Being asked to share our experiences with giving is admittedly a daunting task, because how many of us look forward to hearing about financial giving? And as we thought about what to share, I was wishing we had a fantastical story, or a rags to riches experience that would capture the hearts of anyone who heard it. But we don’t.
When we were married, we made the decision to always tithe, and to give offerings above that when we could. We have been able to faithfully do that for the last 13 years, and on first glance that seems to be the extent of our fantastical story of giving. Or is it?
Through God’s grace alone we have been able to tithe consistently, and He has shown Himself faithful. How is that not a fantastic story, a story we’d want to share? If I’m honest, when we made the decision to tithe, it was mostly out of a sense of obligation, knowing it’s what we as Christians are commanded to do. But by making that decision together, two things have happened in the years that followed.
First, because we made the decision up front, we do not struggle with whether or not to tithe each time a paycheck arrives. That decision has already been made. We set aside our tithe first, and then focus on how to be good stewards of what remains. Not having to repeatedly decide if we should tithe is an enormously freeing experience, a freedom that comes only from knowing that all we have is God’s.
Second, while it may have started as a sense of obligation, looking back over the years it’s plain to see the sense of obligation formed into a habit of giving, and the habit grew into a joyful spirit of giving. Like many areas of life, we often need to first follow God’s instruction, and in so doing, He rewards us by changing our hearts and bringing our desires in line with His. That’s not to say He’s done changing us–when it comes to giving, I know we have only caught a glimpse of all He wants to teach us about our attitudes, obedience, and sacrifice.
So why are we always on pins and needles when the topic of giving is raised? Sure, there are minor points about tithing that can be honestly debated, but there is no doubt God has instructed us through His word to give back a percentage of what He has entrusted to us. That is our tithe. And as He blesses us, we are able to joyfully give offerings beyond that.
Financial giving isn’t about how much the church needs, it’s about being faithful to God’s command. It’s part of growing as His disciples, and demonstrating our trust in His faithfulness. It’s about admitting that all we have belongs to Him, and we are simply giving back a small portion of what He’s given to us.
God doesn’t promise that we will reap a huge financial windfall once we start tithing. In fact, He doesn’t even promise there will never be times of financial struggle. But He does promise blessings, perhaps in areas other than money, but blessings we will never know unless we step out in faith and become the givers He has called us to be. And that’s our family’s story. For us, it is a fantastic story because it demonstrates God’s faithfulness.
In 1 Chronicles 29, King David challenged Israel to give offerings to help build the temple. It’s a story of the whole community giving out of what they have for the work of the Lord. Listen to the list of people who gave: “Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly…. Anyone who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 29:6-8). And what was the response? It says, “The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly” (1 Chronicles 29:9). And listen to the perspective and joy in David’s response:
“Praise be to you, LORD,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, LORD, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand…. LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided … comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. LORD, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” (1 Chronicles 29:10-18)
And that is our prayer for Celebration. May we be faithful in giving, from our leaders to each family and individual, and may we experience that same joy in giving.