Get Rich With Generosity

I received these napkins as a gift 9 years ago.

Art and words by Anne Taintor

If you want to be richer, give away more money. I’m not talking about richer in love or happiness or any of those lovely nouns we’re all after. Giving away money really can make you financially wealthier. A proverb proclaims this unlikely principle:

Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.
The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
People curse those who hoard their grain, but they bless the one who sells in time of need. (Proverbs 11:24-26*)

Generosity is one of our goals of “pretending to be poor,” but sometimes frugal people get lumped with the stingy since it’s assumed that we’re all cutting costs at the expense of others.** Quite to the contrary, this proverb states that stinginess can lead to financial loss, and the generous can become wealthy while incurring the costs of helping others.  Taken together with our title proverb, the prescription for those wishing to become wealthy is to be somewhat tight-fisted toward themselves (“pretend to be poor”) but not toward others (“give freely”).

Just to clarify, by generosity I don’t mean contributing to your kids’ college funds or giving really nice wedding gifts. Helping your kids and friends is a great way to use money, but for our purposes generosity refers to helping causes bigger than the people closest to you, such as a church or charity.

So how can giving money away make you richer? In the smaller marketplace of ancient times, reputation was a bigger factor in business success. But there are plenty of other reasons why being generous can increase your wealth:

  1. Generosity reflects a proper attitude about where money comes from.
  2. Generosity is part of what money is for.
  3. Generosity is the best long-term motivator for improving your financial habits.
  4. Generosity is a habit of the wealthy.

1. Gratitude. When we realize how much we’ve been given that we don’t deserve, we’ll want to share with others.  Whether it’s your intelligence, talents, family background, or opportunities, you’ve received some type of advantage you didn’t earn for yourself. The fact that you’re reading a blog means you won the lottery of life–because you’re literate, have access to a computer, and are doing something besides searching for your next meal. These unearned privileges should logically lead into grateful giving to those who weren’t born into the same boon.

Under the grateful approach to generosity, people don’t feel deprived if they pass on buying new clothes or eating at a restaurant. Instead they feel thankful for all they have, and for the opportunity to share God-given resources with those in need. When we consider how much of the world lives in deep poverty and injustice , it’s clear we can’t afford not to give. It’s the only sane response.

2. Purpose. Generosity brings in the bigger picture of money’s purpose: to meet needs, now and in the future, for yourself and others. If we forget about others, we’ll inflate our bank accounts instead of our lifestyles and miss out on much of life’s meaning. Real world finance is not The Game of Life. The person with the most at the end doesn’t win; the stingy may “lose everything.”

Generosity is one of the best ways to inflate your usefulness instead of your lifestyle. Helping others is refreshing, as the proverb points out. It connects us with humanity and helps us experience much of what it means to be human: to rise above survival instincts and sacrifice for others.

3. Motivation. Good financial habits are sustained through solid motivation. Trying to live frugally out of guilt or just because it’s the “right thing to do” only incites rebellion. (Ever started a crazy diet or sworn you’d never swear again? How long did that last?) Without the proper motivation people feel deprived and give in to the temptation to over-spend. When my money is all for me, it’s easier to justify doing whatever feels good at the time. On the other hand, generosity creates a lasting, worthy reason for challenging your spending and resisting lifestyle inflation.

Objection: “I have a good motivation: I want to retire early. Or save for emergencies. Or get out of debt.” There is nothing wrong with these goals, but they are just goals. They aren’t a purpose, a life direction. Think of your purpose as whatever fills this blank: I want my life to be about ________. Goals are motivating but purpose will give you the stamina to handle money wisely over the long haul of life. In addition to providing a more stable impetus for change, pursuing a purpose is also much more satisfying.

Goals may fit into your purpose. But if your motivation is no larger than your current goal, where do you fit in the proverb? No one wants to identify as stingy. But too often people wait until their finances are “in order” and giving is comfortable. The danger of postponing generosity is the calloused heart you could develop while waiting. Saying no to people’s needs has a lasting effect on the soul. If we care more about racing toward a financial finish line than living with a purpose, I doubt financial independence will bring us true freedom. (Read about The Secret to Financial Freedom here.)

4. Habit of the wealthy. We all love to read about the habits of the wealthy. What time do they wake up? What kind of car do they drive? What books do they read? As it turns out, generosity, while by no means practiced by all, is a common habit of the very rich. According to Forbes, “93 of the super-wealthy have signed the Giving Pledge initiated by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and pledged to give away at least half of their wealth over the course of their lifetimes.” From Rockefeller to Zuckerberg, philanthropy has always been recognized as something rich people should do. The proverb says it’s something those who want to become rich should also do, in part because it helps you become the right kind of rich person.

This verse sums it up nicely: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way. Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us.” (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Do you believe generosity can make you richer? Who is the most generous person you know?

*Proverbs are meant to be interpreted as general principles which typically hold true. When you follow the rules of life, things tend to go better. Of course we live in an imperfect world where there are unjust exceptions.

**People do avoid costs at others’ expense in an institutional sense that is largely outside of an individual’s control, even though we can try to be socially responsible consumers.


12 Responses to “Get Rich With Generosity”

  1. Hannah says :

    My husband and I have defined the measurability of our goal of financial independence as growing in net worth and in generosity. Wouldn’t it be awesome to give 100% of your income on year? I think it would be. Even if we aren’t to that level, it’s definitely something I would love to do one time.

    I also think that generous giving (in particular if you feel some level of personal connection) towards poverty relief helps me to understand the true impact of “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

    The most generous person I know is my grandpa. I always knew this growing up, but I realized it a few years ago when One employee stole 1/4 million dollars from him, and his only concern was how he could sell enough of his other properties to keep a giving commitment he had made.

    • Kalie says :

      Wow, that’s an amazing story! What a cool heritage you have. It’s great you’re continuing that value.

  2. DC YAM says :

    While I think it’s great that lots of wealthy people have committed to giving away half of their wealth, I don’t think it’s impressive. I think it’s more impressive to see someone on a very low income give to those in need or give to causes. They feel it a LOT more than millionaires and billionaires feel.

    On a positive note, yes I do think that being generous is something people should try to pursue. You brought up some great points of the benefits and I always appreciate your posts!

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks, DC! I agree it’s more of a sacrifice for poor people to give away money. I wish those people could get more recognition than the wealthy. But I’m also grateful some rich people want to benefit humanity with their wealth.

  3. Luke Fitzgerald says :

    You said it perfectly. Many people believe in giving, but they don’t actually do it. “I’ll give generously…later. When I have more money.” In reality, we can’t afford NOT to give. An attitude of gratitude is the key to happiness. Good post.

  4. Ron says :

    Great post like the quote from proverbs where one pretends to be rich but is in fact not

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