A little over a year ago, our church embarked on a new journey to raise a substantial amount of money to build their very own home building. We started attending our church when it was brand new, just under a year old. Because it was a “startup”, they didn’t have a physical building, and opted for renting a school gymnasium for Sunday services. It’s been over 5 years since we started attending church there, and last year, we learned the exciting news that there’s a building in our future.
Obviously it takes money to build, which led us down a path of studying tithing and giving. While the conversations were uncomfortable at times, it was a huge period of growth for our house. We finally started to look at some things we’d been avoiding and make some changes to really start trusting God with our resources.
As always, God delivered, just like He promised. The money we began giving should have put us behind on our bills, should have required us to sacrifice our travel, and should have probably been cause for a drastic lifestyle change – but over the last year, we’ve been shown that you can never out-give God.
Once we got past the initial lump in our throats about giving regularly, it became easy. And then it became almost too easy. I started treating our tithing like a bill, paying it every month as if it’s something we had to do.
Student loans – check. Mortgage – check. Tithing – check.
An update came in the mail at some point, telling us what we had given toward the church-building campaign, and I was shocked at how faithfully we had stuck to our commitment – because it felt faithless. I didn’t feel that sacrifice, I wasn’t witness to it. That wasn’t what I wanted from this journey. I had no question that God would use our money for His good, and I also understood that God doesn’t need our money. The creator of the universe isn’t exactly digging for coins under his car seat. This journey isn’t about following some law or obligation. Truthfully, the journey isn’t even about building the church – it’s a journey of faith and trust; giving to God for His good and faithfully watching what He does.
I decided to stop our auto-tithe commitment. Not because I wanted to stop giving, but because I wanted to start. I love technology and all the automations and ease that come with it. I love that I don’t have to write down when my student loans are due and that my electric doesn’t get shut off because those transactions just happen. Praiseeeee. But tithing isn’t a transaction, and I wanted to stop treating it like one. Since stopping the auto-tithing, we’ve been able to do 5 major things differently.
Prayer is powerful. God’s a smart guy and He’s got an awesome plan for His creation, but He’s also not a debt-collector. He’s in it for the relationship. He’s not waiting for us to hang our heads, drop off our payment, and leave. By sitting down to intentionally give, we can pray for our offering, and for His creation.
“Do all of this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people.” Ephesians 6:18
Discipline is an ongoing choice. 3 years ago, I made a commitment to improve my health through regular exercise and healthy eating. I quickly learned that it wasn’t a one time thing. It’s something that requires me to continue showing up and making it a priority. Imagine walking into the gym on January 1st because you’re finally ready to change your life – you enroll in a membership, give them your credit card, and sign an agreement that your monthly fee will be auto-debited from your card. You have an awesome workout and feel amazing. Then life happens, and you start missing days. Paying for a gym membership all year doesn’t mean you’re healthy. You’re missing out on the benefits that come with the discipline of showing up. Now, I feel the same way about tithing.
“No discipline is fun while it lasts, it seems painful at the time. Later, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
This is similar to the idea of discipline, but I wanted to be sure that we had a choice in the matter of tithing. I wanted to give with intention, not obligation. I wanted to remind myself that I’m not buying God’s love through tithing. His love is never failing and unconditional. Jesus died to cover our sins and I firmly believe that my place in Heaven is absolutely secure. This journey is about a deeper relationship and a bigger faith. By making the choice to give each week, we also have the choice not to give. We tithe out of faith, not fear.
“Each one of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give. You should not give if it makes you unhappy or if you feel forced to give. God loves those who are happy to give.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
While our current giving journey is focused primarily around a physical church building, that’s not the only thing that God uses our money for. The world is broken, sad, and scary – all too often we hear stories of homeless families, hungry children, and Christians being persecuted for their faith. When we hear about these terrible tragedies, we often wish there was something we could do. Unfortunately, we can’t. But God can. When we give to Him intentionally, we’re reminded of the good He does, and how ultimately, that’s all He wants. He doesn’t have an underlying motive. Imagine giving your money to Bill Gates or Oprah’s charity – you can rest assured that they aren’t in need of your money, they simply want to do good with it. Multiply that times a million when giving to God. God often shows me a new perspective on someone in need and changes my heart for certain situations.
“There was no one in the group who was in need. Those who owned fields or houses would sell them, bring the money received from the sale and it turn it over to the apostles; and the money was distributed according to the needs of the people.” Acts 4:34-35
When I opened that letter awhile back, showing us what we had contributed to our church, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what we had available to give. Often times, it’s easy to forget how many blessings we already have, especially when a pre-determined number comes out of a pre-determined bank account on a pre-determined date to do pre-determined things. By taking the reigns on our tithing, we’re able to see our blessings through a different lens. Both my husband and myself work in commission based jobs – that means our income can vary pretty greatly. By calculating our tithing amounts in real time, we get to see the success that God’s brought into our lives. We also get a closer look at the non-monetary blessings, like the ability to do our banking online with fast internet, the cell service we use to complete our weekly tithing, the intelligence that we were blessed with to do math (my husband – not me!), and the partnership that God created and sustained between us, even through challenging times. These things get taken for granted all too often. Society might tell us these things are a given, or that everyone has them, and often times, that’s easy to buy into. But then you hear some of the stories I mentioned earlier about children who are fighting for their lives, and WIFI seems like much more of a luxury – a luxury that deserves gratitude and praise.
“Now, our God, we give you thanks, and we praise your glorious name. Yet my people and I cannot really give you anything, because everything is a gift from you, and we have only given back what is yours already.” 1 Chronicles 29:13-14
Tithing is an individual choice and decision for everyone – one that should be decided based on a personal relationship. I most definitely don’t think it’s inappropriate to auto-tithe, and certainly see the benefit to doing so, but I also believe strongly in sharing my personal journey of strengthening my relationship with God, because it’s the most important tool He’s given me. If you’re unsure, talk to Him about it. Contrary to popular belief, God is not unapproachable – He wants to steady your heart and strengthen your faith.