I grew up in a tiny country church that had 25 people including children on a good day. Our pastors were typically young men that had just graduated seminary and came to us while they waited for their “real” job. We were a revolving door of pastors. We did start to grow slowly and when I was in fourth or fifth grade, we got our first pastor that we picked and could call our own. It was an exciting time. It was the end of September and he was almost done with his sermon this particular Sunday and casually mentioned that October was pledge month. With that information he told the congregation that he would be posting every families pledge in the narthex as those pledges came in. My Mom was on the governing body of the church and our phone rang off the hook that Sunday afternoon as several people called others also dropped by to discuss this dilemma.
It is because of the reaction that Sunday that I even remember this at all. I can assure you I don’t remember any other sermons from that time. Money, and especially tithing can be a difficult conversation to have. But does it have to be? I invite you to look at tithing in a different way, and maybe make a remarkable difference as we do.
“Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments. . . They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” Exodus 35:20-22, Exodus 36:3-5
This is one of my favorite Old Testament passages in the Bible. I absolutely love that God’s people were so excited to give to Him that they came with willing hearts giving excessively to build the tabernacle. They were so generous, they didn't give just enough, not this will probably do. No, they gave more than enough. So much in fact that Moses had to ask them to quit bringing the solicited items, because they had no room to store them. What a beautiful tribute to God, that they gave so generously out of love for Him.
Somewhere along the way, though, they lost those generous hearts so willing to give. Tithing became more of an option than a mandate. Today, many of us consider giving mandatory and tithing optional.
I get it. Over the years I have become the master of reasons it can be optional to tithe:
We have three small children and I am a stay at home Mom, that is my sacrifice for now.
We have three kids in five sports. Tithe? Not right now.
We have a child in college.
Well we give to several charities and church, I’m pretty sure if we add it all up it would be tithing.
Um, yea, we had car repairs, had to buy a new oven and the garage door broke – all in one month.
Or my favorite, I give plenty to the government, how could I possible tithe?
About four years ago, my husband and I made the commitment to tithe. We have never regretted that and actually have found it easier to face the challenging months when two or three unexpected expenses come up. We feel like it has blessed us in ways we never considered, including obedience.
I am currently reading a book called Passing the Plate. It’s actually a book asking why Christians don’t give more to the church in the US. But what resonated with me is the possibilities if committed Christians do tithe. This book did extensive research about who a committed Christian is, and what the median income is in regional areas across the nation. The results are staggering. They figure that if committed Christians across the US tithed it would amount to 46 billion dollars a year. They give an in-depth list of where that money could go both globally and nationally to make a difference. Some of that list included 150,000 new indigenous missionaries, tripling the resources on bible translation for those who have never heard it and providing food and shelter to all current refugees in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The list is many pages and it will blow your mind to think of the difference that could be made by Christians if they were obedient and tithed. (1)
In our church, Gretna Brethren, if our all of our church members tithed, we would have an extra $115,000 a year to support our community. It could actually be more because we have some attenders who have not yet joined and our church has been blessed with some growth in recent months.
Can you see the beacon of light Gretna would be shining for Jesus as we serve our community with the offer of help for the hurting, food for the hungry and nourishment for the soul?! Not only would we have the resources to make unprecedented change over the years, but we would be reaching out the hand of God’s love with that change.
In the month of May our local homeless shelter turned away six families and three individuals because they were full. What if our church members chose to tithe and found they could buy and fix up a home and give it to the shelter? Our community also offered 627,500 meals through local food banks in 2018, and another 18,476 through meals on wheels. Could we support this ministry even more than we do now? There are so many people who are considered“working poor” that don’t meet criteria for help so they fall through the cracks, silent and broken. Could we offer hope and healing to those who suffer with little support?
What would our community look like if our small church out in the country chose to tithe and make a difference for people hurting and in need. Could Gretna set the example for other churches to tithe and add to the changes that bring about that unprecedented change in Logan County? We would be building a foundation of love and service that could potentially make us independent of outside resources, all because we were obedient to God and tithed!
“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.” Malachi 3:10
God had just accused the Israelites of robbing Him by not tithing. In His grace He wants to prove how amazing the blessings could be! Can you imagine the incredible picture of our county as God throws open the flood gates of heaven and pours out an overabundance of blessings? I want to see that happen, don’t you?
(1) Passing the Plate by Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson