by KEN GONYER
My wife Karen and I have been conducting a financial experiment this year. After reading a book about what the Bible says about money, Karen suggested we update our budget to include a certain amount of “give away money.” The experiment would test the idea that giving money away can bring greater joy than simply having money to spend. Every other week, each of us would receive an amount, in cash, to give away to whomever we wanted. The only rule was we had to give it, not spend it.
I agreed to try it, but I have to admit I wasn’t immediately enthusiastic about the idea. When I did the math in my head, I realized the amount we’d be giving away in a year was sizable. It would easily fund the purchase of some really nice stuff—stuff I wouldn’t mind having! That much money could go toward a beach vacation or a cruise. More practically, it could cover a lot of expensive car repairs or help pay for our kids’ braces.
Perhaps because of this resistant attitude, I held onto my cash for a while before I figured out what to do with it. I wanted God to lead me in this exercise, so it seemed like I should give wisely, not just leave cash on the sink in some public restroom. I started looking around at the people and situations around me, searching for needs.
It wasn’t easy. For one thing, I realized I spend most of my time with people who want for very little. Another challenge was even when I saw a potential need, my first motivation wasn’t to help them, it was to silently judge them for managing their life poorly. The third problem was I simply kept forgetting about the experiment as my attention was drawn back toward my own daily challenges.
Another challenge was even when I saw a potential need, my first motivation wasn’t to help them, it was to silently judge them for managing their life poorly.
Every few days, however, I would stumble upon the cash in my wallet. I was tempted more than once to spend the money on a nice lunch or an impulse purchase at the grocery store. More often, though, the cash would be my reminder to keep my eyes open and ears receptive to an opportunity to give. This other-centeredness soon had an effect. Something miserly and selfish inside of me began to shift and shrink. As days passed, I discovered the cash didn’t look like lunch money or grocery money anymore. Instead, it began to look like a way to be kind, show compassion and focus on others.
The “give away money” bought gas for a mother commuting between one child at a distant hospital and one child at home. It helped buy roofing cement and supplies to patch an elderly lady’s leaky roof. It bought a pizza dinner for a couple with sick kids and a hectic schedule. It helped a short-term missionary fund their trip. Sometimes the recipient knew the gift was from me, and sometimes I gave anonymously. Either way, I experienced joy.
In recent months, I find myself looking for ways to be a blessing. This is different from seeking to meet a financial need, although it often does. I just want the “give away money” be an encouragement to someone. Meanwhile, my judgmental attitude has slowly dissolved into something like empathy. My heart seems to be opening up to the world around me.
Proverbs 11:24-25 says “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Looking back on my own journey with giving, I realize it is spiritual poverty to close our hearts to needs we see, needs that God may be nudging us to help meet. It is poverty to horde and defend wealth without faith that God will provide.
Now I’d say giving actually feels good. Somehow I feel wealthier every time I give. Letting go of the cash helps me to let go of the “stuff” of this world and grab onto things that matter more, such as relationships, belief, trust, charity and hope. It makes me grateful for the abundant blessings I have been given. Like the tithes and offerings we give, this experiment in giving turns my heart toward God as my provider. I trust Him more. It’s an awesome opportunity to participate in God’s provision for someone else. It’s also a lot of fun.
So far, I would call this year’s financial experiment a success. We’re enjoying spiritual freedom as materialism loosens its grip on us. We engage more in the lives of people around us as we seek to be a blessing. As a couple, our conversations about giving bring energy and encouragement into otherwise mundane conversations about money. The proverb says whoever refreshes others will be refreshed, and it’s true. For us, this experience has truly been refreshing.
Ken and Karen Gonyer live in Broadway, VA. Ken is the CEO of Choice Books, headquartered in Harrisonburg. Karen is a real estate agent with Kline May Realty in Harrisonburg. Email questions to