and ramblings on everything in between
I’ve wanted to write about that uncomfortable 5-letter word we discuss at church a lot – tithe – for three years, since the beginning really. But it never felt right, always felt gratuitous. You know – that whole “do works for the Lord in private” thing. (Matthew 6:6 – “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
When I read the quote below, I realized I couldn’t not say anything anymore. The article caught my eye because it discusses the finances of four families and what they do to save each month. A financial adviser offered advice to cut their expenses further. On tithing, the adviser said this:
“Have you considered making a contribution to your church via volunteering? This might be a way for your entire family to have some (free!) fun together, and it could offset a portion of the amount you tithe.”
Volunteering is wonderful – I think it’s a great service to God and to others – but here’s why I don’t think you should substitute volunteering for tithing.
Tithing is the only thing in the Bible God tells us to test Him in. Malachi 3:10-12 puts it, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my (God’s) 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 there will not be room enough to store it.'”
Why would He tell us to test Him in this? Because He knows how very human we are – He made us, didn’t he? He knows how difficult it is for us to sacrifice our riches. It takes a lot of trust.
Around the time I got serious about my relationship with Jesus, I was unemployed for 18 months. I knew as soon as I secured another ‘big girl’ job, I wanted to start tithing. It would have been easy to hoard all the extra income after going without for so long. I knew I needed to start as soon as the paychecks came in again or I would talk myself out of it.
Nearly five years later, I haven’t missed a week. I don’t say this to brag or make myself look good – I say it because God has done miraculous things with my finances since I committed to tithing. I’ve paid off my debt, built a comfortable emergency fund, and started saving for retirement in the midst of making this sacrifice.
Even the months when unexpected expenses come up, when my checking account balance shouldn’t stay in the black after paying for them, there is always more than enough left over. I can’t explain it. I’m an extreme budgeter and track where every dollar comes from and where every dollar goes. The math shouldn’t add up sometimes – but it always does.
I firmly believe that God provides because I’m obedient with my tithe. I know the only reason my budget holds up is because this portion of it always remains constant. If this is ever taken away, I’m 100% sure the rest of the budget will fall apart.
When I was paying off debt and trying to find extra dollars to save each month, I admit that I was tempted a time or two to quit tithing. It takes a strong commitment to follow through with it.
Money can be a huge idol in my life. I want more and more and more of it to make me feel safe and secure. This idol is mere paper in my life. It holds nothing on my God, who ultimately keeps me safe and secure. By handing 10% back to Him, I’m reminded again and again that it’s because of Him I thrive, and not because of the money.
Tithing has grown my commitment to God. I don’t think my relationship with Him would be as strong if I wasn’t doing this. “Trust me in this,” He said in Malachi, “and watch what I do.” It’s been mind-boggling, humbling, and astonishing to see what He has done as I’ve made changes to live (closer to) the way He wants me to.
My eyes have been opened to others since giving back to the Lord. It was hard to hand over 10% each payday in the beginning, but when I stopped to really look around at my life and saw the abundance I had living on 90% of my income, it made me want to give more so others could thrive too. I see people and the struggles they face in a new light. I open my hands and my heart to God’s people more than in the past. I don’t think this would have happened without tithing. It opened up an avenue for God to transform my life, my thoughts, and my views on money and the world.
By giving a little to Him, I’ve realized I can afford to give a little more to someone else. I want to always be someone who gives freely. And I know I can be because God provides me with more than enough.
So no, financial adviser, volunteering and tithing are not the same. God calls us to tithe for a very specific reason. Remember this:
God doesn’t need your money. That’s not why He asks us to tithe.
He needs your trust, and He knows He can build
it through your money.