Paul describes exactly what Grandpa Colby discovered. Peace doesn’t come from outward circumstances but from an inward surrender to Christ.
The fact that Scripture raises the topic of worry and peace so often suggests this is a common human struggle. But to be honest, these verses can both encourage and discourage us! Yes, we should pray. Yes, we should think about more noble things. Yes, we should be content. But how do we get there day to day? The answer lies in putting some practical tactics into action.
The 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey of 30,000 American households found that those who donated to charity were 43 percent more likely than non-givers to say they were “very happy.” This research doesn’t prove which comes first—giving or happiness—but we believe the two absolutely go together. The real-life experience of many generous people fits with the famous insight of Jesus that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
While the New Testament transcends the Old Testament law that commanded people to give a tithe back to God, the principle remains a common guideline for giving. Tithing means taking 10 percent of what you earn and giving it for God’s work in the world. This is another “generosity discipline” we want to encourage you to consider. It’s a practice for learning contentment regarding what we earn and own. Often the theme of tithing comes up in the context of giving to a local church. We want you to think of it as a yardstick for giving in general—not as a law but as an invitation and challenge.
Many people would agree that this level of generosity is a good idea. Most recognize it as a stretch. The sacrifice often seems so great, however, that the most common reaction to this proposal is, “I just don’t have enough left over to give any of it away.” If we haven’t established a habit of proportional generosity, we look at that 10 percent figure and gulp. It seems impossible to recast our budgets to give that much. But recent research suggests there may be a way forward, and at first it may entail giving less!
The research was described in a book called Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The Heath brothers make their living as research professors, studying how human behavior can be changed. One of their insights is called “Shrink the Change.” Take housecleaning, for example. They encourage us to clean for ten minutes and then stop, considering that a success. If we tell ourselves we need to clean the whole house or unclutter the entire overstuffed garage, we might never get started. By making the goal easily attainable (who can’t spend ten minutes cleaning?) we get ourselves started.
When it comes to being generous with money, if giving 10 percent feels out of reach, start with one percent more than you give right now. Aim to increase by one percent every three to six months until you reach your goal. As you connect giving to your everyday life, you will soon see that you really do have enough. Sharing not just money but time and energy will feel not just more doable but more joyful. Giving from a surplus mindset is not linked to how much money you have; rather, it is choosing to lead with generosity in all its forms.