Posted in focus on faith

Generosity Part 2: the myth of scarcity

In 1990, 25-year-old Jim Ziolkowski was trekking across Nepal when he entered a remote village and encountered an inauguration ceremony for the village’s new schoolhouse. The 8507980865_aa9e29534f_bschool had been built with the help of British mountaineers. The local residents’ joy and the obvious importance of the school moved Jim deeply.

When he returned home to the US, Jim took a job with GE Capital,…ready to embark on a long and lucrative career; however his heart was still in Nepal….

So Jim … quit his job, recruited his similarly broke brother, Dave, and friend, Marc Friedman and launched buildOn, a nonprofit organization with the intention of building schools in developing countries….

The count as of today is 587 schools have been built.


The vast majority of us will not quit our jobs, leave our careers, and risk all of our large or small personal fortunes to make a difference. It’s not that we’re not caring. Far from it, we would love to help make the world a better place. It’s simply that we aren’t all called to incubate and grow an enterprise. We have other dreams and talents. But we can partner with people like Jim by contributing to their efforts financially. And amazingly, none of us has to break the bank to make it happen. When enough of us write checks, the checks need not be large. (Wendy Smith, Give a Little: how your small donations can transform our world, pp 3, 4) 

I’m not a Jim. Are you? Using Wendy Smith’s terms, Jim is a “doer”; the rest of us are “donors”. Without donors, doers wouldn’t get very far!

But I don’t want you to miss the key element in Wendy Smith’s position; reread the subtitle of her book…how your small donations can transform our world. Key word? Small. Five bucks, ten bucks, twenty bucks…. most of us can afford that.

In the same vein, James Bryan Smith writes in The Good and Beautiful Community, that people fail to be generous when they accept the false narrative of “scarcity” which says, “if I give it away, I have less.” He urges us to replace that myth with God’s truth, which is: “If we all share, we all have enough.” In other words, there is enough for everyone–but only when we take our fair share.

The principle I want to leave with you is from James Smith: frugality creates margin which enables generosity. Don’t be stingy — be wise. Make wise choices regarding your personal resources of time, talent, and treasure so that you have enough left over to share with others.


Christian writer and speaker trying to follow God one yes at a time.

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