Growing up in a Christian home, tithing as a practice was taught very early in life and reinforced throughout life . My earliest memory of actively earning an income involved a little chat I had with my mother about giving in Sunday School (church). Every Sunday, mom would give us some coins to give in church. Then one day, she told me that how it works is that the person who gives the money, gets the blessings. She was giving us the money to give, so she was getting the blessings. Earning my own money to give would redirect those blessings to me 🙂 – what an easy way to get a 5/6 year old to start thinking of ways to earn money. I bought sweets with most of what I earned but that set me on the path to always giving a portion of my earnings to the church.
A few years back though, I lost my religion and everything was up in the air. I had to evaluate almost everything I had grown up believing and doing, to see if it stood against the kind of person I was and wanted to be. I had abandoned tithing somewhere along the way (after I realised it is not a command), but until I left church, I gave my money to church causes mostly.
My approach to giving has changed quite a bit
Though I do not adhere to the 10% tithing rule anymore, I have over time come up with guidelines for giving, and a few areas where I give regularly, whether I have enough or not. Do we ever have enough?? I just give and figure life out with what remains.
Education: At any one point in time, I actively support a child/children in school. This is personal. Though my parents were not poor, at some point in our lives we needed financial support and friends and strangers came in big time and helped our mother pay our school fees. So I pay it forward. Secondly, in an economy like ours, educating a child is one thing that can truly change a family’s economic fortunes. I have seen it happen to us.
To parents: Despite tradition, I do not believe that children owe parents anything (parenting is a role they take up without involving the kids at all). I also do not think parents should blackmail children into supporting them, neither should parental support rank higher than your financial independence goals – unless you want to perpetuate the cycle of parents being supported by their children. I have written about this balance. However, I think it is honorable and fulfilling to share your earnings with your parents, even if they do not need it. For this, I have a fixed amount that I transfer to my mom every month and I contribute to family projects where I can. I also like to randomly giving my mom money, we have a running pocket money joke. The money moved one way for so many years, now its time for it to move the other way. It makes me happy.
Social causes that I am passionate about, or that are being pursued by people whose intentions I believe to be honorable. This season, I am giving every cent I can spare to Boniface Mwangi’s campaign. Why? Because he has represented the weakest in our society for years, and he actually is serious about accountability.
Other. This goes to other people in need, may be friends or acquaintances, where I give without the expectation that the money will come back.
How much do I end up giving?
As I was writing this post, I checked my expense tracking app, and from January to date, I have given 8.5% of my income to all of the above. This was surprisingly higher than expected, especially when I compare with my savings rate (hah!), but I feel really good about the places and people I have chosen to help.
Save for the fixed amount to the parents, I do not have a giving budget. I give out of my spending money and sometimes out of my savings, and this is why I loathe keeping my savings in cash form. Moving forward, I do not intend on setting a giving budget – I feel this will stop me from helping in instances where someone needs help and I have exhausted the budget. The way it works is just fine.
Regardless of your religious leaning, I think giving does us a lot of good. Giving stops us from being overly wrapped up in our lives and troubles. Conscious giving forces us to look outside of our troubles and focus on another person’s needs and make a little difference. It also is a way of expressing gratitude, especially when we give to our parents.
Finally, giving money is one way of supporting causes that we are passionate about. Non-believers do not give with the expectations of blessings, but the good feeling and the opportunity to change lives is more than enough.