One afternoon, just after I turned 30, I decided it was time to finally read the Bible – the whole Bible – cover-to-cover, Genesis straight through Revelation, no matter how long it took. Excited and often challenged by what I was learning, I eagerly shared my new found knowledge with my husband, who wasn’t nearly as interested in listening as I was in speaking, but who patiently endured until I broached the subject of tithing.
“Is that 10% of gross or net?” he asked, slightly annoyed.
“Gross,” I replied. “I’m pretty sure God comes before taxes.”
“Do you have any idea how much money that is?”
Well, no, actually I didn’t. The conversation quickly ended with, “You can give as much to church each week as we spend on entertainment.” It wasn’t a tithe, but it was a start.
Months later, Tony walked in from work in the middle of the afternoon with a large cardboard box in his arms. “I lost my job today,” he said. “It’s time we started tithing.”
“You lost your job and you want to tithe now?”
“Yes, now. Off my severance check.”
I could barely speak. I think I stopped breathing. I definitely couldn’t believe what I was hearing. We had no income, no insurance, two young sons, and a baby daughter on the way.
What a time to test God.
Yet that’s exactly what my husband was doing. Like Gideon in the Old Testament, Tony needed assurance – tangible, unmistakable proof that God is as good as His Word – and for him there was no better time to begin. So my husband threw out his fleece – ten percent of his severance check – and waited.
God’s response was immediate and abundant, if somewhat overwhelming. Unexpected refund and rebate checks began arriving in our mailbox, so many of them that we wondered what God would possibly do next. We continued to tithe off every dollar that came in, and it didn’t take us long to discover that we simply couldn’t out-give God. The more we gave, the more He poured into our laps, “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” Luke 6:38
We were hooked.
Over the years, we’ve learned that tithing wasn’t the ultimate object of that lesson, Biblical giving was. Second Corinthians 8:14 says, “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality.”
That’s why we give.
God gives to us so that we can give to others. We are blessed to be a blessing, conduits of God’s grace, mercy and abundant love to one another. Giving isn’t about a set percent, and it’s not about what we can do, but about what God can and will do through us when we’re willing.
“’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 you will not have room enough for it.’” Malachi 3:10
It’s been nearly twenty years since we started tithing. We’ve welcomed five children into this world, my husband has changed jobs several times, we’ve moved and moved again, we’ve entered the college years (our oldest will graduate this May), and our feet have walked the path of long-term illness with four of our five teens…and me. Through it all, God has remained faithful. As we have continued to tithe, God has stretched our capacity to give. Again and again. And again.
Tithing isn’t an obligation, but a gift. A lavish gift.
That my God, who needs nothing, would offer me the opportunity, the freedom, the privilege to give, to join with Him in providing for His people is remarkable.
That He would trust me that much is amazing.
And humbling. Deeply, perfectly, beautifully, only God, humbling.
For only God could extend such grace — a gift that blesses the giver perhaps even more than the receiver.
*Joining The High Calling this week as they explore the topic of tithing. Come see what others have to say!