My pastor quoted a rather frightening statistic last night. It is estimated that regular church attendees give less than 3% of their income to God. There seems to be a lot of complaining when we do give, as well. There is something wrong here.
We love to sing, we love to fellowship, we talk about how much we read the Word of God, we talk about prayer but whenever someone talks about giving it seems like something rather ugly happens. People start to make excuses.
Truthfully, one of the excuses which bothers me the most is the claim that since we live under grace, we can ignore tithing. I have yet to read anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus said, "You no longer need to pay tithes." No evidence whatsoever. However, we do have evidence that the early Church was financed through the giving of those who were a part of it.
Then there is the excuse that we cannot afford to pay a tithe. I realize that some people may think this is being legalistic but if it is less than 10%, you cannot call it a tithe. Even secular dictionaries say that a tithe means 10 percent. You cannot give three percent and call it a tithe. You can call it an offering... but not a tithe. We might not like that but that is the way it is.
Giving your time is not a substitute for a tithe. Some people aren't going to like that either. Your time is not your "increase". It is an offering.
Whether we tithe or not is something which is between us and God. However, I do believe that many Christians struggle with their finances simply because their actions demonstrate that their faith is in their money rather than God.
There are those who have claimed that they have tried to tithe but paying their tithe created financial hardship for them. Do we realize what we are saying when we say this sort of thing? We are saying that we even though we were obedient, God broke His promise to care for us.
I believe if we find ourselves in this sort of situation, we need to take a careful look at whether or not we are being a good steward with our remaining money. Do we ask God to help us make a budget and do our best to see see what can be reduced or cut altogether? Once we have our budget, do we do our best to stick to that budget? God will certainly provide for our needs but He expects for us to handle what He gives us wisely. If we don't, we will quickly find ourselves in a mess!
Yes, tithing and giving must be a personal decision between you and God but I would like to share what has happened in my own life over the past two years as a means to encourage those who feel moved to take a step of faith and yet are fearful to do so.
After being plagued with serious health issues for three years and mounting debt as a result, my husband and I took a good hard look at our finances. Yes, we gave but were we giving what we thought we could do at the moment or what God wanted? We had a budget... sort of. Years ago, God had given me a plan but over the past few years we had become rather lax on it. Especially when I began to teach full time and our income jumped dramatically. We made the decision just over three years ago that something needed to change and began to take the steps to do so.
Now, this is the part of the story where all debt gets magically wiped away, you inherit a million dollars and life is good. Yeah right... while that can happen, that's a fairy tale ending. Life is not a fairy tale. Besides, nine times out of ten, we would just revert back to our old behavior. That's what the "Children of Adam" do. We cry what my dad used to call, crocodile tears, and then once the threat disappears, so does our remorse.
God knows this. He does not simply want to help us with our problems, He wants us to learn from our mistakes as well. God's School of Learning can be rather tough at times because you see, less than two months after we made this resolution, I lost my job due to health problems and our income was sliced by more than 50%. Oops! The good news was I was granted long term disability nine months later. The bad news was there was still an income loss of more than 30%.
We snipped and cut things down as much as we could. We were able to negotiate better interest rates on our debts. My husband got a lot of overtime and some freelance jobs. A year ago we had just about gotten to the point where our budget was almost balanced when... God asked us to tithe on our gross. What?????
I remember that long talk on a Sunday afternoon last February. Actually, now that I think about it, that was probably almost exactly a year ago. My husband and I talked and prayed. Finally we came to an agreement. Yes, this was what God was asking us to do and so we needed to do it.
Toward the end of 2012, we found ourselves scratching our heads. We had not accumulated new debt. We had paid down more than 40% of our outstanding debt. We even had... we even had an "emergency fund" which we'd had to tap into a few times but it hadn't mattered because one way or another God replaced it. We were about to pay off our car and another small debt and if we stretched just a bit... we would have a balanced budget. HOORAY!!!!
In December 2012, my husband lost his job. He still does not have a job nearly two months later. One way or another, God has provided. All of our bills have been paid on time. Every need has been met and God has still enabled us to give as He directs.
From the world's point of view, this makes no sense. However, we must remember that we are not citizens of this world. Heaven is our real home.
If God is prompting you to give and you are afraid to do so, remember that money does not provide for us. God does. He cares for the sparrows and the lilies of the field. He can certainly care for us. We just must remember that while God will do His part, we must also do ours. Money does talk. It tells whether or trust lies in God or in it.