Culture At Large

The art of living generously

Bethany Keeley-Jonker

I read Jessica Grose’s recent Slate series about newlywed finance with great interest. I could relate because before my recent wedding I did almost the same thing she did, but on a smaller scale. I started asking married couples how they managed their finances. How many accounts did they have? Was one person responsible for making sure all the bills got paid? How did they manage independent spending?

I learned a lot of the same things she did. People make it work in a variety of ways, no method is perfect and talking about money can be painful and frustrating under any system. Along the way, I began to wonder: How does being a Christian newlywed couple make our view of finances different from Grose's?

Many of the values my husband and I share mirror Grose's advice: pay your debts, avoid unnecessary conflict, act responsibly, save for the future. Beyond that, I thought of two things Christians need to consider and which Grose didn’t address: living generously and taking loving risk.

For us, these challenges have some easy parts and some hard parts. Easy parts include things like tipping generously when we eat out, inviting friends over for meals and being generous with our time when we are asked. These were part of our lives as single people, though I have found hospitality to be a bit easier now that I share responsibility with someone else. I think we’d like to work on being better hosts as our marriage grows. (I must be honest here and note that Justin takes the majority of domestic responsibility for a variety of reasons. Maybe that’s why I think it’s so much easier!)

A bigger challenge for us is charitable giving, to our church and to organizations we believe in. Part of the problem for us is that our future income is so uncertain, it’s hard to know what windfalls are God’s provision for our future and what is God’s excess for us to share with others. I expect in the current economy and with the uncertain work situations of many in my generation, this is a dilemma for others as well. Moving toward the future, I’m praying for greater faith that will allow me to let go of some of that safety-net cash and listen to God’s call for generosity. This can get into more tricky negotiations about the meaning of the Biblical tithe. Maybe when I’m more mature, I can do a post on that one.

I also feel that a Christian approach to protecting yourself financially from the possibility of divorce might be different from many of the people Grose interviewed. Divorce and betrayal of course happen to Christian couples, at a rate similar to the general population. Nonetheless, I do think part of being in any relationship that includes love requires risk, especially for Christians.

God knew this so well that when he made a covenant with Abraham, he took both sides, knowing Abraham (and humans) couldn’t hold up our end. This is also related to generosity - I think sometimes God asks us to give gifts or loans to others when they don’t seem to deserve it and when we don’t expect anything in return. Is this something you can even understand without knowing Jesus?

(Photo courtesy of Salvatore Vuono.)

Topics: Culture At Large, Business & Economics, Money, News & Politics, Justice, Home & Family, Marriage