive house to help the economy and create jobs,” then good for him.

I’ve shared openly that I’m not that kind of person.  It goes against who I am as a frugal person.

But, we need Christians who spend big dollars to create strong economies. 

How Should You Spend Money as a Benevolence Strategy?

  1. Give dollar preference to small businesses that have good reputations.  Even better, give business to other Christians. 
  2. When you spend money, remind yourself that everyone you see or talk to at that company was just blessed (in a small way) by your service.
  3. Refuse to chase after the lowest price if you know an organization is unfairly treating others just to give you the lowest price.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will.  Obviously, I’m not suggesting that someone stop benevolence giving and decide only to embrace benevolent spending.  Instead, I’m saying that, in addition to your benevolence giving, you could consider benevolence spending. 

What are your thoughts on spending money as a benevolence strategy?

Comments

  1. says

    Craig, this one one of the lessons God showed me the hard way. I agree with everything that you said. I believe that even spending with the motivation of God’s Love is just another form of giving. Because when I spend money to buy products, I’m not thinking, “Yes, I got to have this! I need this!” My thoughts are and the intents of my heart it this, “I wonder if he/she is making enough to pay their bills. Maybe this will boost their business for them a bit. Maybe I should also help promote their products (I only usually do this if what they are selling is Christ centered).”

    So yes, even spending can glorify God. Look at Solomon. His spending with his father’s friend, who was not an Israelite, help build the temple. Solomon paid for supplies from him to establish the people of Israel a a nation with peace all around him. The glory cloud came down and God showed up!

    • says

      Ricardo,
      As you mentioned, the motivation is sooooo important. Some do spend just to get more for themselves. That’s no (as you pointed out) what we’re talking about here. It is others motivated spending.
      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Wes Smith says

    Thanks for the insight Craig. We have thought about some of these topics recently. A couple of years ago, I was traveling a lot for business and our son wasn’t quite big enough to mow the yard so my wife hired it done while I was in “travel mode”. When the travel slowed down, we considered dropping the yard service. The people she hired are a husband/wife team and their teenage son helps them when he is not in school. They are a poor (by U.S. standards) hard working people who value family. There was no way we could “fire” them. We kept them on mowing the yard every other week. Now that my son is big enough, he mows the weeks they don’t.

    • says

      Wes,
      This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Spending money not for ones own sake, but for the sake of others. I think that can play as important a role as giving someone something.
      When people here ask for money we often try to create work instead of just giving them something. I think working is more satisfying than getting a benevolence gift.

  3. Jason says

    I agree with your comments for the most part. The only caution I wanted to add was that I often see this used as an excuse for living an opulent lifestyle, which I can’t find a biblical basis for, even if you are giving away a lot (relatively speaking). Dave Ramsey could also stimulate the economy by building himself a smaller home along with many smaller homes for others. Same number of people could be employed and the economy stimulated plus potentially provide affordable housing for others (whether in US or not). Should I buy a cruiseliner size Yacht in order to help the struggling Christian “Yacht store owner” who goes to my church even if I can pay cash, tithing(10%), and giving offerings above that as well? I know that defining “opulent” is the challenge and I used “Cruiseliner Size Yacht” as an exaggerated example, but I think if we’re honest, we know when we’ve crossed that line where our hearts are really being pulled by the things of this world more than the things of Christ.

    For me personally, even though I could pay cash for a new Ford 150 4X4 vehicle to replace my old beater two wheel drive pickup, I feel personally (not mandating this for others) I can’t currently do that in good conscience even though it would help the local business owners of the Ford Dealership, who are wonderful Christian people and employ wonderful Christian people. I know that at this time, that would be crossing a line because at the heart of it, I would simply “like” a new truck because of the things I could do with and the way I feel when I drive it(and likely also the way others look at me). Is a new Ford truck opulent, not necessarily, but it does come back to you deep down knowing, what are you TRULY living for. Maybe I’ll have peace about the new truck in the future:). However, to be honest, I have a hard time justifying that argument, when in reality even a struggling business owner in my town is living much better than much of the world, so wouldn’t God’s kingdom be more significantly impacted by funding ministries that help lift those folks out of true poverty (by working etc. as you recommend in your ministry) rather than providing for a greater level of wants for my local Christian Ford Dealer? The Bible doesn’t talk about helping those who desire a better lifestyle or a stronger business, but about caring for the poor, the oppressed, the broken hearted.

    But in essense, what I hear you are saying in the comments as well, is that your true intentions of what you are doing are the key, which I agree with. However, this can be tricky to discern, especially when it’s being used to buy something you’ve “always wanted” and I would say that when spending is being done with this motivation, it takes a few extra heart checks (maybe some accountability) to make sure you don’t head down the dangerous consumerism path in the name of “spending for Jesus” .

    • says

      Jason,

      About 95% of my posts talk about simple living and generous giving. This was my balancing post to say I’m not judging with those that spend money as Christians.

      So, I do 100% agree with what you’re saying.

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