I have heard it said that an adult only retains about 40 vivid memories from their childhood. I don’t know if this is true or not, but as I sit here thinking about giving and generosity, one memory stands out more than any other. Let me preface it with this: growing up, my parents taught my sister and me the “envelope system” in dealing with our finances. Every time I completed my weekly chores, I would get paid commission. That money would be broken up into envelopes: one for spending, one for saving, and one for giving.
It was a bright morning, with the sun reflecting off the dew. I remember that. I was lucky that morning because I was ready early, which meant I got to ride to church with my dad. I remember holding tight to my “giving” envelope, almost bouncing off the seat with excitement.
I can still see the smile on my dad’s face as I exclaimed, “Dad, I have earned $80.00. That means I have eight dollars to give to the church. Can you believe that? ”
Now, I couldn’t have been more than 7 years old, and at that age, $80.00 was a lot of money! I still feel good knowing how proud of me my dad was at that moment.
His opinion means a lot because I have never met more generous people than my parents. Their trust in God to provide when we had very little was an immense testimony to me and my husband now. Growing up, I have seen how God will bless us when we give Him our first fruits. If that wasn’t enough, I have experienced first-hand that God will always provide for our needs when we give to Him first.
This past year was especially difficult for my family. There were many months in which we didn’t know if and how we were going to pay our bills, feed our family, pay for my husband’s multiple back surgeries…or even pay for the shoes my son needed. I know, it sounds a little drastic, but that’s how it felt. I remember many Sundays putting on my “smile” and then being asked how I was doing, only to break down in tears as I struggled to get the words out, “We’re surviving…” It wasn’t just finances, it was the spiritual, emotional, and physical battle as well.
It would have been easy to think… If we don’t tithe this month…than we can pay off our hospital debt instead of having to make payments for a few more months…we can … we need…we can…
But here is the truth, if we hadn’t been faithful to God and tithed our first fruits, we might have missed the opportunity for God to bless us. We were stretched, so much. More than I wanted to be. And honestly, we are still being stretched. Yet, God is faithful to provide in HIS timing. It comes in unexpected ways too – community programs, gifts of generous friends, family and church members, unexpected tax returns… Throughout it all, God has provided for our every need because we gave to Him first…even when it was hard.
But all of that is just a side note to what I really want to convey. God does amazing things with our tithe…AMAZING THINGS! When we are generous, He not only provides for our needs, but He blesses others through our gift. Yes, your tithe does go towards paying the bills at the church, and the salaries of the staff, and other fixed costs – but did you know that it also goes to fund several missionaries around the world? It helps each ministry here at Harvest in outreach and discipleship. It helps Harvest care for the needs of those struggling in our community through the food pantry and special gifts. Your tithe goes towards fulfilling the Great Commission handed to us by Jesus himself.
Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Talk about fulfilling God’s will for our lives!
Since that first time I brought my $8.00 to give as a child, I have never regretted giving. Developing the rhythm of generosity is based on the Biblical principle of stewardship.
Stewardship is the recognition that God owns all we possess. It is an acknowledgement that God provides the resources for our lives and, through us, the resources for God’s work and God’s church. We are managers – overseers – of what God has provided for our lives. We are accountable for all He has placed in our lives, not just for a portion of that amount. Our giving must always be an act of love and gratitude.
Sacrificial giving is the act of making sacred, or setting apart, our financial resources for God. Jesus chose as models for giving those who gave sacrificially: the widow who gave two mites; the boy who gave his lunch; and the woman who gave her alabaster box of perfume.
“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” (I Corinthians 8:12) Again Paul said, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Corinthians 9:7)
The scriptures make clear that God measures the gift not in relationship to others, but in relationship to one’s resources. Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48)
Allow yourself to be stretched. Make your gifts a holy sacrifice. Know that your faithfulness will be a blessing to others for years to come.