I wasn't always a tither.
I didn't grow up seeing my family tithe. In retrospect, I realize it's because most American synagogues simply mail you a bill for your membership dues (sometimes reflecting a tithe of what you've reported as your income, but usually a set membership fee). So if you're a member, you write a check and mail it in. Done and done. And your kids are generally oblivious to your giving.
Churches aren't like that. We pass a plate - or a popcorn bucket, if you go to my worship service. So no one knows if you're being generous or stingy. Or disobedient.
|I'm pretty sure that if we're not supposed to be tax-evaders,|
we're not supposed to be tithe-evaders either.
But God knows. And so do you. At least I know I did, as I regularly passed the plate right on by.
I didn't have much money right out of college. I didn't have a job and was working as a temp. I watched my pennies. And I didn't give many of them to the Lord.
See, I just didn't have much yet. I'd give more when I had more. At least, that's what I told myself. Besides, I was, after all, giving my time as a volunteer in student ministry. Yes, I was tithing my time.
Eventually, I got a job. A great one, actually. One that paid me an annual bonus that almost doubled my salary. I finally had plenty to tithe. But I didn't.
The truth is, finances stressed me out. Physically. I got a knot in my stomach whenever I received bills, paid bills or thought about bills. So the thought of tithing made the knot tighter. Especially when I had some credit card debt.
But I had a solution. Each year when my bonus came through, I paid off any debt, bought something I'd delayed all year, and then gave the rest to church. Unfortunately, that leftover amount never came even remotely close to a tithe. And the knot didn't go away.
One year, I forgot to skip the put-your-annual-pledge-on-the-altar Sunday. So I filled out the card with what I thought was a reasonable amount to give. It was a small number, but it was more than I'd been putting in the plate before. And, more importantly, it established in me a pattern of giving.
The knot loosened just a bit. I don't remember how or when, but eventually I decided to give ten percent. I realized that it wasn't a church "rule;" it was what God asked of me. And hadn't He given so much to me? For me?
I tentatively began to tithe - fully expecting the knot in my gut to grow. But instead, it disappeared. Completely.
I didn't win the sweepstakes or get unexpected checks in the mail like some people say happened to them. But I got peace. And I got joy. I loved giving. I vividly remember one week when the usher missed my row. I was so distraught I started to cry. So I stood up and chased him up the aisle just so I could drop my envelope in the velvet-lined tray.
My heart - and my gut - had been transformed.
Fortunately, I married a man who has led our marriage and our family with the same desire. Even when we were a family of four living on one grad student salary along with significant medical bills, he made sure we were giving ten percent. Off our gross, not net - which astounded my non-believer parents (giving can be a witness!).
What's my point? Beside the fact that tithing is a command, giving is a joy.
I also think it's a litmus test for American Christians of whether we truly trust God. Whether He is first in our materialistic world and materialistic lives. In fact, tithing revealed to me that I was much more materialistic than I thought I was. And it still does.
I've found that tithing is a measure of whether trusting God is something I say, or something I really do.