how to give generously when they can’t pay you back – #TellHisStory

May 10, 2016 | 18 comments

I opened the laptop one morning last week, and sat at the computer, with the cursor blinking. I had so much to say in the email I was about to write. The word “thanks” seemed so small.

But that’s all I had to offer her. So I started typing.

A few minutes later, I sent my email to a woman named Crystal Paine. She’s also known as the Money Saving Mom. Her blog gets millions of pageviews a month. She operates one of the most well-known money-saving blogs in the country, and she is a New York Times bestselling author. But according to Crystal, none of that matters more than this: “I’m first and foremost a child of God.”

(That last statement probably sums up the motivation behind her actions toward me.)

O.K. The story.

About two months ago, I took what I considered a long-shot move and asked Crystal if she’d consider endorsing my latest book, The Happiness Dare. I knew Crystal. And I knew that she was an active seeker of joy, a chooser of happiness, and a woman who was interested in wringing delight out of ordinary days.

But I also knew she was incredibly busy.

A day later, she gave me the unlikely yes. She would read my book and consider offering an endorsement!

That “yes” alone would have been generous enough. But then she went out of her way to tell her gazillion readers about The Happiness Dare. She actively took the dare, and started posting snapshots of happiness on Instagram.

She had loaned her enormous platform to me, without an expectation of getting anything in return.

Here’s why I’m telling you this story:

Crystal demonstrates a rare virtue. She gave because she felt like it – not because she had to, or because she was looking to get a payback.

Crystal shows us what it means to live life without being a quid pro quo person.

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that means “something for something” or “this for that.”

Unfortunately, our world is filled with quid pro quo people. And that includes, sadly, people in Christian publishing. I don’t think anyone intends it that way. But it can feel like that. It can feel a little bit like, “If I share your blog post, will you share mine?” “If I share your book on Twitter, will you share mine?” “If I offer you an endorsement, will you give me one, too?”


Now look — I don’t want anyone on the other side of these words to think that Christian authors and publishers are a bunch of slimy salesmen. But we also have the very REAL pressures of getting our word out there by relying on our connections. There really are expectations that our books actually sell because they cost actual money to produce. Christian publishing is a business.

But there are moments, like I had with Crystal, where you know that first and foremost, we are still in this for Jesus.

Crystal believed in my message, so she shared it. Period.

How do I know? Because it wouldn’t have taken Crystal more than one minute online to see that my following is pint-sized compared to hers. In terms of a trade, I didn’t have a lot to offer. I could share her Facebook posts and books every day for the next year, and still not be able to repay her.

Crystal Stine, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Frothy Monkey

Crystal and I, meeting up in Franklin, TN, at the Frothy Monkey coffee shop last summer.

Crystal isn’t a quid pro quo person. She saw value in what I had given her — a message about happiness, a message that I hope will be life-changing for many. And because she’s a generous person, she shared — no strings attached.

What does this mean for the rest of us?

Today, maybe you are in a position where you can give without expecting anything in return. Maybe it’s in your office, where you are a few links higher on the chain of command, and a rookie could use a little encouragement. Maybe it’s at your mom’s group, where the newbie just wants an invitation to the table. Maybe you’re a big-time author, who has the unique opportunity to help someone a few steps behind.

This is what true generosity is: Giving without expecting anything in return.



7 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Quid Pro Quo Person

1 – Give without expecting anything in return. Do a favor, spread the word, share a blog post because you care, not because of what will come back to you. “ … do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35). Generosity that expects something in return isn’t generosity. That’s called a trade.

2 – Don’t wait for someone to do something for you. This is what it means to give from the heart, not for the trade.

3 – Find what you believe in, and support that. Look, you can’t say yes to everybody. The fact is, a lot of people could use your help, your voice, or your support. Every week, I get several books in the mail from authors hoping that I will share about them here on the blog. I love a lot of books, and I share many of them. But there are many books that I actually love, but DON’T share. Like Emily Freeman of Hope*Writers wisely counseled: “If you’re not careful, you’ll be sharing other people’s stuff all the time and forget what it means to create your own stuff. You can’t champion everything and that’s okay.”

4 – Realize that others have limits too. Today, I have three new emails in my inbox from three different writers asking for 1) an endorsement 2) advice on how to write a book 3) a request to read an opening chapter. I simply don’t have the bandwidth to give 100 percent to all of those people. I want to be generous, but I have to be realistic with my generosity. And I have to remember that other people have limits too when I ask them for help.

5 – Baffle the cynics. We live in a quid pro quo world, but you don’t have to be a quid pro quo person. You’ll baffle the cynics when you go out of your way to do something kind for someone else, simply because you believe in them.

6 – Consult Scripture on how to be generous. “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.” (Luke 6:31-34, The Message).

7 – Say thanks. If someone does share her influence, her table, her platform, or her voice, be sure to let them know how much you appreciated it!


Related Resources:

Join us on Instagram! 

Here’s our latest dare. Snap a photo. Include #TheHappinessDare. Dare to share …

Happiness you found in a surprising place.

Happiness you found on a hard day.

Happiness you had to look hard to find.

Happiness that found YOU!

happiness dare

happiness, The Happiness Dare
Preorder The Happiness Dare

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Releases August 2, 2016.



Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Meghan Weyerbacher. I appreciated Meghan’s honesty and encouragement about *not* listening to the excuses that show up when we sit down to write online. Find Meghan here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer

by | May 10, 2016 | 18 comments


  1. Meghan Weyerbacher

    Wow, Jennifer this is so good. When we can baffle the world with our unconditional love and generosity – they can see past mere words (words are powerful but still…) and see this is for REAL!

    I love the picture of you two lovely ladies, it is so neat how God weaves us together in the body of Christ. Thank you SO much for sharing my post today too – that means a great deal to me!
    I pray that it will touch someone out there and give them courage.

    Your own stories have helped me in realizing the healing that comes when we are honest with others too, not just to God. Growing up a “people-pleaser” and perfection addict, it was always hard to simply be me or even share with other believers what was really going on under the surface. Praise God for His mighty work that He does in us through our lifetime (if we let Him!).

    God bless you, friend!!!!!

  2. Mary

    You are speaking God’s truth today and I love it. As for The Happiness dare, well it makes me happy! Your grace-filled words fill me every week and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to read them. Love and hugs to you!

  3. Christine Duncan

    I’m loving how this message of generosity applies to everything, not just social media and endorsing or commenting… we never know how our generosity might impact someone, more than our words or our testimonies… generosity is His love in action every time! 🙂 Thank you Jennifer, for such a great message once again.
    And I’m beyond excited to see my friend Meg’s words featured this week!!! I hope and pray people check out her words, her blog is so good for the soul!!!

  4. PleasingtothePotter

    Well said Jennifer. it is so important for my to check our “motives” when doing anything. I love the practice of being generous while expecting nothing in return. I believe in doing this; my recompense will come from God and that is what matters most. That everything I do is pleasing to Him. Thank you for sharing your story today. i’m glad to hear that God is helping you through the publishing process of your book! May He continue to bless you and yours in all your endeavors!

  5. Trudy Den Hoed

    I love this, Jennifer. Thank you for the great reminders/advice. This encouraging reminder especially touches my heart – “know that first and foremost, we are still in this for Jesus.” Blessings and hugs to you!

  6. Mary Zatkalik

    Honest is your strength and you teach us so much!

  7. Michele Morin

    Oh, how I love this call to grace filled living among writers and Christians of all gifts. This is what Jesus did for us . . .

  8. Tara Ulrich

    This is so so good! I want to be more like Crystal too!

  9. Brenda

    Well, amen to this. 🙂 Love it. 🙂 <3

  10. Angela Howard

    We can often convince ourselves that our motives our pure, but praying that God will reveal the true state of our hearts is a great place to start as we practice generosity. Thank you for this encouragement.

  11. Susan

    I love this so much and I’ve been saying it for months. Yay Crystal! Yay you! How hard is it to “retweet” or “like” – and it mean so much to someone, it means so much to me! Generosity NOT Trade (like that). xo I don’t do IG or I’d be posting something!

  12. JViola79

    Jennifer, I just read this post. There are no words to express how deeply it resonated with me as I was thinking on these words this morning on the poor widow who gave her “small”. Our small acts are big in the lives of those who receive them for the Lord grows them in the space from our lives to theirs. May we be generous with no expectancy from others. Blessings to you and on #TheHappinessDare!

  13. Rebecca

    Thank you so much for this timely reminder! So often we get wrapped up in our work, our lives, our needs, but God wants so much more than navel gazing Christians. He wants people that look out to the world and find ways to show His love. His love never had strings attached, and ours shouldn’t either. I now love and generosity are not exactly the same, but I don’t think you can have one without the other. Thank you for reminding us how to love and be generous in the real world!

  14. Leah Adams

    I learned about giving without expectations from my parents. They gave and gave over the years, yet never expected anything in return. In fact, they rarely told anyone they had given. We were so blessed by the stories that were told to us at each of their funerals by recipients of my parents’ generosity. I love how God blessed you by Crystal’s heart of generous giving. I have a similar story pertaining to my new Bible study that I will be sharing in a few weeks. Bless you, Jennifer….for I know you have a heart very much like Crystal’s.

  15. Nancy Ruegg

    Part of the joy in giving is to see how God blesses the gift. Sometimes he takes a small gift and miraculously magnifies it. (A few thousand dollars toward a new-but-used vehicle turned out to be enough, because of a kind, Christian car dealer.) Sometimes he engineers circumstances to “pay it forward.” (A gift to a family in need is replaced by an unexpected honorarium–twice the amount of the gift.) And sometimes he provides unbelievable bargains that more than make up for financial commitments to support ministries. (One example: the time I found 50-cent Keds for our toddler daughter, at one of those hit-or-miss stores.) God has a way–no, he has a myriad of ways–of increasing and enhancing our gifts. He WILL bless Crystal for her kind-hearted generosity!

  16. Ginger Harrington

    I’m so happy for you. Generosity is a way that we give and create joy. I appreciate the reminder to give generously without expecting in return. In the publishing world, the pressure is real and that can all too easily creep into our motivations when it comes to relating to one another as bloggers. What freedom when we can release expectations and trust God with the results.

  17. Dolly @

    I’m so happy to know Crystal was generous with her endorsement. And yes, we can be generous when we trust God to lead and guide us with our time and resources, knowing He provides what He calls us to give. Blessings to you 🙂

  18. Lyli Dunbar

    This is so affirming, Jennifer. It’s lovely when people give with the heart of Christ just out of the overflow.

    Excited about your book!



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