The financial advisor chuckled and said to my friend, “That’s it? You must have more than that!”
“No. That’s all I have.”
My friend had chosen the path of generosity. He tithes, gives sacrificially, and pours out his life and income for gospel advance. He chose not to be rich. Despite his education, capabilities, and family wealth, he chose generosity that looks radical by comparison.
But in that moment, across the table from his advisor, he felt a flash of shame.
The Shame of Less
Have you felt it? Your kids seem to wear the same shirts more often than their friends. Everyone appears to go out to eat constantly, except you. Others head for nicer vacations.
Embarrassment creeps in. Call it “the shame of less.”
Working with wealthy givers around the world, I’ve learned that God wants the Shame of Less to become what we might call “the Game of Less.”
Driveway Full of Hummers
Alan is wealthy, but lives on a fraction of his income so he can give to God’s global cause in missions. His son, eleven-year-old Nathan, said, “Dad, I think we should get a Hummer.”
Pause. “Nathan, that’s a great idea. What if we got two Hummers?”
Pause. “I could do that for you. I could buy you enough Hummers to fill up our whole driveway.”
Pause. “But what if we didn’t buy those Hummers? What if we took that money and gave it to people who don’t know where they’re going to get their next meal, or don’t have any access to the gospel?”
Alan chooses less — and with it, greater joy. The Shame of Less has become the Game of Less.
God’s People Play Differently
Hebrews says Moses lived by faith because he was “looking forward to the city . . . whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Rather than a luxurious life in Egyptian palaces, Moses chose the heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16).
God’s people look at the things of this life, and compare them to the things of the next, and find that it’s no contest.
In our home, we live comfortably. God has given us many good gifts to enjoy. Before we capped our lifestyle and set a financial finish line, we had frequent surges of covetousness. They still happen, but they’re more fleeting and less frequent.
Loving the Game of Less
I was cycling with a friend who’s an attorney in Washington, D.C., when I learned that he had bought a second home in Minnesota. My flesh said, “Hey, I should buy a second home in Minnesota.” Now, at the time, I had never even been to Minnesota. But my heart was moving in!
We think, “I want one like that,” and, “My clothes could be newer,” and “What about a nicer car?” and “We really should go to Italy sometime.”
But the more we give, the less control the love of money has over us.
As we learn to love the Game of Less, moments of greed can become moments of gratitude. I can see a luxury car and rejoice, “Thank you for the chance to give to that school in the Himalayan foothills spreading the gospel to Hindus.”
Moments of wanting can become moments of worship. I can see an ad for a cruise, and rejoice, “God, how amazing that you would use people like us to buy land for that orphanage in the Dominican Republic.”
Moments of empty desire can become moments of delight. My wardrobe is smaller, but I rejoice that, instead, there’s a new church ministering on the outskirts of Lima.
My Mercedes became missions. My Lexus saved lives. My Infiniti bought, well, infinity.
I don’t judge those who choose differently, but I can’t help but think that they are missing out. In the Game of Less, grasping becomes granting, and coveting becomes contributing. And the joy is profound and rich.
Which Race Are You In?
I love the Tour de France. Two hundred riders compete, but few have a chance to win the yellow jersey. Most don’t compete for that. Instead, many want to be best sprinter, best at climbing mountains, best young rider. There are 21 days of racing. Most are thrilled to win one day.
Riders who have no shot at the yellow jersey sometimes try to win the day. They sprint off ahead. The true champions don’t care. They just let them go ahead.
They don’t care if that rider wins Day 12. The champions compete for a different prize.
To marginal fans, the Day 12 winner looks like the champion. He’s not.
Which prize are you competing for? When you see someone seeming to “get ahead” in life, how do you react? Do you try to catch them? Or do you let them go, knowing that you’re in a different race, competing for a different prize — desiring a better country, a heavenly one?
When you want to move beyond the Shame of Less, I have a Game for you.