HN Issue 15: The Law Of Generosity


I took one week of physics in high school; that’s all it took for me to realize it wasn’t for me. So when I heard that it was Newton’s fourth law of physics that inspired the generosity of two FH donors, I was intrigued.

(I wasn’t surprised that this couple prefers anonymity. They emphasized repeatedly that their story is a journey and they still have lots to work on. Who doesn’t? But their humble hearts and approach to sharing their story has impacted me in a great way. In order for you to follow the speakers, I’ll make the husband “H” and the wife “W”.)

Q: I hear your giving model is quite unique. Can you begin by sharing why generosity is so important to you?

H: We’d just come through a difficult time in our lives and from a faith perspective I was struggling. I read Matthew 22 where it talks about loving God and loving your neighbour and it struck me how that second part, to love your neighbour, is really crucial to loving God.

There was a particular blog I was following at the same time and one entry stood out. The author listed the traits of generous people he knew and wrote about how these people were generous not just with their money but with their time and efforts, their forgiveness and praise. I realized that to love my neighbour better meant I needed to live generously in a holistic sense. At the same time, my wife and I were coming to the conclusion that life is so much more fulfilling when we aren’t focused on ourselves.

W: It’s true. When you are living for yourself, you create a really tight, small world. You hoard. You live with a mindset of scarcity. It isn’t a healthy way to live. But when you switch to living with a view of abundance, you naturally develop a perspective of abundance. When you open your world up to people, it’s a totally different life experience. So much of Jesus’ teaching is counterintuitive in that you receive by giving. We are made to function best when we don’t focus on self.

Q: So how does living with an abundant perspective connect to Newton’s fourth law of physics?

W: I started to think about what we’ve practiced around giving financially, say the traditional 10%, and that’s when I was reminded of Newton’s fourth law where every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I wondered if this principle worked outside of physics, say in the social realm.

We started to talk about this and asked ourselves if there is an equal and opposite reaction to our –spending. What if our spending (on ourselves) and our giving were directly linked? What if what we lavished on us we also spent on someone else? That’s when the shift happened for us.

Q: What did this shift practically look like?

H: Two things: 1) we decided we wanted to live below our means, and 2) we decided to give away an equal portion of all our discretionary spending. We made a subjective line that separated our indulgent spending from spending on necessities. Indulgent spending includes things like a vacation, a nice-to-have home renovation, an extravagant meal, and other things we don’t really need, but want. For example, a $10,000 vacation becomes a $20,000 expense when the giving is factored in. We keep a list of our spending, and once a year we make an equal investment on the giving side of the equation…equal and opposite. It’s subjective but it works for us.

Q: How has this giving model changed things for you?

H: It has made us think more about what we do with our resources, which now flow in a more examined way. We have reined in the spending on ourselves and increased our giving, significantly. Changing our philosophy around giving has reinvigorated us.

W: It has made us think more broadly about the impact of our spending and giving and how the two are related. This method of giving forces us to think of the other, the folks in Burundi, whenever we make a self-indulgent decision that involves money. Not a bad thing to do.

A 2013 index reports that Canadians give only 0.64 per cent of their total income.

Comprehensive surveys of Canadian giving paint a more optimistic picture of our collective unselfishness. Statistics Canada, for example, during their last major study on giving in 2010, found that almost every Canadian (94 per cent) aged 15 and older gave money, goods or food. 

- The Globe and Mail, January 12, 2014
- Charitable Giving by Canadians, Martin Turcotte, Statistics Canada, 2012



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Food for the Hungry: HN Issue 15: The Law Of Generosity
HN Issue 15: The Law Of Generosity
Food for the Hungry
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