I didn’t grow up in an evangelical church, so when I began attending one in high school, I had a bit of a culture shock.
Instead of the minister speaking in a solemn and subdued voice, he raised his voice, gestured dramatically, and paced from one side of the altar to the other. And in this church, Amen wasn’t just gentle punctuation at the end of a prayer, it was enthusiastic feedback from the congregation telling the pastor they agreed with his message.
The congregation’s approach to giving was different, too, and came with intriguing terminology. I added the words stewardship, love offering, faith promise giving, and tithing to my list of vocabulary words. I must admit, I considered this new approach with more than a bit of skepticism.
Then our pastor preached on Malachi 3:10:
“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 room enough for it.”
“Why don’t you try it?” a friend suggested. “Tithe for a month, and see what happens. After all, God says, ‘Test me, and see if I won’t pour you out a blessing. ’ What do you have to lose?”
At the time, I was a poor high school student with no income. I hated babysitting, so I had no hope of a salary increase anytime in the near future. My net gain was my six-dollar weekly allowance.
I made a quick calculation.
“What is God going to do with 60 cents a week?” I asked.
“It’s not how much you give,” he said. “It’s that you give. God can multiply anything.”
“OK. I’ll try it.”
My main goal, I admit, was to prove my friend wrong.
The first week, I dropped my 60 cents into the offering plate and waited. Nothing happened.
Second week, same thing.
Third week, and I was almost home free.
Then the phone call.
“Lori, this is the Airport High School guidance counselor. We’ve just received a phone call from a local dentist looking for someone to train as an assistant to work after school. Would you be interested?”
I accepted the job, began my 30+ year career in dentistry, and have been giving to the Lord ever since.
Not because giving to God is a 10-1 transaction.
Not because I think I can manipulate God into giving me stuff I want by donating to the church.
Not even because I think God needs my money.
I give regularly to the ministry because I need to give.
I need to give to remind myself that everything I have comes from him. The breath in my lungs, the strength in my body, the brain in my skull, and whatever abilities or creativity I possess are all gifts freely given to me by God.
I need to give to remind myself to seek first the kingdom of God, and all the other parts of my life, including my finances, will fall into their proper order (Mat. 6:33).
I need to give to remind myself it's not all about me, and that there are people who are less fortunate than I who can use my help.
I need to give to experience personally the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
I need to give because where my treasure is, there will my heart be also. If I am only marginally invested in our church and its missionaries, food pantry, and benevolence fund, then I will also be marginally involved in its work. If I have invested much, I will pray for the ministries, work with, promote, and love them.
I need to give because I am naturally selfish. If left to my own inclinations, I'll usually invest my best time, energy, and resources in bettering myself, not promoting God's kingdom.
I need to give because God's work is the only work that lasts for eternity. When I give to God, I'm investing in someone else's eternal destiny. I can't think of a better return for my money.
I need to give because I want more faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. When I give instead of hoard, I exercise faith. Like a muscle, faith grows when exercised, so if I exercise faith by giving, my faith muscle grows bigger and stronger.
I need to give to acknowledge that my job is not my provider; God is.
I need to give to remind myself that I serve God, not the other way around.
And finally, I need to give because I owe a debt I can never repay.
Centuries ago God issued a challenge to his people: “Bring your tithes into the storehouse . . . Test me in this.” Thirty years ago I accepted the challenge. First out of skepticism, then out of awe, and ultimately, out of love.
In the intervening years, God has met every need our family has had. He’s provided during times of sickness, injury, and unemployment. He’s helped a blue-collar worker and a stay-at-home mom send two kids to college and stretch our money so far George Washington looks like he’s had a face lift.
I was presumptuous and faithless when I set out so many years ago to prove that God didn’t care if I gave. In his mercy, God blessed me, matured me, and taught me one of the most valuable financial lessons of my life:
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:6-8).
If you’re not regularly investing in God’s kingdom, I encourage you to begin. Give generously, regularly, and prayerfully, and watch what God will do. I’m confident that he’ll use your giving to enhance your life and the lives of those around you.
If you regularly give to God’s work, I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment in the box below or CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online, scroll to the bottom, and leave a comment.
And if you missed the first part of this series, CLICK HERE to read "Best Financial Lessons, Part I."