The Generosity Project is a collaborative effort between ABCUSA, regions, and local congregations. The Generosity Project aims to help pastors re-frame the conversation around stewardship and generosity in their congregations. Bi-monthly blogs help support new growth and understanding as we deepen our ministry and discipleship. The reflection below was provided by Rev. Jill Harvey.
I have a confession to make… I love playing video games on my phone! I got started on them during the pandemic, when I couldn’t concentrate well enough to read a book. Three years later, I’m reading again, but I’m also totally hooked on 2 games. And, if you’ve ever played video games, then you know about “in-app purchases.”
“In app purchases” are small (or large) amounts you can pay to buy tokens, or boosters to help you when you get stuck on a level. The price starts at 99-cents. Cheap thrills, right? Except… that 99-cent purchase is the “gateway” to bigger and better offers. After all, $4.99 for 8,000 tokens is a much better value than 99-cents for 1,000 tokens. And sometimes they have boosters sales, too. Those can be a really good value, all things considered. Except… it’s way too easy to run up $40, $50, or even $100 dollars in charges over the course of a month. (Speaking from experience here!)
When Lent began, I made a decision: I would still play video games, but I would stop buying tokens and boosters. I also decided to stop buying Kindle Daily Deals, because my Kindle is already loaded with unread e-books. Like the game tokens, some of the daily deals are really cheap thrills: $2.99, $1.99, or even 99-cents per book. And like game tokens, those small purchases – made regularly – can really add up. So, every day during Lent, I quickly deleted the emails for Kindle daily deals, and I just ignored all the in-app purchase offers, too. I still played video games; I just stopped when I got stuck instead of buying my way forward. I still read books… books I already had on my shelf or borrowed from friends or the library. And I’m pleased to report that I made it to Easter and beyond without spending a single penny on e-books or video games.
Naturally, I feel pretty good about that. But then I discovered that my Lenten “fast” had produced an unexpected side effect: without even trying, I had cut back on all my discretionary spending. I made fewer trips to the store to pick up sale items. I cooked out of what was in my pantry and freezer. I avoided buying duplicate products “just in case” I might have trouble finding them in the future (supply chain, I’m lookin’ at you!). It’s as if, once I got into the mindset of saying “no” to video games and e-books, it made it much easier to say “no” to extra purchases in other aspects of my life. And I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I looked at my checking account balance just after Easter… a balance that was significantly higher than usual.
What’s your daily spending habit? Fancy coffee from Starbucks every morning? Regular trips to Dairy Queen? Instacart or Grub Hub? There’s nothing wrong with treating ourselves, but as God’s stewards, we do need to be self-aware about our spending habits. And as I discovered, a temporary “fast” can produce big dividends. Not only did I save money, I learned that I could be a better steward of God’s gifts, just by being more aware of small expenses that seem insignificant all by themselves, but have a way of adding up and draining the financial resources that God has entrusted to my care.
Lent is over, but it’s never too late to take a break from mindless spending. Is there something you could give up – temporarily – to help you grow financially? May God bless you on your journey to becoming one of God’s generous stewards.
The Rev. Jill Harvey is the pastor of the Niantic Baptist Church in Niantic, CT and a cohort facilitator for The Generosity Project.