Perhaps because of the recent economic contraction, we are all more familiar with the idea of divesting. In business terms, it’s when a company sells off a business unit or product line because its become unprofitable. (Any of my marketing students who read this will recognize that these are the “dogs” in Boston Consulting Group’s SBU Matrix.) In more recent times, divesting has perhaps taken on a more personal level as people have sold off or given away personal assets that were no longer financially possible. They did this as a point of necessity, just as organizations do with unprofitable units.
While it is beneficial to make give up those things that are having a negative impact on our financial outlook, its also sometimes beneficial to make a practice of divesture, even when situations don’t mandate it. I started this practice several years ago when, one Christmas, I realized that my accumulation of stuff was outpacing my desire for it. I decided that to combat this phenomenon I would make an annual commitment to give away those things that I was not using, that were replicated with other things, or that could be of benefit to someone else. It became a little crusade of mine that I would somehow stay at net neutrality when it came to the things I owned. So if I bought a shirt, I gave another one away. If I read a book, and no longer needed it, it was shared with a friend who may enjoy it. My implementation of it hasn’t been perfect, but the concept has been freeing.
While I think this practice is a good one, I also think its incomplete. That is because I gave away for my benefit, to accomplish something I wanted, while I should have been giving for the benefit of others. I should be diligently divesting not so that I may gain my desire aim, but to help others gain what they need. Divesting is then no longer for the good of the giver, but of the givee.
The concept is not a new one. Maxey Jarman, the founder of Genesco & of Jarman shoes stores, and who once had controlling ownership in Tiffany & Co, was famous for giving substantial portions of his wealth away. When faced with economic downturn, he was asked by his protege, Fred Smith, whether he regretted his generosity. In response Jarman said, “The only thing I lost is that what I have kept.” (qtd. by Stevens, Ronnie. 2009, May 3). And Jarman was on to something. When we diligently divest what we own no longer consumes us. Instead, we are consumed by what we may give away, and this is a much better, and less demanding, controlling interest.
*The title for this blog was inspired by Ronnie Steven’s sermon titled on Acts 2:42-47 on May 3, 2009. If you have never listened to one of Pastor Ronnie’s sermons, I highly recomend it. His gift of exposition is one of God’s hidden treasures.