I’m looking for my w-2 in the mail these days.
I like to get tax filing out of the way early, partially because the process is painful, but mostly because I almost always get a refund of a pretty decent amount, usually at least $1,000.
$1,000 that I didn’t have before, just about every year.
Since I’m never sure what amount I’m going to get back after I file, I don’t usually consider my potential refund in my budget—meaning that in essence it’s “free,” unallocated money. The refund is kind of in the back of my mind, but that way if the amount is lower I’m not disappointed or in a bind.
$1,000 is a nice windfall. But my refund is actually below what the average U.S. household receives. Last year almost 75% of those who filed tax returns got an average of $2,783 back from Uncle Sam. What do we do with that money? Mostly good, responsible things like pay down debt, cover daily expenses, and save.
Those things are undeniably important – the average American has more than $7,000 in credit card debt and very little in savings. Given all of the uncertainties of our world, planning for the future is necessary for ourselves and our families.
The world’s great need is also in front of us, inextricably connected to God’s call to us to fight injustice and to care for the poor:
- More than 2 billion people live on less than $2 per day around the world.
- About 1 million people die from Malaria each year – and many more die from other preventable diseases.
- More than 2 million people are victims of human trafficking.
- 51 million people have been forcibly displaced as a result of disasters or war. Many live in precarious conditions in refugee camps.
- More than 7,000 people were homeless in Boston in 2013. 2,056 of them were children. 1,234 families were homeless.
There can be a lot of fear associated with giving money away, fear of emergencies, of not having enough for ourselves and our children. But if we could step away from that fear toward increased compassion for our local and global neighbors, we could use our money to support transformational work in Jesus’ name—work that not only saves people’s lives but gives them livelihoods.
And though the need painted above is overwhelming, the potential cumulative impact of all of our gifts together is astronomical.
Last year, a number of people connected to the BFJN community – most of whom had already gone through the Lazarus at the Gate curriculum – committed to giving away some or all of their tax refund to programs addressing local and global poverty.
This year, we’re taking this campaign to the internet and social media to create a larger space for critical thinking and discussion on the how, where, and why of giving money away. To start, for the month of January we’ll be talking on the blog and on Facebook/Twitter about wealth and generosity, and highlighting organizations that are working to address some of the world’s most pressing needs.
We invite you to be a part of it. Let us know what you think by joining the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, or by emailing us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month we’re also gauging interest in the idea of giving as a larger group to one or two organizations. While we believe that giving can be very personal, and different people feel God’s call to give to different needs, we have also seen the benefits of group giving–both for the givers and for those receiving the bigger donation.
We want to start the conversation now, in early January, to perhaps plan where we could contribute our gifts in April. What could we do together?
So let us know: What will you do with your tax refund, if you get one? What organizations or needs do you already give to? Do you want to take part in giving as a group? Where?