Trading free food for generosity

MONEY | Ricardo Calles | 4 mins

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When I was in college, I used to scour social media, searching for any events that promised a free meal if you just showed up. Since graduating and getting a “real” job, I feel like I now have more money in my pockets than I have ever had during my college years. But there are times in which I feel I have zero control over my finances. I feel the pressure to build some sort of financial security here on earth. I think about my future wife, my future kids (don’t tell my parents I am even thinking about kids yet), my family’s hopes and their dreams, and my ability to financially support them. There are days where all of these dreams seem impossible, and I will never be able to get to my financial goals.

I began my college years with a lot of ambition. I was a chemistry major, and if you asked me why, I would have told you that it was because I liked chemistry a lot. But the truth was that I was a chemistry major because I desired financial stability. I needed to build up a bank of wealth for my future family. During my freshman year of college, I began attending a church called Crossroads. I had been following Jesus for the last three years, and Crossroads was a place where I was being challenged to think about all the areas of my life. I had goals of where I wanted to be professionally and financially when I graduated college. But God had greater plans for me.

One day during my freshman year of college, I was spending time alone just thinking about whether I wanted to continue as a chemistry major. A question popped into my head. “Is there someone in this world whose life is different because of how I manage my finances today?

Today — not in the future. I did not have a response. I had become so focused on myself and building wealth and security for myself. Deep down, I felt like this search for security was a trap, enslaving me to a never-ending quest for more and more money. I was trying to achieve goals of a number in my bank. To be honest, I was obsessed with a number that would never be high enough. I knew I had the option to be obsessed with numbers in my bank account or do what God calls me to do — pour out my life, including my finances, for others.

It became clear to me that I needed to align my heart with the things of God — and that meant my finances. I began giving to my church, Crossroads, and to things that would leave an impact. I worked a small job as a college student that didn’t pay much. I can’t tell you that the $12 dollars that I gave to my church weekly made a huge dent in the world, but my heart began to be molded into what God is passionate about: people. Surprisingly too, I was able to save a little more money than when I was all about acquiring wealth. I no longer found myself searching the university’s social media for free food.

I look back on my college years and I see a God who was at work. I took a big future pay cut and switched my major from chemistry to education and became a teacher. God not only changed my view on money, but my heart was changed to be more like God’s. I get to serve His people. Money is not something that I need to live and die for. I can’t say that I am perfect at the way that I manage my money or that I have it all figured out. I’m still grateful when people bring me free food once in a while, but the thing that has brought me the most joy is knowing that someone’s life is different as a result of my giving. It’s not because of numbers in a bank account, but because of the life-changing work God is doing around me and that He is inviting me to partner in.

Written by Ricardo Calles on Mar 8, 2018