The Big T-O…
Nope, this has nothing to do with sports; apologies. This is about Tithes and Offerings in your budget.
Before you click the back button to keep mindlessly scrolling for easier to consume information, hear me out. Tithes and Offerings, if you don’t find yourself basing life on a Hebraic text, can also be called Donations, Contributions, Volunteering, etc.
Basically, it is the idea of taking a portion of what you earn (typically referring to money but could be goods or services, as well) and giving it to someone else. “But wait!” you say. “We are Budget Ninjas! We count every penny and strategically categorize it to maximize long-term goals! Who said anything about giving?” Deep breath, chaps. Hear me out.
The concept of donations is in the oldest of human texts. There are absolutely ancient examples of individuals using their own time, energy and resources to care for other individuals who had less than themselves in a particular way, without promise of reward or gain. In the Hebraic texts (lots of folks tend to call the most prominent one the Bible), a commandment is made by God to the Israelites to very specifically give the first ten percent of everything they had to the religious institution of their day, who was in charge of making sure that everyone was taken care of, including the orphan, widow and immigrant in their community. In today’s terms, we refer to that as ten percent of our gross income, or what you earn before taxes and such. The Israelites were then invited to give above and beyond this tenth in what was called offerings. This is just one example, though donating was not restricted to the Israelites. Donations to the poor is one of the five pillars in Islam, as well, and is common in many other religions and cultures.
This begs the question, why? Weren’t commandments rather fierce? And secondly, what in the world does that have to do with us today. I, personally, am neither Israelite nor Muslim, so I’m good, right? (Budget Ninja, hiyah!)
The Israelites were slaves for 500 years before they were brought out of Egypt and out of slavery. I believe it is safe to say that after 500 years or roughly twelve generations of people, they would have been a little rusty at the whole freedom thing. They needed a bit of a push to not only physically leave Egypt and its bonds of slavery, but mentally.
When I look at this rosy, little world we are living in today, I think all of us continue to live with pieces of the way that we are controlled (or enslaved, if you will) by money. We put so much time, energy and thought into that little green paper with some white guys’ faces on it. Sometimes, it’s absolutely exhausting. It makes us greedy, which, if we really admit it, is also exhausting. Even if we are terrible at saving money and we spend it like it’s hot, we still desperately want whatever we are buying. Don’t forget, Budget Ninja, budgeting is about freedom (cue William Wallace in Braveheart).
In a world, and a budget, that is constantly seeking to increase our bottom figures and gain, gain, gain, we never reach “enough.” We always toe the line. We say (myself included), “I may be doing okay, but I would travel so much more if I had a paycheck like [insert friend with better paycheck]!” Always focusing on our own bottom line makes us view what we have in deficits. Sometimes, there is real deficit, which we call debt. Sometimes, we can’t make ends meet; but even then, languishing on our deficit does not improve our situation.
When we choose to give, whether out of our deficit or our abundance, we open up into spaces of huge joy that we would not have otherwise entered. This past year, my husband and I got to financially help two different friends pay to adopt their sweet babies. That is an amazing place to be in with them. We also think there are some important things happening right now in this country, so we support the ACLU. At our church, kids who are the first ever in their family who can go to college get to spend their Spring Break traveling the country to visit colleges and learn about how education is a pursuit of justice. That’s amazing; we want to help sponsor more kids to go on that trip. We give a tithe at our church, which is called the Deacon’s Fund; they identify people in our neighborhood who need help paying for their groceries or keeping their heat on. All of this is not to brag; it’s a drop in the bucket. However, because of this, I can work my way towards looking at my financial situation (that’s two social worker paychecks) from a place of gratitude and not deficit. It frees me from my natural tendency towards greed, and wakes me up to what is happening around me.
So, since our early budgeting days, my husband and I have added a T&O column to our budget; a percentage of our gross income that we are committed to spending on someone outside of ourselves each month. Because remember, this is really about your freedom; be a William Wallace and take back your freedom through giving.