I watched his quivering lips and I knew the tears weren’t far behind. He sighed and continued with his story, choking out the words, wanting to communicate in spite of his unpredictable emotions. Yep. That’s why I love him so much--crusty and tough on the outside, a soft, squishy marshmallow within. And he’s not embarrassed by it.
It was Week #4 of our Thursday evening Truth for Living Course. We were presenting a video series, Marriage Oneness, by Tim Lundy, a speaker associated with Family Life Today. Good stuff. Yes, that’s a shameless plug. Our incredible Marriage Team had finished serving a delicious pot roast dinner by candlelight and, over homemade pumpkin cheesecake, our twenty precious couples listened attentively to Tim explain the urgency of oneness in handling family finances.
Before referencing much of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University material, Tim suggested that nearly all of the Bible’s 2300 plus verses about money could be arranged into four major categories represented simply by four words: live, give, save, and limit. Now I’m not going to rehearse all of Tim’s teaching here mostly because I am hoping you will take the course next fall, but the second word, giving, was about what you would expect. His bullet point read, “Always give something.” The first verses he pointed to were Acts 20:35 and Proverbs 3:9.
“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said,‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” “Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce.”
Tim was presenting this important biblical theme of giving…and the tithe in Scripture was ten per cent of one’s income. To encourage those who have never considered this mandate, he suggested beginning by giving something regularly. We need to understand that our wise and loving Father tenderly cares for the needs of His lost, poor, sick, orphaned, widowed, and sojourning children here on earth, the advancement of His Kingdom, and the work of His church through the generosity and obedience of other of His children. That’s why tithing to His church is so urgent and important. To emphasize the point, my dear husband, Kenny, wanted to share a personal story I had long ago forgotten. Soon we both were sniffing through grateful tears.
Kenny grew up here in South Jersey, the second of seven children, all born within nine very busy years. His dad had a steady job but also needed to farm, working long hours to feed and care for his family. Money was tight. Very tight.
Kenny’s mom had grown up in a home where tithing was part of her family’s DNA, but that was not the case in his dad’s family. This difference was occasionally the source of contention between his parents. One day, not long after the family had begun to attend a new church (MINE!), Kenny’s father was convicted in a sermon about his practice of not tithing to the church, not giving back a bit of what God had so often and so kindly given to him and to his family. That day, his father, by faith, not knowing how they would ever afford it, began to give a tithe to God.
Within two weeks, my future father-in-law’s boss called him into his office and offered him a 25% increase in pay—an incredible and unexpected raise that more than covered the money he had pledged in his heart to give away! Plus, there was left-over money for his children and his very happy wife. What a blessing!
I just love how God works…how he affirms our steps of faith and encourages our obedience. And seven wide-eyed children got to witness the goodness of their Heavenly Father in response to the faith of their earthly one. More than fifty years later, with a lump in his throat, one of those kids got to tell the story of how his dad learned to give. A quiet roomful of people listened. And heard.
Now I don’t tell you this story so you think that there is some magical formula here and you rashly begin to give to get. No, this is one man’s story. Your story is not the same. God knows the motivations of each of our hearts.
I relate it again because of its simplicity and its beauty…and because I believe it explains clearly what the Father thinks about our gifts. They please Him. Our faith pleases Him. Our gifts, I think, are a demonstration, a visible representation of that unseen faith growing inside us. It shows Him we are not trusting in our money; we are trusting in Him alone to take care of us. That’s just what He wants. That’s just what we need.
The multiplied gifts of His people are a huge benefit to others too. Our contributions finance the ministry and outreach of His local church, the advancement of His Kingdom abroad, and the healing and restoration of broken people everywhere. What a glorious plan!
And it all begins with one man or one woman’s decision to trust God and give.
I can only imagine how my Father-in-law’s tithe, combined with other faithful givers, has been used over these many decades. How many street kids have been fed? How many Bibles have been translated or given? How much medicine has been dispensed in jungle hospitals? How many lives have been transformed by the Gospel? How many churches have been built? It’s amazing to think about. It’s a great story, a story that influenced at least one little boy to become a giver too.
That begs the question. Is somebody watching you?
“Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)