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The dangers of being too generous

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In a recent meeting on financial management, a woman sprung up to share her "miserable financial woes", as she called her situation.

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She earns a good salary at the end of the month but by the fifth day of the month, she is broke.

A fraction of her money goes to the mother's welfare kitty. Nothing wrong with this but it leaves her books in the red. She and her two brothers agreed to be contributing Sh5,000 a month to the kitty. Then she pays school fees for two of another brother's children. Servicing a loan, which she took to buy a car, leaves her dry – and teary.

The car loan is specifically a painful story, she said. She drove it for just a week. On the third day of ownership, she went to church. That Sunday, the pastor and his wife, fervently preached about giving to the church and ensuring "God's servants were comfortable before your own comfort. If your pastor drives a jalopy and you have a new one, it is God's command that you give the preacher your car to ease the work of God..." the pastor's voice boomed. The congregation cheered him on.

"The more he preached on the issue, the more I felt I was the target of that message."

After the service, the message kept ringing in her head. She had been burnt up and obeyed the strong bidding within her that she should deliver the car to the pastor and his wife.

On the seventh day, she picked her logbook and other accompanying documents and drove to the pastor's home. She handed them the car and took a matatu back home.

The following Sunday she waited for the pastor or his wife to talk about the 'gift', which they had driven in to church but they said nothing. They never referred to it, ever.

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"I am now repaying the car loan and yet I gave it out."

When she was done and took her seat, no one spoke for a long moment. Some must have thought she is foolish. But the truth is, many people find themselves in the same predicament the only difference being the size of items given. There are people who, for example, cannot slaughter the only family chicken for their children instead opting to offer it to church in a lavish offertory ritual.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, pull on some of these guidelines to put your feet firmly on the ground;

Stick to your budget – if you are saving 20 per cent of your monthly income regularly, do not change this. In fact, to make your commitment formidable, have the money deducted before it reaches your bank account. If you have a standing order, do not change it. Work on the balance after all your commitments are deducted.

Write down your priorities – actually paste this list at a place where you see it first thing in the morning and last thing before you sleep. It is a good reminder of what you have purposed to do and why you are delaying or not. Don't shift the timelines as this will make you relax about achieving your goals. For example, if the woman's priority was buying a car, giving it out to the pastor and his wife would have been out of the question.

Help when you have surplus, especially. Could you, for example, get your child's school fees and give to another person struggling with raising school fees? Does it mean you will give another child a chance at the expense of your own? That is the logic, share when you have something to spare. You should not feel compelled to give what you do not have.

Only give when you can - you cannot give and then sleep hungry: Think of the swanky pastors and priests having a seven-course breakfast before driving fuel guzzlers to check their farming projects in Narok. Are they doing the work of God you have given a tenth of your income for? Or is it personal improvement at your expense?

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