Graham and April Tam Smith met in New York, at a Bible study at Redeemer Church, which April was hosting. Just out of college, Graham had prayed some bold prayers and asked God for very specific direction. And he was about to answer.
In college, Graham had met a venture capitalist who told him “The worst thing you can do is that you sign the apartment next to the water, and then you’re stuck there.” He talked about golden handcuffs, which are nice, because they’re golden. But an expensive lifestyle is hard for a person to escape, Graham says. So he vowed not to live his life like that and says it’s liberating now not to be bound by them.
Graham moved into a small apartment with two other young men, sharing a bunk bed, so he could live on 10 percent of his income, what he calls “reverse tithing.” There, he says, he prayed that God would help him find a woman who wanted to give her life away. At the Bible study at Redeemer, April was very excited to talk about an organization she was excited about – Generous Giving.
Graham perked up. “What was that?” April says it was the only time he talked during the study that night. Graham says recognizing April as the woman he’d prayed for was a “no brainer.” She was a woman who wanted to give her life away.
Graham and April are both bankers. They see a lot of money every day. They hear a lot of people introducing themselves. “Name. Where you work. What you do.” That defines you in their work world.
And “everyone has a number in their heads that they want to get to,” April says. Then that number moves. “It’s just another version of the golden handcuffs.” It happens a lot in the Asian community too, she says. People spend a lot of money to let other people know they have a lot of money.
But Graham and April have decided that an increase in income isn’t something to show others or a reason to adjust lifestyle.
An increase in income doesn’t change our way of living. It changes our way of giving.
Since combining their incomes and budgeting together, their ability to give has increased. They began supporting social businesses, and recently established their own. P.S. Kitchen, near where they work their day jobs, is a vegan restaurant that hires the marginalized and gives 100 percent of their profits away. “You order the cauliflower, and secretly you’re funding a baby food company in Haiti,” Graham says.
The couple has moved from tithing, to “over-tithing” to this totally new idea – their scariest leap of faith yet, April says. It kind of felt like borrowing money from the future, but she didn’t worry. “When I go to heaven, God’s not gonna say, ‘I can’t believe you tried to start a non-profit restaurant for me!’ I think he will just honor the desire.”
And the desire is still there. The couple still prays together, “God, show us how to give our lives away.”