People have often commented on my generosity toward others, but it has not always been that way…I definitely learned the hard way with money. I remember making the decision to follow Jesus. So many things needed change as I started the transformation of obedience to the things I was learning in scripture. The hardest thing for me was to trust God with my finances. Let me paint the picture.
I was 21 years old and $27,000 in dept. School debt, Bon Marche Card, two credit cards, tickets, and a car that I have no idea how I qualified for and monthly bills that I was beginning to run late on.
My roommates came upstairs to confront me on my lack of payment for rent and utilities for that month and it sent me over the edge. At the moment they came upstairs I was looking through the growing stack of bills that I was unable to pay and I lost it. I broke down crying and made my way to my bed, a mattress on the floor I called a bed, and called out to God for help.
See, for me $27,000 was almost the amount I made in one year at my work, so I had to trust God for wisdom as to how I could break free from the chains of debt that I had been lured into. As I began to search a book I had picked up called, “Where to find it in the Bible”, I looked up finances and quickly learned how much it was addressed in scripture. Jesus himself taught through stories and out of the 38 stories (parables) he told in scripture 11 was about finances, and 1 out of every 7 verses in the book of Luke talks about money.
I was looking for help, wisdom, coaching other than the insight I was getting from my Dad and Grandpa whom I had taken a loan out from as well. That is when I got to Malachi 3:8-10…it just clicked from there. On Sundays I would toss the change in my pocket into the basket as it passed me in church, but I did not give a tithe, nor did I understand tithing and offerings at the time. But I can guarantee one thing…since I didn’t understand it, I knew I was robbing God according to that passage and I did not want to be that guy. I wanted to be the guy who was receiving the blessings poured out and have the devourer of all my dollars rebuked!
So my study continued and I learned about giving 10% of my money to God before I gave anything else to anyone…including Uncle Sam. Then I discovered that “offerings” were monies given above and beyond that 10% percent and should be given in accordance with my income without reluctance, strategically and generously (more on this in the coming weeks). So about one month after the roommate incident I surrendered my finances to God… “I put Him to the test”, and began to tithe and give offerings.
Immediately what used to seem insurmountable became manageable as it pertained to bills and money. I would drive straight to church and give my tithe and missions commitment off the top of my check so I wasn’t tempted to spend it. And I would even set a bit aside to give when opportunities arose and someone was in need or we had a special offering at church. Not only was I giving, but my debt quickly began to reduce. I humbled myself and moved back in with my parents until I would get a grip on my finances. I was living beyond my means on my own, and it was a painful, but necessary step for me to be in right relationship with God and my debtors.
Three years later I was debt free. What once seemed like a long dark tunnel with no light at the end, was now an open road, with the ability to act upon every desire of generosity that God led me into.
I want everyone to experience the freedom that this one, very challenging area of life can bring if you will put God to the test. It makes no sense to this day that I can do better on 80% of my finances than 100%, but it is just a reality. The old adage is true, “you cannot out give God.”
Maybe you are like me and you are just starting your journey with Jesus, trust me, you just make the decision to give the 10% to your church and watch God begin to change your whole perception of possessions. Who should you give to? Your church…the tithe is what the Lord uses to allow them to do the ongoing work of ministry to you and your community. Without it, they are paralyzed by vision without resource.
Maybe you have practiced tithing for years, but have grown so accustom to it that you go out of town for the summer and forget to give. I truly think online giving is a gift from God for this very purpose. Helps us stay consistent when we are distracted by life.
Every other week I am going to take a look at another aspect of generosity. You will find my musings here, and my hope is that you can find an avenue to fresh generosity and freedom in your life and those around you! Enjoy the journey…
PS: Mark Driscoll (a great local pastor in Ballard) does a great job of describing the heart of Tithing in this video…give it a watch and then challenge yourself to surrender your finances to God. Begin tithing and giving generous offerings and see if God does not begin to bless you beyond imagination. It is an essential part of the discipleship process in growing in a relationship with Jesus.