Could You Live Off of 6% of Your Income?

Meet Julia and Jeff, a couple who live on just 6% of their income in order to give away $100,000 year. 20151006_101110

“Julia Wise is a social worker and her husband, Jeff Kaufman, is a software engineer. In 2013, their combined income was just under $245,000, putting them in the top 10% of US households. And yet, excluding taxes and savings, they lived on just $15,280, or 6.25% of their income.

What happened to the rest of their income, just under $100,000? They gave it to charity.

That’s 40% of their pre-tax earnings, and it’s not a one-off: They’ve donated a comparable percentage every year since 2008” (see full article here).

Does this seem crazy to you? It does to me. Granted, this couple saves a lot because they have a pretty decent income, but what is remarkable to me is how they must sacrifice in their every day life – living on just over $15,000 a year – in order to give more.

I love it when sociological studies affirm what Jesus tells us in Scripture. This article goes on to talk about all of the ways recent studies are proving that giving more and having less makes for a happier individual.While there are numerous warnings in the Bible about the dangerous side of money, it also gives us some general advice for how to use it well. The story told in this article about this generous couple finds a number of things to be true of giving that should remind us of what Scripture also affirms.

  1. It is better to give than to consume. “It may seem counterintuitive in our consumerist culture, but “high” levels of giving such as theirs can and do enrich your life, making you happier than you would have been had you spent the same money on yourself.” We’ve heard this so many times, but consider the way that Proverbs 11:24 says this: “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” There’s a sense here that those who give generously will be blessed, but those who withhold what they have will not.
  1. Giving generously is satisfying. There is something about giving sacrificially that makes us feel good. The astonishing conclusion of a wide-ranging international study found that, on average, “donating to charity has a similar relationship to [happiness] as a doubling of household income.” Are you living and working in order to climb the next rung, to get to the next level of pay? Are we believing the lie that says this will make us happy? Or are we actively looking for more places to give, for more people to whom we can be generous?
  1. We don’t need piles of money (or a greater income) to be happy. “Psychologists have done research into the link between money and happiness. They’ve consistently found that for those of us living in affluent countries, additional income simply does not increase your well-being very much past a certain point. On average (pdf), people in the US on an income of $32,000 rate their life satisfaction as 7 out of 10; an income of $64,000 only increases the rating to 7.5. That’s a pretty small difference for a (comparably) large sum of money.”

I often overestimate the impact that our income (or lack there-of) will have on my happiness levels. If only we had more! As consumers, we buy into the lie that more money equals a better life. It’s surely not a bad thing to have more, but money will not make us happy – it is only found in the Lord. Matthew 6:33 tells us that we are to first seek God, because he will take care of us and will meet our needs.

John Newton’s method of generosity was to figure out what a “barely decent” lifestyle was (home, food, clothing), and then to give one penny away for every penny spent on himself. What would our lives look like if we followed that method?

For the Christian, we can be generous with our money and sacrifice joyfully for the sake of another because God has promised to provide for us. We can trust that God will provide the strength we need to be content, and we can know that our “generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:11). May God be praised because of the way we live and give.

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