I’ve always been a gift-giver. Just ask my husband. All year long I am on the lookout for the perfect gift for my family and friends. Something personal. Something that shows just how much I love and admire them. I carefully think about that person in particular. What would they most want? What would they use the most?
I think my love for gift-giving came from my mother. Each Christmas, we would spend hours making baskets of goodies for each member of the extended family. We never had much money, but we always made gift-giving a priority. To this day, I will sacrifice my own needs to provide the perfect gift for a wedding, a birthday, a new birth, or any other day of the year that seems like a good gift-giving day.
So why is it that I have such a hard time giving when it comes to building the kingdom of God?
The latest Barna survey shows that the number of people that tithe is decreasing. And here comes a confession: I am among the group of non-tithers. Each month, when I sit down to pay the bills, the checks to charitable organizations are the hardest ones for me to write. They feel like luxury checks that I’m just not sure I can part with.
We’re bombarded with student loans, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, increasing utility prices … the list goes on and on. When our finances are stretched, it feels as though the world is crashing in around us. We feel crippled to make a difference when we’re not sure how we’re going to pay our bills.
We can read books on generosity, hear sermons on tithing, and make promises to do better, but in the end, it’s only through the act of giving that our perspective changes. When we give to those who need it most, we reach out a hand to show we care. We form a connection that wasn’t there before. Through the art of giving, relationships are created.
And those checks to charitable organizations become less of a luxury and more of a necessity.
A little over a year ago my husband and I sponsored our first Compassion child. Money was tight, but it had been on our hearts to reach out to someone who needed it most. When we began to budget around our sponsorship, we began to realize just how much extra we had. We would spend $50 going out to eat, when less than that would pay the monthly expenses for another child.
I will never forget the day we added up how much money we spent going through the tollbooth on our daily commutes.
$2 a day? That’s over $40 a month! We could sponsor another child with our toll money alone!
We found a cheaper apartment that was closer to work. And we sponsored a second child through Compassion. But perhaps the most important thing that happened in that conversation was this:
We shifted our priorities.
What we thought were necessities really became luxuries. We changed our lifestyles so that we could give more and spend less. And each day, when I think about the difference that our sponsorship is making, I don’t regret the decision one bit. Where I once wrote the checks out of obligation, I now write them out of joy. It is my favorite bill to pay each month.
No, I’m not a tither. But I’m working on it. And each time I give a little more I realize just how much I’ve been given.
Do you have a story about giving to share?
In Waco, I went to to a church where giving was contagious. You’d feel like something was wrong with you if you didn’t give sacrificially. I miss that atmosphere.
Megan – I long for a community like that! It is true that giving can be contagious … when people around you give, it’s hard to not give yourself!
That makes me think (and wonder) about how my own giving could be contagious to others …
Thanks for stopping by!
I can relate to this so well. We had a similar journey in how we first started sponsoring a Compassion child. Now I can’t hardly buy anything without adding up the “cost” (how much that would help someone else). I still buy stuff, but I’m beginning to recognize more and more how much more good could come from what God gives me. Thanks for sharing your story!
Matt – thanks so much for stopping by!
I have to say that it was super eye opening when we started talking about how little money families in other parts of the country have each week. We have found ourselves feeling more and more convicted to use what we’ve been given for the greater good. It’s not always easy, and more times than not I cave to the “stuff” rather than the giving … but our perspective is definitely shifting!
This is one of those posts that EVERYONE should read. I’m guilty. So guilty. You’ve inspired me. I’m marking it as “unread” because I want to reread it later.
@duane_scott:twitter thanks dude … glad to hear you were inspired! i can’t wait to hear the stories of how you give!!
So… I don’t tithe. I am a “non-tither”. Not tithing was a decision I made about 7 years ago after careful study on the doctrine of tithing. Oddly enough, utilizing some Barna books for fact checking on church history etc. I have many friends that do not tithe, but I am fully aware that it is faux pas to speak of it in most Christian settings.
Though tithing has decreased, that isn’t to say that charitable giving has had the same rate of decrease. I give. A lot. Most Christians I know that do not tithe (on purpose) are very open & generous. Perhaps tithing has decreased because my generation & the next generation are asking questions about protocol, tradition, & all that is consider sacred. Perhaps people have a harder time paying into a particular church in order to “maintain” the building, the parsonages, the salaries, the fountains, the concert lighting, the fog machines, the backstage buffet, the holiday banquets, the… You get the point. Many prefer to give towards specific needs and even directly to those in need.
I haven’t been a member of a church for nearly two years & this is by no means a “savings program” lol! Maybe if I was a tither it would be. Finances are for the work of the kingdom as you stated. Sometimes he asks for all, sometimes a portion. Regardless, obedience is key.
Just giving another perspective:)
Just read the study… Looks like its all decreased. Wonder how the volunteer time rates these days… Wonder if that’s increased 🙂
I can remember as I was growing up my mom focusing on “if you can’t give your money, give your time.” I know many congregations that I have come into contact with are struggling with finding volunteers as well as money … in some respects time has become the new currency. As we have less and less money to give, do we have more time??
I, too would be interested to know if the volunteer time in all charitable organizations has decreased or if it is increasing all around.
@ba7b4abd359686eb0970ae5811b774a3:disqus – I LOVE this perspective … thanks for sharing it! I think part of my struggle with “giving” is not the giving part … but like you’ve said here, the where I’m giving it to. I am one of those who firmly believes in the local congregation, but at the same time I struggle with giving money for the upkeep of it … especially if it’s not deeply involved with helping those who need it most.
This IS a difficult conversation to have because it can seem very “hot topic” to many. Thank you for introducing this perspective!
I have a little pin that I bought at a Christian conference. It says “I tithe 11.25%”. It’s hard for me to see some folks feeling guilty & overwhelmed by a mandate to tithe. That’s the only reason I even bothered to mention my perspective. The lessons of portion, gratefulness, & generosity are life changing.
No doubt, tithing is hard! I’m not sure why, but it’s always so easy to look at my finances and say, “Hmmm, it’s going to be a tight month…maybe that 10% that I was planning to tithe would be better spent by paying for the (fill in the blank).”
But here’s the really crazy part: those months where it’s supposed to be tight and I tithe despite my discomfort are the same months that I have money to spare. Then there are months where I should have an excess of income and I don’t tithe…usually leaving me in a pinch for money in the end. Just goes to show that God’s economy isn’t always straight forward. It’s about trusting in His provision, not our own financial wisdom.
@apbrewer:disqus – my husband and I have had this conversation so often …. when we write the check or give the money right off the top, it seems as though there’s more money to go as the month progresses … and yet many times there’s not any more money coming in…
I haven’t figured out if it’s because the act of giving changes my perspective so I spend less on other stuff or if it’s a loaves and fishes kind of thing …
Great perspective – thanks!!
i have been tithing for near 30 years, was taught as a child to give 10% to God. I have not always tithed though and i can tell you for absolute sure that months we did not, because we werent going to church somewhere.. we suffered big time financially. Oh i saved it and figured i would give it all when we “found “a church..but it wasn’t the same. I choose to believe what the word of God says about tithing with no interpretation except by the Holy Spirit. my newest thing is that i want to give more and more.. i always ignored that part about ..”.and offereings”… so even though tithing is second nature to me jsut as paying FPL.. i need to work on my “offering”. God is still working on me..yes indeedy 🙂
You are so right that sometimes tithing and offerings are different!! Giving brings joy, not obligation. Thank you for sharing your story!hank you for sharing your story!