If you’re reading this, then you’re a reckless person, and I mean that as a compliment!
Why do I think you’re reckless?
The day you decided to leave the comforts of home to become a US expat, you became reckless. Some people may have even told you so, “You don’t know what the healthcare is like over there!”, “How can you bring your children (or worse, my grandchildren) overseas?”, or “How can you throw your career or your future away like this?”
Said or not said, a lot of people think that you’re reckless in the worst of ways, but I’d like you to know that I think you may just be reckless in the best of ways! Becoming an expat isn’t about showing “reckless ignorance” or “reckless foresight” but “reckless abandon.” You chose a sort of reckless freedom from the norm in order to teach, experience, love, and serve.
Why be reckless?
I know that not all of Vagabond Finances’ readers are followers of Jesus. There are a large group of US expat teachers that are learning to save, invest, and plan ahead financially, so that they can teach children and adults in foreign lands, often on a very limited income. The NGO worker and non-profit worker are welcome here at Vagabond Finances and can hopefully benefit from our mistakes and occasional success. But the vast majority of our readers seem to be, like me, Christian missionaries who left home to serve overseas because our hero, our leader, and our Lord left His home to serve far away.
Jesus embodied Reckless Generosity
I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus is the divine Son of God. He dwelt in amazing fellowship with the Spirit and with God the Father. It was an idyllic existence far from the muck of human existence, and yet He chose, yes, He chose to come to earth, to be born into a filthy Vagabond-worthy manger, and to join in our struggles and temptations. Jesus left His home to show His love for needy, far-off people like me. It was an act of incredible selflessness and charity that cost Him dearly. We want to love needy, far-off people because that’s what Jesus did.
Jesus is our model for reckless generosity. And that’s not all!
Jesus praised Reckless Generosity
During Jesus’ time of ministry far, far from His home, a woman came and showed reckless love by giving to Him her greatest financial possession. The writer Mark tells us in chapter 14 of his Gospel record:
…a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard [perfume], very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that?”
I would have been in the frontline, yelling, “What a waste! That was so reckless!” And it was. Once broken, the flask couldn’t be resealed. The genie was out of the bottle, so to speak, and could never be put back in. The woman had shown Reckless Generosity toward a foreigner on this earth. How did Jesus reply? Those of us who are missionaries, sharing the good news, should take special note of this:
Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel [good news] is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.
She honored Jesus with extravagant generosity as He was about to show His extravagant generosity on the cross. And did you see the promise? Wherever in the world we go to tell people the good news of Jesus’ love for us, this story of a woman’s Reckless Generosity will be told.
Jesus both embodied and praised Reckless Generosity.
When to be Recklessly Generous?
First, I would argue that many US expats living on a limited-income are already being Recklessly Generous. It is nothing compared to what Jesus gave, but you have likely given of your time, energies, families, pleasures, etc. to love others. Though this blogsite focuses on US expat finances, we should never forget that Reckless Generosity isn’t limited to money. You’ve chosen a lifestyle with a limited-income, but that doesn’t limit the other ways that you can be Recklessly Generous on a daily basis.
Second, we who plan to regularly watch every dollar we spend and to regularly set aside money for retirement would be remiss if we didn’t also plan to give regularly to ministries, churches, charities, and such. Reckless Generosity doesn’t have to be haphazard generosity. We’re talking about giving with joy and freedom not giving blindly and thoughtlessly. Reckless Generosity should be part of our regular routine.
Still, there are times when a pressing need, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or an opportune moment call us to an unplanned display of Reckless Generosity. This third aspect of giving recognizes that there are special moments when we find ourselves led to show love and generosity toward someone in need. Whether you call it a random encounter or a divine appointment, there are times when we are called to open our hearts and our wallets in a spontaneous, unplanned way. We should already be giving in a planned, regular manner, but there are those serendipitous moments when we can put a coin in a beggar’s hand, give a gift to a fellow-Vagabond, pay a month’s rent for someone risking homelessness, and so on.
Clearly, we are not called to be recklessly “generous” toward ourselves! Putting an expensive vacation on our over-worked credit card or spending our tax refund on the newest piece of technology to hit the market is not the kind of recklessness that Jesus showed or praised. The Vagabond who lives on a modest income has to carefully walk a financial path that must be largely cautious, planned, and include aggressive savings. The more limited our income, the fewer mistakes we can make. Without strict spending and saving guidelines, international teachers and nonprofit workers won’t be able to pay their bills much less save for retirement or set aside funds for their children’s college education. But even on a limited-income, our lifestyles must allow for regular giving as well as for the occasional, spontaneous act of Reckless Generosity toward others.
Then, finally, as we have more and more Financial Freedom, we’ll have more freedom to give with Reckless Generosity. As we see God’s provision over the years, as we reap the fruit of decades of saving, and as a result of careful expat planning, we hope to look back and see that we’ve taken step after step toward Financial Freedom. This sense of growing Financial Freedom is palpable. Yes, you can feel the load of debt and worry gradually lifting from your shoulders, you can feel the freedom to not have to watch every dollar, and you can feel the joy of being able to show more and more Reckless Generosity toward others.
While we may already know the joy of giving of our time and effort and while we may thrill at giving money in both regular and spontaneous ways, there is also much to be said for the widows, teachers, missionaries, and expats who squirreled away their savings (rather than spending it on themselves), who accounted for every dollar year after year, and who fought for every 1% of interest, so that they could reach Financial Freedom and the privilege of becoming even more Recklessly Generous.
For the person with a giving spirit, the goal of financial planning (and of Vagabond Finances) is not to create a bigger nest egg for ourselves, but to attain Financial Freedom from financial bondage and to be more Recklessly Generous than we’ve ever been before!
There is an old adage that says, “You can’t outgive God!” It is true in every way and more true than we’ll ever know. You can’t outgive God, but you can sure have fun trying!