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TLDR;

  • I pledged to Giving What We Can (GWWC) in early September.
  • But because we transitioned from a dual income to a single income in late June, we had been postponing the 10% tithing.
  • As a result, we also procrastinated on giving to effective charities, even after pledging in September.
  • Black Friday (late November) was when we paid off the “donation debt” to Jesus.
  • We are surrounded by others who sacrificially love and give, and that’s why we were empowered to do it too.
  • We encourage others to pledge or give this giving season, perhaps doing the counter-cultural thing and making Boxing Day about giving.

 

Introduction

In September of this year, I decided to take the Giving What We Can (GWWC) pledge. As a Christian, I have been tithing 10% for years. With GWWC, I am redirecting these donations to highly effective charities, aiming to support 'the least of these' or interventions that can most cost-effectively improve the world, thereby maximizing the impact of my limited resources. This commitment was more than financial; it was a profound expression of faith. Our family's shift from a stable dual income to a more restrictive single income since late June introduced many uncertainties when I made this pledge.

The transition to a single income in an expensive city like Vancouver has been challenging, especially considering that the three co-founders of StakeOut.AI, including myself, have been effectively volunteering—Peter for nearly six months part-time, I for almost 3.5 months full-time, and Amy for 1.5 months full-time.

As of this writing, we still haven't fundraised because we have prioritized impact and project advancement. A couple example projects we have completed include:

  1. Contributions to researching the 'scorecard' of AI governance proposals (found on page 3 of The Future of Life Institute's proposal) presented at the first ever international AI Safety Summit.
  2. Co-hosted a Zoom webinar where we advised Hollywood actors on how AI will likely affect their industry. We also have plans for continued collaboration with Hollywood actors to advocate for banning deepfake pornography, a detrimental issue that has victimized many young schoolgirls.

By sharing this journey, I hope to inspire a conversation about faith, stewardship, and the impact of intentional giving. This post is an exploration of faith and trust, and my understanding of Christian giving as a joyful expression of faith. Giving has brought an unexpected peace and a deeper trust in God's provision.

 

 

Our Financial Challenge is a Fraction of What Many Others Endure

"Where do you need God's comfort today?" This question from my Daily Refresh in YouVersion resonated with me, especially after reading 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. This verse speaks volumes about comfort in troubles, a theme that deeply aligns with my current life chapter.

‭‭[3] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, [4] who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. [5] For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. [6] If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. [7] And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

As I mentioned earlier, since early September, I have embarked on a journey of starting a grassroots movement, the Safer AI Global Grassroots United Front. Honestly, it's been more than a full-time volunteering effort, as I have worked countless 10-14 hour days to get things done.

Being on a single income with two kids isn't easy, and we've had to restructure much of our finances and budget to stay afloat. One of the toughest decisions was continuing to delay our commitment to tithe 10% to 'the least of these.' Procrastinating and postponing tithing gnawed at us. For months, it weighed heavily on both my wife’s and my heart, becoming a topic of guilt as we struggled between fulfilling our spiritual commitments and navigating our new financial reality.

I'm hesitant to share this because, in the grand scheme of things, our financial struggles are insignificant compared to others' suffering. In extreme poverty, many people face life-threatening conditions every day. But even within our local church, we've witnessed heart-wrenching struggles and losses in the past few months. Take, for example, Mr. T, a young father who's been in and out of the ICU within a span of 1.5 months, with no end in sight for recovery, while his wife does her best to be by his side and care for their daughter under 7 years old. His situation, along with two other sudden passings (one at the young age of 41), puts our financial concerns into perspective. It's a stark reminder that our trials, though challenging, are but a fraction of what many others endure.

This experience has been a lesson in counting our blessings and recognizing the multitude of ways God provides and comforts. Because of our fellow brothers' and sisters' situations, I am reminded daily to be thankful for life's most fundamental blessings – health, family, and community. I still get to hear my absolute favorite sound in the world, the sound of my wife and kids' heartbeats as I press my ear against their chests – and that is a miraculous blessing!

Another example is how God sent an angel in the form of a financial planner out of nowhere. She volunteered numerous hours to help us navigate our transition from dual to single income because she knew of our desire to continue tithing despite our involvement in a nonprofit startup.

These are the gifts that sustain us, the blessings we often take for granted. They remind us of God's unwavering presence and the comfort He provides, not just in our lives but also in enabling us to extend that comfort to others.

These past few months, with all the ups and downs, are teaching me about true reliance on God – a reliance that goes beyond financial security and delves into the depths of faith and trust. It’s a daily journey, continually learning to lean on His understanding, not ours, and to find peace amidst our challenges.




 

A Mentor's Return After 19 Years was God’s Perfect Timing

Another person who has helped us through this journey is none other than a mentor of mine, Tombert Chen. He is a Christian youth worker who has lived solely on donations for the past 20 years. His unwavering trust in God's provision, even in times of scarcity, has been a beacon of faith for me.

We had not been in touch since high school graduation, which means we hadn’t talked in 19 years. What were the chances that he would message me out of the blue on Facebook, right around the time I started the journey of co-founding the nonprofit? Not to mention, I hadn’t checked Facebook in years, and it was only because I was laid off (some have hinted to me that my job loss was AI-driven) that I opened it back up to join groups like the Effective Altruism Facebook group. This is an example of God’s perfect timing!

There have been days when his family didn’t know where their next meal would come from. Yet, time and again, after earnest prayer, their needs were met in the most unexpected ways. Members of their church community would bring food, unaware of their dire need but moved to act. Witnessing this miraculous provision has reshaped my understanding of reliance on Jesus. It’s a vivid illustration that trusting in God often means He will provide, though it might not be in the ways you expect.

After our meetup and catching up on what’s happened since we last saw each other 19 years ago, my mentor's faith journey resonates deeply with me, especially now as my family navigates the tightest budget we have ever had. How were we supposed to give 10% when our income had shrunk so much?

I'm reminded of the profound impact of walking by faith. It’s about seeing beyond our immediate circumstances and trusting that God will provide, often through the most unexpected channels.

A few weeks ago, while watching Veggie Tales with the kids, the episode "Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella" presented a powerful lesson. It showed that actions of faith, like choosing a nonprofit mission over immediate financial gain, might seem foolish to some. Yet, what truly matters is how God sees these actions and whether He thinks you are doing what’s right.

These stories and lessons have been constant reminders of the importance of faith in action. They’ve taught me that walking by faith isn’t just a spiritual concept but a practical way of living, one that involves real risks and profound trust in God’s plan. It's about making choices that might not make sense from a worldly perspective, but following the doors He has opened for me and turning away when He closes others.

 

Black Friday was When We Took the Plunge

In moments of doubt, I often found guidance and reassurance in 1 Peter 5:7: "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." This verse became a cornerstone in our decision-making process. It reminded us that, amidst our financial insecurities, our primary call was to trust in God's care and provision.

This leap of faith became particularly significant on Black Friday, a day typically associated with consumerism and self-indulgence. Surrounded by the frenzy of deals and discounts, we made a counter-cultural choice: to give rather than spend. It was a conscious decision to align our actions with our faith, moving from fear to trust.

That weekend, we donated the equivalent of 1,299 nets to protect 2,339 people. These nets are part of this distribution:

https://www.againstmalaria.com/MyNets.aspx?DonationID=1172055

This act cleared our “tithing debt” to Jesus. We had held off on tithing for months, so we went back to our spreadsheet to calculate how much it would take to give 10% of our family’s income from all the months we missed.

Pressing the buttons wasn’t easy. Nor was entering the amount into the donation form.

But what we are learning is that giving, just like observing the Sabbath (which I mandated our family take every Saturday for a full day of rest without any work whatsoever), is a practice of trust and reliance on God's provision. We recognize that our security doesn't come from material wealth but from our faith in God. It's an acknowledgment that our earthly resources are ultimately His, entrusted to us to be used for His purposes.

 

Sacrificial Love in the Community and Its Impact

Again, I want to share our story because I hope it can inspire others who are also considering donating a portion of their income. Additionally, I want to emphasize the importance of having supportive people around you in this endeavor.

What we did can be considered a form of sacrificial love. While volunteering at a nonprofit for 3+ months and still needing to feed two kids might seem like a big sacrifice, I can assure you that others are doing even more. We are empowered to do this because of Christ and the examples He has placed around us, people who are sacrificially loving others in their own ways. Furthermore, my wife and I have been surrounded by Christians who have poured into us over the years, and because of this, we cannot help but give back.

Back in the last week of November, a devotional I read highlighted the verse John 16:33 NIV: 'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.' The devotional then asked, 'Is there anything happening around you that makes you feel anxious or afraid?' Initially, I thought of our financial situation, as it was at the top of my mind.

However, I was immediately reminded of the SOS fellowship small group meeting we had the day before, where we shared about Christian mentors, role models, and fellow brothers and sisters who have impacted our lives, making our situation seem minuscule.

In our small church community, we witness sacrificial love regularly, which in turn motivates and inspires those on the receiving end to help others and pass it forward. These acts aren't measured in expected value (EV) but are expressions of obedience and love. As the love of the Father overflows in them, they feel compelled to love others in turn.

For example, when informed of a potential break-in, our youth leaders immediately rushed to assist a girl who had locked herself inside her room, ensuring her safety and providing comfort.

We've seen members make life-altering decisions for their faith. One gave up a well-paying, prestigious career as a partner in a law firm to become a pastor, embracing a completely different life path. Another member declined a high-paying job opportunity in Singapore, which included all moving expenses for the family, to focus solely on God's calling.

In another instance, a church member, barely acquainted with another brother in Christ, tirelessly visited the hospital and provided care during a time of need. This selfless act demonstrated the depth of our community's commitment to each other.

We also have members who take days off from their jobs to assist immigrants who have just arrived, helping them settle in and navigate their new environment.

Recently, when a mother in our community, whose child was diagnosed with autism, struggled to navigate the support system, a professional from our church connected with her. Despite a busy schedule, this professional arranged a late-night call at 11 pm to offer advice and answer questions, showing kindness and compassion.

Our community's acts of service extend to everyday needs as well. Regularly, members volunteer as drivers, helping others get from one place to another, such as assisting those who need to take driver's tests. Another member spent days setting up a new living arrangement for someone they didn't know at all, taking care of rental negotiations, stocking the home with necessities, and even putting in the bedsheets.

These stories remind us that no one is better or worse than anyone else. Many have sacrificed more, endured tougher struggles, and given up larger opportunities because they wanted to put God first.

Each person has their own journey and struggles while trying to do their part to do good. Witnessing these acts of faith and love in our community reinforces the belief that our financial challenges, though uncomfortable, are part of a larger journey of faith and sacrifice that we are all undertaking together.

 

The Delicate Balance of Public and Private Giving

In sharing this story, I'm mindful of the teachings of Matthew 6:2-4, which emphasize humility in giving, advising against announcing our charitable acts for self-glorification. The scripture reminds us, “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.”

However, as highlighted by Giving What We Can (GWWC), there is value in being public with our charitable actions to inspire others. Their perspective suggests that openly pledging to donate a portion of our income can encourage others to do the same, thereby amplifying the impact (more at Should Charity Be Anonymous?).

With this in mind, my intention in sharing our journey isn't for recognition but to inspire and motivate others towards pledging or giving to impactful nonprofits. It's a delicate balance between the personal practice of discreet giving and the potential collective impact of shared stories.

Ultimately, by discussing our commitment, we hope to foster a culture of giving, where collective action and generosity can transform lives in profound ways, even beyond what we can directly see or measure. It's about demonstrating how faith can lead us to make meaningful sacrifices and encourage others to consider how they can contribute to the greater good.

 

The Joy of Giving: Let’s Aim for Boxing Day Giving!

Our journey of giving didn't stop with Black Friday; it's an ongoing commitment to living out our faith through actions. Just as we made the deliberate choice to give on Black Friday instead of indulging in consumerism, we'll continue to grapple with giving in our current circumstances.

Right now, we are considering Boxing Day as another opportunity to support effective charities and give instead of buy. Known for its shopping frenzy, we plan to use this day to give back instead of joining the crowds for deals. It's a chance to redirect our resources towards those in need, following Jesus' example of compassion and challenging societal norms.

As we reflect on our giving journey, we're reminded that generosity isn't confined to a single day or event. It's a lifestyle that aligns with our Christian faith and values, about recognizing the needs of others and finding opportunities to make a difference, whether through financial contributions, acts of kindness, or heartfelt prayers.

John Ortberg's book, "If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat," which was recommended by my mentor Tombert years ago, has also significantly influenced my faith and trust in God. Its message resonates with my current endeavor to rally the public to join our AI Stake Out, the Global Grassroots United Front. It reminds me that true faith often involves stepping into the unknown and trusting in God's guidance and provision.

Our hope is that our experience inspires others to find joy and fulfillment in giving. It's a tangible way to express faith and share God's love. Just as we've found meaning in our commitment to give, we encourage others to explore the joy of giving, both on special occasions and regularly.


 

Comments10
Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:00 AM

Hi thanks for sharing and I really commend your dedication to helping those in need. I just want to gently push back on the degree to which people should make sacrifices in order to comply with a giving pledge. I am sure it can work out well for many people, but I am more making this comment in order for people that struggle not to feel too bad if they cannot  always fulfill their pledge. I also think perhaps it is not for everyone to go to the lengths you have done in order to fulfill it. I can see many ways pushing too hard can go wrong:

-If only one of the people in a relationship made the pledge, then their income decreases and it puts strain on their relationship. E.g. if the non-pledger wants to join their friends for a couple's holiday but the pledger cannot afford to go.

-One has kids, like you do, and the sacrifices start becoming quite material such as not being able to afford warm winter clothes so they are uncomfortable being outside, or having to cut back on groceries e.g. drinking more water instead of milk which happens to be the main source of protein for the kid who is a picky eater.

-Probably many other ways one can risk one's own and one's family's well-being by being too unwilling to give up the pledge.

I know I am not the only one thinking that EAs should not always go to too extreme lengths and specifically not everyone might want to take or follow the pledge (I think breaking the pledge should not be associated with too much guilt) - Rob Wiblin recently suggested that the 10% pledge might not be for everyone, specifically for founders and his guest Lucia Coulter mentioned that she could imagine not being able to fulfill the pledge if one was a non-profit founder with kids in an expensive city like London.

I like the idea of giving under the sense that one will be taken care of but also want to flag that you are in Canada with pretty high social security and you are also part of a tight knit community. Therefore, such belief in that "everything will be ok" might not apply to people living either in places with less welfare, for people with less strong social circles or both.

I have made a few comments like this recently. I think this is because the Forum in some ways encourages more extreme takes and it might seem to newcomers or those with less broad exposure to EA that EA requires extraordinary sacrifices and/or very unusual ways of living. I think such impressions are unfortunate and unhelpful especially in building the community. A post such as "I quite carelessly broke my giving pledge and do not feel too guilty about it" might have gotten less upvotes than this post. So it is not so much about your post as opposed to me just trying to bring some more balance where I see appropriate.

Thank you for your comment.

I definitely agree that everyone, every family, has their own journey.

As I mentioned above:

Another example is how God sent an angel in the form of a financial planner out of nowhere. She volunteered numerous hours to help us navigate our transition from dual to single income because she knew of our desire to continue tithing despite our involvement in a nonprofit startup.

She has spent so many hours with us and continues to help (in fact, we have a call with her tonight).

Our financial picture and budget have been completely revamped to make this work.

There are things we have had to cut back on significantly. There are many things we would have said 'yes' to before that are now 'no' or 'maybe.'

But, in the end, the magic number isn't 10%.

What's more important is the shift in mindset.

The heart.

The change from the norm in our consumer culture of spending every last dollar made on ourselves to giving instead, even if it's just 1% or 0.5%.

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.

- Vincent Van Gogh

I'd go further and say that it's probably a good idea for promoters of the pledge to actively discuss the merits of budget-constrained people deferring part or all of giving pledges (complete with tips on estimating the NPV of deferred contributions when you have a bit more disposable income). I think that approach probably saves more lives in the long run than people feeling they have to drop out or can only commit to a low amount.

Thanks so much for sharing!

Thanks for leading EA for Christians :)

Glory to Jesus!

Here is the Boxing Day Giving update for those wondering: 507 nets to protect 913 people (https://www.againstmalaria.com/MyNets.aspx?DonationID=1187309).

We thought we had cleared our "tithing debt" to Jesus last time, but there were some filters in the spreadsheet that were overlooked.

All is good; hopefully, the year 2023 is settled after this :)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

Thanks for sharing this story. It’s good to have these sorts of perspectives on the forum, in my opinion.

On the subject of public versus private giving, I wonder if we should experiment with some different models. For example, besides fully public or fully anonymous giving, I could imagine:

  • Giving through a community foundation (or church, employer, etc) where the credit goes to the community rather than to the individual
  • Psudonymous giving, “this gift from Scott Alexander”
  • Unverifiable acknowledgement: The recipient acknowledges a gift but keeps the donor secret. The donor could claim credit but so could others.
  • Anonymous-but-not-really (like in the curb your enthusiasm sketch)

Yes, it's definitely a delicate balance.

Back in July, I had the pleasure of meeting a passionate, upright, and caring role model of mine, Dr. Jim Burns, at a week-long family Christian summer conference (CBCC).

I asked him about his journey as a nonprofit entrepreneur, and one of the insights I journaled after our conversation was the importance of regularly asking Jesus to check our motives, motivations, and ego.

Since then, I have saved this prayer in my YouVersion app and have prayed it regularly because my ultimate desire and approval come from Jesus and nobody else. At the end of the day, I want to be called a 'good and faithful servant' when I see Him:

God, I ask for protection over my mind & heart. I want to be willing to let go of things that are not Your will for me so that I can make room for things that You do have prepared for me. Guard me from any thoughts, relationships or beliefs that are not from You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

All this is to say, I've shared this particular story about our family publicly.

In the future, I'm unsure if we will do so again.

If we are called to, and if, after checking our motivations through prayer, it seems okay, we might.

Sorry if that's a much more faith-based answer than what you were looking for.

Thanks for sharing your story, and for your family's sacrifice for the sake of those who need it most

Sorry if this is not the norm in the EA forum...

I have to redirect this upwards. Glory to God :)

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