I don’t usually like to share private details from our lives, but times have been pretty tight for Kathryn and I over the last few months. All of our needs have been met, but we’ve been gradually easing our way into more debt each month, in spite of the fact that we have quite a frugal lifestyle. Around the end of March 2011, we realized that we had been falling behind in our giving at church – probably a foreign concept to some of you reading this – so we backtracked through the banking history and paid a lump sum tithe to catch up. However, following that we went another long time… like 4 months, without giving virtually anything to the church.
It’s probably hard for some people to believe, but tithing is a pretty standard practice amongst Christians. We give 10% of what we earn to the church, to support the salaries of the leaders, upkeep of the building, local and international ministries, etc. It’s quite a challenge sometimes, but without it there wouldn’t be much of a church!
In the book of Malachi, the final book of the Old Testament, the prophet said the following after rebuking Israel for stinginess:
‘”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 there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.’
It’s one of the few places in which God actually exhorts people to put him to the test. So after 4 months of failing to tithe due to concern over finances, I decided to take God for his word and put him to the test. For the sake of privacy I won’t share the exact numbers, but I hope the story is just as effective without them; suffice it to say we’re not talking about a small amount here (think 10% of over 10 paycheques, so more than a full two weeks income). We were quite a ways behind, so I resolved to give a certain amount of money per week until we were caught up. This was during a time in which we were technically not even “getting by”, since we’d been dipping into credit more and more each week, but I just steeled myself for the consequences.
After 3 weeks of giving the chosen amount, I figured we must be getting close to caught up. I did some calculations from our banking history, and using a handy dandy Open Office spreadsheet I determined that we still had a ways to go, but I breathed a sigh and decided I had to follow through – we’d already come so far! With some hesitation, I logged into our online banking to see what our balance was, certain we were going to be well into overdraft. After all, we had already been in bad enough shape just handling our everyday costs.
I clicked on the link to view the chequing account details, scrolled to the bottom, and laughed when I saw the balance: exactly the amount I had calculated that was left to give, to the dollar.
I guess some people would call this coincidence, but I’d rather take it as encouragement from God: “hey, you can do this – test me in this, see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven”. The floodgates may not quite be bursting yet, but I think this gave me enough peace about the whole situation to proceed with confidence.
I hope this encourages someone else who may be struggling with generosity or trusting God. He’s put the offer out there to test him on tithing, so why not take him at his word?