"I can't pay my bills if I tithe or give offerings." I've heard that said time and time again and I must confess, I've used that excuse myself at times. On rare occasions I've even heard ministers give people permission not to give so what I am going to say is going to sound rather harsh and be unpopular with some people, I suspect.
The Word of God does not give us permission to be negligent in giving. Jesus did not rush up to the widow and grab her hand and cry out, "Stop! All you have is two mites. God does not expect you to give!" Instead he commended her for giving. Oops...there goes the excuse that having little exempts you from giving. It doesn't.
"But if I give, I can't pay my bills!" Let me get this straight. If you give God what is due Him, He will not provide for your needs? Is that what you are trying to say? I don't know about you but I remember squirming a great deal when I tried to use that excuse and got that sort of response from the Holy Spirit. Oops...well... I... sigh...
Emergencies are not an excuse to neglect to give to God and neither is... overspending or accumulating debt. We don't like to hear it in America but going into debt is not biblical. We may do it but it still is not Biblical and if we are in debt, God wants us to get out of it as soon as possible.
God has taught me a lot about giving this past year. My husband and I have always believed in giving but like many people we also would struggle with excuses about why we could not give at a particular time or we would sometimes pay everyone else before we gave to God.
Prior to 2011, God had been really dealing with me in regards to giving. The hit and miss attitude which I sometimes took (I'll admit it), was not pleasing to Him and I knew it. Either I trusted Him or I didn't. He would provide for me but there were also changes which I needed to make as well. Would I be willing to do them? In other words, if God provided for me but I spent that money on something else like chocolate truffles, then it wasn't God's fault that I came up short. It was mine.
I think this is one of the first steps we must take if we desire to give the way God requires us to give. We must take personal responsibility for our actions and stop blaming God for our financial situation. I am not trying to say that sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. I've had several major unexpected medical issues happen, one of which has rendered me disabled. I know all about that sort of thing and I want you to remember that as you read the rest of this blog.
Over the past decade or so, it seemed like we were doing a good job at staying on top of things until I got cancer and couldn't work while I was in treatment. That was the beginning of a downward slide. We were getting back on our feet again when my next medical crisis hit 16 months after I finished treatment. I used up all my sick leave time and my application for the sick leave pool was denied reducing our household income by 60% for two months. Whew! One year later, I lost my job when it was determined that the last crisis had impaired my ability to do my job. Once again, as I was going through the endless process of applying for long-term disability benefits, we were faced with a major income loss.
It would have been really easy to say that I could no longer afford to give. Real easy. Trusting God to not only provide our needs but provide the means to give as well was not an easy task but my husband and I knew that was exactly what we must do.
Tomorrow it will be one year since I told my students goodbye and that I would see them in the morning. I never dreamed I would not be returning the next day. Always before I had been able to do something like work harder but this time, I did not even have that option due to my disability.
So, I did the only thing I could do. I prayed, others around me prayed and I continued to give; not in a haphazard manner which I had sometimes been apt to do when it seemed inconvenient to give but to give in the manner which I knew I should.
Throughout this year of the greatest financial crisis my husband and I have ever faced, not only have we paid every single bill exactly on time; we have also managed to reduce our debt (other than our mortgage which is upside down) by nearly 25%. While I eventually was granted long-term disability this past fall, my income is still reduced by 40% over last year. On paper, we should be short nearly $1,000.00 per month, unable to pay most of our debts but instead, God has helped us to remain current, get the interest rate reduced on some debts and completely pay off others. Of course, this also means we could not acquire additional debt either! In addition to this, we are actually more financially stable than we were a year ago.
In these times of financial uncertainty, it may be tempting to cut back on what we give to God. Recognize that for what it is. Temptation. When we give for the right reasons, God accepts our offering and when we combine that with being a good steward, He honors that, provides for us and will help us continue to be able to give.