Sunday, June 14, 2009
A Testimony of Tithing
I consider myself quite fortunate to have been “raised in the church” and to have had the act of financial giving modeled for me from the earliest age. Although I must say, my perceptions of what “giving” meant in my youth as a Catholic girl and what it means in my adulthood as a saved, born-again believer worshiping in a New Testament church, are vastly different.
The word “tithe” may have been used in the context of “giving to the church” in my house (although I don’t remember it), but it was certainly never openly defined as “a tenth” of your gross income.
I watched my parents religiously put cash or a check in the envelope each week (and after my first communion, I got my own envelops to fill and bring to church) but the “tithe” or offering was more loosely defined as “what we’ve decided to give the church” or “what we can afford to give the church.”
There was also no explanation, perceived value or case built for the blessing that comes from putting God first in your finances or that it’s done out of love and thanksgiving. It was an obligation.
I remember, well into my adulthood, the first time I heard a solid tithing sermon and had that “ah-ha” moment. I went home that Sunday, pulled up the online banking, did the math and found that my inconsistent giving had added up to about 8.5 % … oh, wait – that was net income – it was a little more than 7% of gross income. Ouch- I’ve got some work to do.
I wish I could tell you that I stepped out on faith and immediately began giving 10% the very next week, and every week thereafter (no justifications, just an explanation), but like most people, my expenses were pretty equal to my income and it was going to require some long-term lifestyle changes to make it work. I'd say the lack of faith was directed at myself, not God.
I was a good position (and determined) to get there quickly – no credit card debt, no outstanding loans, just a modest car payment and the regular household bills, but $20k a year in daycare was a killer and there was no way "manage that expense better" - it it what it is.
It started with the tax refund. Somehow (God’s handy work, I’m sure of it) it was much more than we expected it to be … so that can go right back to Him!
Trust? Test? Reward? Hmmmm…
Next, out of nowhere, I received promotion and raise at work – well, that’s like “found money” right? So that can go right back to God without even missing it. To make a long story short, the months that followed were filled with occurrences like that one where my faithfulness to define “tithe” as an actual 10% of gross income was rewarded with God’s trust in me to be a good steward of more ... and then more. In the same year that I finally hit the 10% mark, I received two promotions and three raises. Praise God!!!
In this last year, however, our family has experienced a potentially significant financial crisis. I say “potentially” because as I have remained faithful in putting God first in my finances, He has been faithful to our family. There have been many a weeks over the past year that I could not believe we did not run short in paying the bills. Somehow, when my own calculations told me we were about to come up short, there just seemed to be what we needed … and frequently more.
Now I don’t expect my testimony about my tithing experience to drive someone to suddenly start giving if they weren't or to give more than they had been. And I certainly wouldn’t want someone to take from this testimony that they should give more so they can get more - that motivation is as off-base as the giving out of obligation.
Let my encouragement and message be that act of tithing has been far more of a spiritual gift back to myself than it has been of financial benefit to the church and you cannot imagine the blessing of giving until you’ve gotten there! Let me end with this thought…
A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. - Proverbs 11:25
UPDATE: a followup to this story was posted on June 27, 2009. See Take Two on Tithing.