One of the hardest questions to answer for those who desire to create wealth is, “How much is too much?” If one is creating wealth to produce for the kingdom, how many of the seeds that you generate should you keep and how many should you give away? While this is a personal question that we all need to answer, I can give you some questions and insights that will help guide your decision.
What is the vision God has given you?
If you don’t have a family or personal vision, you will more easily struggle with restraint. If you don’t have a target to shoot for, any target will do. Filter each large purchase through the question, “Will this purchase bring you closer to vision fulfilment or further away? Are you making the correct trade-offs to achieve your vision?
Have you dealt with the hedonic treadmill?
The hedonic treadmill is a principle that states, once your basic needs are met, people quickly and easily take what they have for granted and compare what they possess to each other. People then begin to calculate their happiness as a function of relative income instead of absolute income. We call this keeping up with the Jones’.
An article in the Atlantic pointed out that the more people make the less they give as a percentage of their overall wealth. Ken Stern writes, “One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income.”
Further research pointed to the principle of proximity. The wealthy have the means to isolate themselves from those in need. While those in the middle and lower classes see needs on a regular basis. If you want to avoid the hedonic treadmill, you must not isolate yourself from the needs in our world. Make a point to create systems that keep your favorite charities and opportunities in front of you.
Are you tithing?
The tithe is a great starting point to help you maintain consistency in your giving. It’s so easy to give less as you make more. We can have a running catalog of things we want as our income increases. But if you make a habit of tithing, you create a great foundation of obedience to build your generosity upon.
A friend of mine was making around $800 per paycheck. He would faithfully tithe his $80. He started his own business and began making much more money. His tithe checks grew correspondingly. He struggled to tithe each week as he noticed, “That’s a lot of money!” One day he felt a gentle nudge in his heart that said, “Would you like to go back to tithing $80?” He gladly wrote the check!
Keep eternity in mind.
Remember, we will all give an account to how we stewarded our money and possessions. Jesus reminded us to store our treasure in heaven and to whom much is given, much is required. If you keep forever in front of you, this perspective will help guide your spending and giving decisions.
Set an income level that you will live on.
Above that, give it away. How much is enough for you? Without this line, it’s easy to have spending creep. How much is enough? Just a little more. You can also set a percentage giving goal. I would like to get to the place where our family gives away 50% of what we bring in. Rick Warren, during an interview with Larry King, was asked about his giving patterns. Mr. Warren had reached a place where he was giving 90% away and living on 10%. He earned most of this from the proceeds of his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. Larry King asked, “Is it true you live on 10% of your income? How can you do that?” “It was a good book!” Rick replied!
Working through these questions and creating your spending boundaries before your next raise will prepare you for that moment and guard you against the hedonic treadmill and spending creep!
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