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A few months ago I ran across a website called 80,000 Hours, started by a couple of Oxford University alums. The premise of the site is that we all have about 80,000 hours to spend over the course of a 40-year career - how can we use those hours to impact the world positively? The site talks about career impact in two ways - applying your skills to address global issues or committing to donate a significant percentage of your annual salary to charity. I was intrigued by this idea.
Meanwhile, I’d been thinking about “callings” a lot in relation to faith and finances over the last few years, particularly the ways in which Christians are called to relate to money. However, I was only aware of two approaches to Christian giving – intentional giving (commonly known as a tithe), and radical self-sacrifice (those who give away all their possessions to live like Jesus). But when I read about 80,000 Hours, I realized there is another option to serve God with our money.
What if giving away half our income was a Christian calling?
I think many of us may be positioned to consider financial commitment as a life-long calling. For example, let’s say you have a well-paying job that you love (maybe you are an engineer, attorney, medical professional, programmer, entrepreneur, realtor, etc.). You have good work/life balance and you are excited about and committed to keep working in this field for your whole career. You live comfortably and intentionally and can easily take care of your and your dependents’ needs (including saving for college, keeping a solid emergency fund, and having a little extra for vacations and such). Yet, after all this you still have money left over. Maybe you’ve experienced a bit of lifestyle inflation because you earn more money than you need (traded up to a bigger house in a more upscale neighborhood – went for the “status vehicle” over the reliable car – bought the name brand version “just because”).
- Instead, what if God’s plan for your life was to be a software engineer and use your excess income to fully fund an orphanage half a world away?
- Instead, what if you capped your own annual expenses at $40,000 and supported your local Boys and Girls Club and community theatre with the rest?
- Instead, what if you down-sized your home and used the extra money each month to stock your local food pantry and buy computers for the middle school library?
Now, this is different from the idea of working to increase your giving as your income rises, and this is more than just giving away the easy excess. This is taking a long hard deliberate look at your lifestyle and deciding to cap your spending (including savings and investing) at a certain level and dedicating the rest to building the kingdom of God. It’s a wild and extraordinary calling.
I love this idea so much because it broadens the idea of having a calling and opens another way to use our great blessings as an instrument for God. The church often glorifies folks in traditional service oriented roles - ministry, missions, education, health care, social services. But I think there is SO MUCH room for the rest of us. Maybe your job doesn’t look “Christiany” and maybe staring at a computer screen all day doesn’t feel holy. We’re supposed to take up our cross and follow Jesus, but what are we sacrificing? Maybe in a middle- to upper-class American lifestyle this looks like choosing to live on a little less and giving away a lot more.
Do Alex and I feel called to give away 50% of our income? No, not at this point in our lives. Do we think that this might be an option later on? Absolutely. As our careers and our income continue to stabilize I could easily see how we might be in a situation in which we’ve dialed in on our lifestyle and have excess income. It’s an important possibility and one we’ll keep considering.
Will you consider it as well? Could you be one called to give away 50% of your income?