One day, my son needed something from the store. We lived within walking distance of a store where he get the item so I decided to just give him some money so he could go get it. I didn't have anything smaller than a $20.00 so I handed it to him and sent him on his way.
When he got home, I was off doing something else as his dad had come home. Later that evening, I remembered I hadn't gotten the change from my son yet so I asked him for it.
Guess what he told me? He didn't have it. What? Where was my money?
"Oh, I didn't spend it on something else, Mom," he hastily replied. "I just got what you told me I could get."
Hmm. I knew the item definitely did not cost $20.00 and if he only bought that, where was the money. Had he lost it?
"No, I didn't lose it, Mom. You see, I saw this man with a sign out on the street and, well, it said he was hungry so I gave the money to him."
Now, this is a rather interesting situation. My son saw someone who claimed to have a need so he gave what he had in order to help them. There is a problem with this however, it was not his to give. Oops!
This was when I had to explain something about giving. If we give away what "belongs" to us, it is giving. If we give away something that belongs to someone else, it is not giving. It is stealing, just like if we take or keep something that belongs to someone else.
While I was very glad that my son had a heart which desired to give, at the same time, it was wrong for him to give away my money without asking my permission.
I worried for a bit that perhaps I had squelched my son's giving heart. I had nothing to worry about. He continued to give from his own resources and every once in awhile he'd say, "Mom, would it be okay if I gave your change to... " Often the answer would be yes!
You know, I was thinking that we often do this with God. The practice of giving "first-fruits" to God predates the Law. We find the first account of this in Genesis with Cain and Abel. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:30, Hebrews 7) and in Genesis 28 Jacob gives 10% to God when he ceased viewing God as simply the God of Abraham and Isaac. He realized that He was also the God of Jacob. This predated the Law as well. Bringing our tithes and offerings to God is not a suggestion. It is not optional. It is required by God and it is our responsibility to do it.
All that we have comes from God. ALL of it, yet like my son, we usually act like it is ours to do with as we please. Often times we will justify ourselves by trying to say we used it to good use. We say we needed it to pay a bill, get something we needed or perhaps we even used it for someone else (without seeking God's permission, of course). It was there, it was available and so we simply did it. Funny, we never think about dipping into our 90%, only God's 10%.
Anyway you look at this, it is not right. It is not right to take what belongs to God anymore than it is not right to take what belongs to another person. It doesn't matter how much you try to justify it, this is still sin.
Finally, God does not want you to give out of obligation. He wants you to give because you love him. How wonderful we feel when we give to someone... especially when it is someone whom we love.
"But I can't afford to give!" Remember the widow with the two mites? Did Jesus rush up to her and press the two mites back into her hand and tell her she didn't have to give because it was all that she had? No. Instead he commended her and we are still reading about her giving heart nearly 2,000 years later.
When it comes to our finances, there are three things we need to remember:
 Cheerfully give to God first, not the leftovers but first. Not because you have to, not because you want something but because you love Him.
 Be a good steward with what God has given us.
, 3. Give to others. As God has blessed us, we in turn should bless others. This is also a part of imitating Christ.
If you do these three things, you will be amazed at what happens.