As I continue to discuss the importance of providing financial leadership in the home, I want to point out that I am not approaching this as exclusively, or even primarily, the husband’s or father’s role. In some cases, the role of administering the family’s finances falls to the husband and in others to the wife. Some couples choose to perform the tasks jointly or interchangeably. In still others, one handles the bill paying and bookkeeping chores while the other makes more strategic decisions. This structure is often based on skills, interests, or availability, and I don’t believe that any one is necessarily better or more effective than the others. That said, both spouses must ultimately be in agreement on the choices that are made…especially in regards to the family budget (please see my earlier post regarding the importance of a Budget).
An important area where there must be thought and agreement is in Giving. Will any of the family’s income or other financial resources be used to meet the needs of others, outside of the family? It may be as straightforward as traditional tithing to one’s church or as spur of the moment as helping buy groceries for the person ahead of you in line at the supermarket who is short of cash to cover what they have in their cart. It might be contributing to the United Way at the office or directly to charities such as the Red Cross for earthquake or hurricane relief. Giving is a very personal thing. What seems a very worthy or important cause to one may seem silly or naïve to another. But the point is to share one’s resources with others in need.
Assuming a family decides that it does have an obligation or at least a desire to help provide for others, the giving must obviously be built in to the family’s budget. As we discussed in a previous post, this does two things. First, it ensures that giving to others does not come at the expense of the true needs of one’s own family. If it fits into a balanced budget, then, by definition, the family has the financial wherewithal to meet both their own needs as well as some of others. Second, it takes away the decision of whether or not the family should give and changes the question to when and where it should give. Those who tithe to their church generally set aside 10% of their income to give to their local church. Others may choose to similar consistent recurring financial contributions to other organizations.
But many find that the most rewarding giving is that which is in reaction to isolated, immediate needs. When my career reached a point where the family budget could support more discretionary spending, I led my family in a decision to budget an amount each month, over and above our church giving, for any special needs of others that we became aware of. One month we may use it for disaster relief, and another it may be to meet the plea of a local homeless shelter that urgently needs blankets or baby formula. Occasionally we may give some cash directly to a friend who can’t afford a car repair. Still other months, no needs my come our way (probably our fault for not looking hard enough) and that just becomes more that we get to give the next month. You will notice that I said “get to give”. When the decision to give has already been made and budgeted, the giving can be a real joy! I only hold my family out as a minor example. I know of many other families that do the same and much more.
One final type of Giving that I want to address is that of “Sacrificial” Giving. In that case, contrary to what we’ve discussed previously, the family’s resources are not such that they can meet both the family’s needs and others’. The family…as a family…chooses to sacrifice to benefit someone else. This can be something that becomes very special to the family, and it can leave a lasting impression on the children. However, as the family leader, you should be very careful how this is used. If sacrificial giving is not a unanimous decision, albeit a teachable moment, it can lead to feelings of resentment by your spouse or children. The ability to give sacrificially is a gift that not everyone has, and to compel or force someone to give up something they need because you want to teach them to be like you may not provide the results you are looking for. If the family cannot agree completely to give up a need to help others, perhaps they can agree to postpone a strong “want” to be in a position to give to others. It may not be right for your family to live with one car when two are really needed, but they might be able to agree to live with the old TV for another year to be able to sponsor an orphan or to buy a piece of furniture for a family who lost everything in a fire.
So does your family use its resources to help meet the needs of others? Have you discussed this as a family and agreed on what to give and how to give it? Do your children have an example of generosity to follow, and have they picked that up in their lives? These are all things a leader must consider.
Photo credit: Backdoor Survival / Foter / CC BY-NC
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Photo credit: IronRodArt – Royce Bair (“Star Shooter”) / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND