As I continue sharing some thoughts on tithing, the giving of 10% to the local church you call home, it is my hope that if this an area of struggle for you, my experiences might shed some light on to the freedom one can find when being obedient to God’s commands regarding your finances. I say finances because in our time it is far more practical to give monetarily as opposed to bringing in the first fruits of our labors like the largely agrarian society of biblical times did.
As I mentioned last time, I do not teach that tithing is something one must do as some sort of obligation. I base my teaching/counselling on this topic on what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7: Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (NIV).
These verses indicate that God is far more concerned with our heart position than He is with us meeting some mathematical formula of what we owe Him. When looked at in this light, the scripture seems quite clear; to give what we have decided in our heart to give. Hence, the importance of our heart position toward God. I firmly believe that how we feel about, and handle our finances, goes a long way in revealing our heart attitude toward God.
As I share what my wife and I have experienced as faithful givers to the local church, I do so in order that you too might find the joy in giving as we have. Another important point at the start; we don’t give to receive a blessing(s) from God as if the tithe were like some employer matching your donation to a retirement fund. Having said that, I do firmly believe that God does bless those whose heart is glad to give. Here’s how He it did it for us.
As I have mentioned before, I had lived a ruinous life in the death grip of alcoholism through the first 8 years of our marriage. During that spree of destruction, I managed to dig a very deep financial hole for us. As a business owner I had failed to meet my tax obligations to both the State of New York and the Federal government to the tune of over $100,000 (in 1991). By God’s mercy I was able to find good employment soon after becoming sober and we, as a family, set out to clear the books.
Some six years later, we were able accomplish this. There was no fanfare, just the satisfaction of knowing we had used what God provided in such a way as to pay off the debt. From the start, through my wife’s gentle urging, we tithed our income. We didn’t have some deep understanding of the Scriptures, but we knew from where things were coming from. We gave the 10% because it was the right thing to do. We gave it without any expectations of reward or blessing, we were simply being obedient to what the Scriptures said.
We had our two children by this time, and though we kept them in good clothes and always had food to eat, we had set absolutely no money aside for their future college expenses. It was in this that God showed His mighty and faithful hand at work.
Our oldest child was a sophomore in High School when I landed the job as Facilities Painter at Le Moyne College. One of the benefits of employment at the college is the ability to have your children/spouse go to school there tuition free. The only condition is that you must be employed three years to receive this benefit; the exact number of years before our oldest would start!
There is another verse from Scripture that is often quoted during teachings about tithing: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10) NIV.
Obviously, the prophet was speaking about bringing in the first fruits of the crops, but the principle is the same today. We were obedient to bring the tithe of our earnings each week, and God did indeed bless us. I bring your attention to the latter part of the verse above where God says He will give so much blessing for obedience in this matter that you won’t have room for it all. In the case of our oldest child, we received full tuition remission because of my employment at the school. Here’s the overflow part; our son also earned a full scholarship because of his SAT scores! We were blessed beyond what we had need for. We believe without any doubt that this is a tangible expression of God’s faithfulness. He made the promise and then He fulfilled it, as written!
As wonderful as this account is, it really isn’t the true blessing that we have found by being faithful in our giving. The result has been that we are the ‘joyful givers’ that I mentioned at the top. As we came to more fully understand God’s provision, it became natural for us to want to give back the first fruits (off the top) of our labors.
From this attitude grew a deeper trust in God’s provision and care for us in all things. This resulted in a wonderful freedom from the pursuit of fulfillment through material things. We are more than happy to drive a seven-year-old car. We find more satisfaction is doing for others than taking extravagant vacations. I’ve got nothing against vacations, but when we do travel, we make the effort beforehand to save some money to cover expenses.
The bottom line, if you’ll pardon the pun, is that we have chosen to be obedient to God’s Word regarding giving. The result of this is having the burden of worry about finances lifted from us. Simply put, we are thankful to God for the employment opportunities He gives us, and we show our gratitude by giving back to Him what is truly His anyway, which, by the way, is what tithing is all about!