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)
- A successful company makes a profit.
- They hire employees.
- Those employees take their paychecks and buy groceries.
- This allows the grocery store to continue in business.
- The grocery store clerk takes her salary and buys vegetables from the market.
- The allows a market seller to make a profit.
- The market seller spends money to travel by bus to see her family.
- 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?
- Give dollar preference to small businesses that have good reputations. Even better, give business to other Christians.
- 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.
- 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?