“Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality.”
It would be an understatement to say that I am no good at math. It started in kindergarten when I brought home a worksheet marked up with red pen and a note saying that I needed to work on my math skills. Apparently, I had trouble looking at a row of red apples, crossing out a couple of them and coming up with the amount left. In fifth grade, I had a perpetual stomachache during the unit on fractions. I still get giddy when a batch of cookies turns out correctly! In sixth grade I was required to work at the little store at our school selling supplies once a week before school started as part of my job on student council. My mom still recalls the glazed look I got in my eyes as she tried to teach me how to count back change in preparation for this. In high school my geometry teacher gave me the lowest possible passing grade. I don’t know if she was showing mercy to me or sparing herself another year of seeing me an hour before school started each morning. In college, I took a math class three times before I finally passed it just so I could get my degree in writing. Not a stellar career.
The thing about math is that there is no room for interpretation. Math is black and white. There are no gray areas in the realm of equations. Two plus two does equal four. E really does equal MC squared, (although I really have no idea what that means). With all of the absolutes in the mathematical kingdom, the fact that God instructs us to give a portion of what we earn back to Him with the promise that He will multiply it defies everything I attempted to learn in math. I have no idea what mathematical equation Jesus was using when He took five loaves of bread and two fish and fed a crowd of 5,000 and still had leftovers! And I still haven’t been able to figure out what equation or theorem is at work in the area of tithing. What I do know is that He insists on tithing. It’s not a suggestion. And like any other command, there’s a good reason for it and a promise behind it.
“’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 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 enough room for it’” (Mal. 3:10).
Do not misunderstand me. I do not for a second buy into the idea of the prosperity gospel being taught today. He has so much more for us in this life than thinking about the level of our comfort. His blessings are not limited to material things. They come in different forms such as financial peace, freedom from worry about needs being met and an inexpressible joy in watching God do miraculous things with our measly offerings. I am no stranger to the miracle of tithing. Let me explain.
I will never forget the day my mom told my sister and I that we were going to have to tighten our belts. The three of us had just moved into a small apartment building following my parents’ divorce. Money had always been tight, not because we didn’t have any but because none of us were any good at handling it appropriately. At the time, my mom worked a part-time job at a department store selling my favorite things, clothes! It was a small income to say the least.
On paper, we never had enough to pay the bills let alone buy groceries or clothe ourselves. We also never missed the opportunity to give God what was due Him. I don’t know how He did it, and I know that not even Einstein would be able to explain it. But never once did my mom miss a rent payment, we never went without food, and I still had a pretty awesome wardrobe considering my financial state.
In my journey with money over the years I’ve vacillated between obedience and rebellion in the area of tithing. I know what God can do when we are obedient. Still, I’ve had month’s even years where money was so tight I felt that just this once He would understand if I didn’t obey. “Just this once” turned into months. Not only were we not tithing, our bills weren’t getting paid either. It’s not that God doesn’t provide money to pay bills and feed our kids if we don’t tithe, but there are a few things that happen when we do tithe.
First, it’s a step of faith. We had gotten out of the habit for a couple of years at one point, and in the meantime, things were going south with our finances, again. One Friday after I’d cleaned a few houses that week, I decided that I had to get back into the habit. (Just a side note, we always give from my husband’s income, just not mine). So I went to the bank, cashed the checks and paper clipped the ten percent for that week to the inside of my Bible. When the plate was passed at church that week, for a moment I actually questioned if I should put the money in the plate. After all, we could use it for something. Thankfully, I dismissed the idea and plunked my chunk of change into the bucket and passed it on.
The second thing I’ve noticed is this: choosing to obey brings peace and a sense of anticipation at how God will meet our needs that week. A friend of mine recently reminded me that what God calls us to do is a sliver compared to the part He does. All He wants is for us to do our sliver, and He will do the rest. I found myself resting in the promise that He will do what He says He will do.
At my church when we are getting ready to take the offering, everybody applauds. At first I thought that was a little strange, but that’s the third thing that happens with tithing. Once you start obeying, resting in His promise to provide, and experience His peace in the process, there is a joy that comes with giving. I love setting the money aside for that week’s offering. I love knowing that I’m obeying. I may question God’s will in other areas of my life, but in the area of tithing it’s mercifully clear what His will is.
The last thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to forget about the money that I’ve put in the plate. I don’t pine after it thinking I could have used it for something. And let’s be honest, the ten percent that I give wouldn’t pay for much. But even if you’re tithing large sums of money, it doesn’t matter. God doesn’t need our money. He doesn’t need anything from us. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10). What could He possibly need from us? That’s the beauty of it though. He wants our involvement. He wants to show what He is capable of to a people who are obedient to Him. He can accomplish His purposes without us, but He desperately wants us to be a part of what He’s doing.
In my search for financial freedom, I read tons of material and listened to copious amounts of advice. Several of these sources said to pay yourself first, meaning set some money aside in a savings account. While saving some money each month is wise, my advice is to get the tithing thing down first. This is not a new concept by the way. God spent the whole 27th chapter of Exodus telling Moses what He expected of the people in regards to giving back to Him.
“’A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord’” (Ex. 27:30, NIV).
Not only does a portion of what we earn belong to God, it is holy to Him. The command is simple, very black and white, just like math. But don’t try and figure out how He takes a little and multiplies it into much. It’s beyond even the most intelligent of math geniuses.