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September 09, 2007


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How do you define "income"? For example, is a capital gain considered income? Some capital gains (e.g. up to $250K (or $500K on a joint return) on the sale of a primary residence) are not considered taxable income. A capital gain is not considered income for calculating child support. What about non-cash income, e.g. barter? How do you calculate a tithe of that?

I read the verse you quoted as saying generosity is not out of your excess, but giving to what I call the "hurting" point. It's that point where you are putting your faith in God and where the giving hurts. At the same time, there are other versus that support that you need to be taking care of your family, so it doesn't mean giving your whole paycheck away.

I don't think that either "amount" or "percent" is an accurate indicator of one's generousity. It's an aggregate of one's tax rate, expense rate, medical costs, whether one plans to give in the future instead of now, whether one has given to the point of poverty in the past, which does not allow them to give as much now, etc., etc. I don't think labeling someone as either generous or a miser is appopriate based on percentage or amount.

Arguably, the percent given should translate into generosity on a sliding scale. Setting aside arguments from scripture and/or arbitrary percentage rules, a person making $20,000/year that donates $2,000 is making a larger personal sacrifice than a person that makes $200,000/year and donates $20,000. When someone is living paycheck to paycheck, it is *much* more difficult to wring a donation of X% from their paycheck than if they have excess income.

I give 25 percent all the time, yes, I really do. 25 percent of my pay all the time. I allow the U.S. Government to take out 25 percent of my pay and place it into "charities" they deem necessary. I believe I am rather generous, don't you?

Wasn't the widows gift an example of church corruption and not and example of the amount you should give? I thought it was meant to demonstrate that she was being taken advantage of by the people of the church and was not following an instruction from a higher power.

Wasn't she supposed to be receiving from the tithe since she was a widow?
Deut 14:28-29
28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Now, keep in mind I'm not religious in even the least bit of the meaning of the word. I haven't read any version of the bible. I also believe that religion (or possibly just humans who organize it) in general destroys humanity.

Wouldn't it be far better if you wanted to give 10% of something to charity that you will 10% of your assets when you pass away? If you used the 10% for investing and any form of capital appreciation then by the time you pass away you would be doing far better good.

I think the attitude with which one gives is a more important indicator of generosity than amount or percentage of income. A person could give a big amount or a large percentage of their income because it's the right thing to do or to look good in their social circles.

Yet, a single woman who really doesn't have a dime to spare could give just $1.00, because she's really touched by the cause. I would consider the woman more generous, because of her attitude, even though she gave less both in amount and percentage of income.

And I disagree with Traciatim. The widow's gift is an example of true generosity. I've always believed that Jesus was illustrating just what I said. The masses were giving ritually, because it was expected of them. The woman gave everything she had because she wanted to. The state of her heart was right, and that's what truly makes a person generous, whether they're wealthy or poor.

If you're worried about which makes you more generous, you've already missed the point of generosity.


Nice put. I couldn't say it better.

I think the traditional 10% is good to aim for, regardless of you religious thoughts and feelings it is important to give, whether it is to a church/temple/mosque or charity or both.

I had been giving a set amount every month, and have restarted to do it. (I was in the midst of a job transition and move). I haven't been gotten to the 10%, and do feel somewhat guilty for it. But it is hard when you are trying to make ends meet, go to school, save, and give to charity.

I don't think it matters whether you give a set amount or a percentage or what. I think it matter that you give and give "generously" whatever that means for each person. You also have to keep in mind that part of stewardship is time and talent, so if you don't have treasure to give away, you can do vounteer work.

What if you "give generously" and then don't have enough to repay debts?

I think how much you give is a very personal thing that can't (and shouldn't) be compared with others. Someone who makes $50,000 might be very generous if they give $1000 in a year due to extenuating circumstances--like having to care for an elderly parent with a large part of their income or needing to make payments on tens of thousands in debt with chunks of their income. Alternatively, if someone has no dependents and no real obligations and only gives $1000 of their $50000 salary, they are not as generous. The variables are too many to make any meaningful comparisons.

But in general, it's much more meaningful to talk about percentages than dollar amounts, obviously.

I don't think either is a truly good measure of generosity. Percentage is more useful than gross, but neither gives you anything close to the whole picture. Even when you have both pieces of information, a person may be more or less generous than the numbers make them appear. Consider:

- adopting a child vs. donating equal money to a good orphanage.
- giving virtually nothing one year and a huge amount another year in order to take full advantage of tax breaks
- doing volunteer work vs. donating enough money to hire someone for minimum wage for the same amount of time
- paying for a poor person's transportation to a new area, their rent, or something of the sort directly rather than through a charity
- paying part of someone's college tuition vs. donating to an official scholarship fund
- missing out on overtime (and overtime pay) in order to do volunteer work for someone else's benefit

None of these are properly captured by either of the above measurements. Ryan correctly identified it as an aggregate of a lot of factors, only a few of which we've touched on thus far. What matters for generosity isn't either the absolute amount or the percentage. What matters is whether you're giving a token amount, a significant but comfortable amount, or so much that your lifestyle is cramped because of it.

I agree with Cory and Lynnae. Generosity is very personal. If your heart lies in the right place you will know in your heart if you are being generous and not need outside reassurance(see 2 Cor. 9:6-7 and 1 Cor. 13:1-3). If we are looking to define generosity and charity then we really have missed the point. By comparing, wouldn't that be considered putting your alms before men? (Matt. 6:1-4). Financial generosity is only the tip of the iceberg. I have run across too many people who proudly share that they donate X to charity each month/year; however, they are too busy to notice the mother with the crying baby at church that could use a few minutes reprieve. Or they cannot be inconvenienced to arise a couple of hours earlier to take a young mother and her children to the airport to catch their 7:00 a.m. flight to go meet her deployed husband for a couple of weeks R&R. Or they would rather pay someone else to mow a widow's yard each week rather than take the hour or so to go do it themselves seeing that she appreciates the yard work being done, but what she really appreciates is the company of a friend. Giving a percentage or a dollar figure to charity is only the beginning of being generous.

Min. Wage -- Read my past posts. You're asking questions I've already answered. You know better.

Traciatim --

"Now, keep in mind I'm not religious in even the least bit of the meaning of the word. I haven't read any version of the bible. I also believe that religion (or possibly just humans who organize it) in general destroys humanity."

Then you're never going to "get" my Sunday posts -- they won't make sense to you in any way.

BTW, I've addressed the "give now versus give when you die" issue previously.

Min. Wage --

You ask:

"What if you "give generously" and then don't have enough to repay debts?"

If you follow the principles I talk about every day (not just pick and choose some, but them all), you'll be debt free and be able to give generously.

I'm sincerely a little confused here. I incurred student loan debt and then ended up with a minimum wage income. (And later incurred more debt trying to start a business to earn enough money to get out of the hole.) Are you saying it was wrong for me to incur student loan debt, since I had no guarantee of an income sufficient to repay it? If not, how is one to tithe, give generously, repay student loan debt, and keep a roof over their head on a minimum wage income? Was it wrong to insur debt to start a business to try to climb out of a dead-end job and a minimum wage income?:

MW --

We've been over this again and again. Until you start to apply yourself and get out of your self-pity "I can't do anything" mindset, you're always going to be in the hole.

You've had several people on this blog try to help you (including me), but until you want to get better, you're not going to go anywhere.

I'll be waiting -- I'm sure there's another good excuse from you as to why you can't make even one little bit of progress.

Minimum wage, I call the BS flag! If you are truly only making minimum wage, you are an idiot since even 7/11, Walmart, McDonalds, etc., pays $7 per hour everywhere I have ever looked.


I agree with everyone else that "giving generously" is different for each person. I feel that I give very generously, but I always make sure that I have enough money to pay off my bills. Which meant that when I was in job transition and moving twice in 6 weeks, that I wasnt' giving as much. My giving is worked into my budget, as I think it should for everyone. It is never smart to give and then not have enough money to pay your bills, I (as would any sensible person) would never advocate for that.

Actually, minimum wage here is above $7. There are three college graduates earning minimum wage where I work. (Young people are moving into the area, so there is a surplus of cheap educated labor.)

The first jobs I applied for here when I was able to return to work were at various McDonald's locations, but I didn't even get an interview. They were all full of young employees, and one was full of young Asian employees and wasn't even accepting applications. Also, credit checks are standard for most jobs above hamburger flipper (e.g. at any major retailer like Wal-Mart) and my credit went in the tank when my health did.

I shouldn't rise to it, but, the relevance of stating that the McDonald's workers were Asian is what exactly?

Anyway, percentages are more accurate than dollar amounts in assessing generosity, but a good rule of thumb is to gie more than you think you can. And do it with a smile.

The relevance is that No White Person Need Apply. Indeed, nobody at all may apply, as they did not have, and were not accepting, applications. It was one of those "clan" situations where you have to be part of the right clan to get hired, or at least you have to know somebody. I didn't see a non-Asian worker in the place, and I encountered other places like it.

Now if an Asian or black or Hispanic person walked into an all-white workplace and was told they weren't taking applications - and were NEVER taking applications, the business would have some questions to answer.

For those of you outside the U.S. - Your Mileage May Vary.

i think it's ridiculous to be devoting so much time to figuring out how generous one is. Cory's comment is spot on. However, if you want to talk about it in terms of fairness, then percentage is they way to go. If everyone gave 5%, then it's fair. This is why I'm in favor of a flat tax.

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