Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tithing

Caveat: Please, dear reader, do not take this post as something I propose anyone else do. I have been giving this matter a great deal of thought, and the following is the conclusion I have come to in regards to my own life. I am certain that the Lord would have others do differently. Perhaps even have me do differently at some future date.

Also, I know it is crass to write about one's money, but it is germane to the point of this post, so please bear with me.

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The final two bills I was expecting came in today and I paid them... telephone and utilities.

The Garbage pick up, the last bill of the month, will be $37.

My final amount in my checkbook is $361.98. I have $137 in my wallet. Isaac will need $10 a week for lunches, four weeks: $40.

My paycheck was $3,300.

Not too long ago, when I was paying the bills alone for the first time in over a quarter of a century, I wrote a post wondering about my tithe to the church.

There were a lot of comments, running quite a gamut.

It is reassuring to have so many friends who read this blog. I can always find someone who agrees with me and feel good about what I do.

The real question is, what does my heart tell me?

When I first got my paycheck I wanted to tithe 10% of it right off the top. Then pay the bills.

If I were to do that now I would have to deposit $10 out of my wallet to cover the garbage bill.

Could I do that? Could I make it until the 25th on $87?

We have plenty of food in the cupboards. I'd have to buy fresh milk... perhaps another item here or there I don't anticipate.

I know that the "Sunshine Fund" at work will hit me up for $10 this month. The PTA will want me to join for another $10.

$67?

When I think about how tight that is it makes me nervous.

$67.

What does my heart tell me to do?

It says, "trust me."

Some folks think that tithing is about funding the church. I don't think that is the case.

I know Brenda felt that way. She often felt frustration and resentment over the extra money we paid toward the building fund, an amount we made sacrificially giving partly because Jeremiah burned down the church (she felt more obligated in that respect than I).

The Church isn't a corporation.

The Church isn't the building, or the organization, or staff, or the services it provides our community (Habitat For Humanity, Food Pantry, Benevolent Fund, etcetera), or what it provides for those in distant parts of the world. All of that is just stuff... just the visible stuff of what the Church does, not what it is.

The Church is God's adopted children. The Church is people who follow the Lord.

Tithing has nothing to do with that. Or little to do with that.

The Church is me. The Church is the folks who believe... who love, who care, who give water to the thirsty, food to the hungry.

The King will reply "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." --Matthew 25:40

and

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. --John 21:17

That is what the Church is. It is caring and loving. I know, there are many out there who make a lot of money off their congregations. I cringe when I run across them or their messages.

But I'm not talking about what others do. I'm not talking about what perhaps most do. I am talking about what I should do, who I am, what I believe the Lord God, Creator of All Things, wants me to do.

So... if the Church isn't the buildings, and the people and the staff and the folks who say they represent the Lord God, and it isn't about paying my dues to this organization, but rather being a part of the adopted children of YaWeH, then where does tithing come in?

It doesn't.

For me, from what my heart tells me, tithing is about thanking God for what he has done and putting Him first.

I did that once and it
really cost me.

A lot of this tithing stuff comes from the Old Testament. In that context it was ten percent. The New Testament says nothing about how much it should be.

In the Old Testament the people of God gave Him 10%, first. The first of the crops. The first of the livestock. And, often, dedicated their first child to God's service.

I did that.

I told God that if he gave me my heart's desire, if He gave me a child to love, then I would dedicate that child to Him. I would, in front of witnesses, proclaim that that child was the Lord's.

I did that.

I invited friends over for a feast of gratitude and prayed a prayer of dedication for my first child, Willy.

And God accepted that gift.

That child left this world a few months later.

Oh...

It is a terrifying thing to have God call in a marker.

Oh...

Still, it was what I knew I should do, and I did it.

And God gave me two more children.

True, they have been a challenge. Too much of a challenge for my wife.

But I take great joy, enormous joy, in having them in my life, in being privileged to raise them.

I believe in God.

This isn't a church thing. It is a Church thing.

I believe in God.

I could give whatever I wish to Him. I wish to give Him my trust. That trust, for me, amounts to 10%.

I look at the stars as I walk under predawn skies and I feel loved, cared for. I feel the being who holds all things together loves me, personally.

Oh I know. Jesus died for everyone. He died for people who have lived all over the world for a score of centuries. But, I believe, I really believe, He loves me. Me.

I believe in Him.

So...

I'm going to trust Him.

I'm going to give Him the first of the financial blessings He provides me.

I am going to write a check for $330.

I'm going to trust that the God who made me, who made the universe, can take care of me for a few weeks.

Once again, dear reader, this post isn't about you. It's about what I am feeling, what I am thinking, what I am going to do.

I am not suggesting anyone do anything in particular with how they may live their lives.

But...

Would you like to watch this?

I'll let you know how it works.

I am taking a risk. A small risk.

It is a small risk because, I believe in God, and I believe He loves me personally, and He will make certain that I and my children are all right.

Of course, I do have a credit card if things get bad... a safety net. But I don't believe He wants me to go into debt just so I can tithe 10%.

Many of you have been following along on my little journey... this strange journey of the Curious Servant.

You know I am the sort of fellow who loves God, appreciates beauty, and drinks deeply of the joys and sorrows of life.

Stick around this month and see how this turns out.

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A note on something completely different. Isaac and I worked together quite a bit today, scraping the walls of the house, putting on primer. We also cleaned the house because tomorrow we have guests for dinner. Each week we are going to invite someone over to share our meal, and tomorrow is a widow from our church, her two children, and Mary Ann, my mother in law.

We made spaghetti sauce from scratch! Every bit of the sauce is made from tomatoes from our garden. Cilantro, onions, garlic, basil and oregano from our garden.

What fun to pick vegetables from beside our home and put them into a blender, put them into a pot, and serve them to friends!

When I made pies from peaches grown in our yard last week for our guests, I put one in the freezer. It is thawing for tomorrow. Yum Yum!

Don't those 'maters look good?!

The sauce thickened up real nice!

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Final note. Today is Brenda's birthday. Today is Willy's birthday.

Isaac called her, left a message. She called back, asked for him. We didn't talk otherwise.


14 comments:

wilsonian said...

Wanted to tell you how sorry I am about Willy. A friend lost her husband a few years ago, and she says the thing that hurts most now is that no one talks about him anymore... no one says his name.

So I'm pausing to remember Willy with you.

Peace...

Aphra said...

I thought your disclaimer at the start was interesting because I was just reading 2 Samuel 5 about David fighting the Philistines twice in 2 different ways. He didn't just repeat what he did during the first battle during the second battle- he had to again find out what God wanted.

Your tomatoes look lovely!

I pray that you will be blessed as you do what you feel God is calling you to do. (and don't feel bad if you have to say no to the Sunshine fund or the PTA!)

Aphra said...

Thanks for sharing your dream on my blog. I haven't had any school start anxiety dreams yet, but your dream describes well how I do feel about it!

Anonymous said...

Will, i hope you share this in your local church - priceless lessons. I have some of my own - amazing grace, amazing faith, amazing God!
AND you are an amazing friend and child of God.
It's my pleasure to be in your life!

Lucy Stern said...

Will, I know that you will do what your heart tells you to do. I have a testimony of tithing...I know it is important in the grand scheme of things. I think the Lord is testing us by asking us to give 1/10 of our income. I think that when we pay our fair share of tithing that we are showing gratitude for all that he has given us. It is said in the scriptures that when we pay our tithing he will bless us.

I have had several people tell me that I could have bought a lot of "things" with the money I have paid to the church, but I know inside, that the Lord has blessed me greatly....Blessings are not always monetary, many times they are spiritual or something else. I believe your test will work out fine. I've been wondering what kind of things you could do to earn extra money...You could have a garage sale, maybe sell some of your paintings, maybe write a book and get it published.

Have you ever sold anything on Ebay? We needed to buy a computer one year and needed $ 1,800.00. TF sold some of his old locksmith equiptment and made the money in three weeks. We were surprised what some people would pay for old equiptment. We didn't realize, at the time, but the whole country was looking at our "stuff" instead of just people from our own town.....I have bought used childrens clothing on Ebay and was as happy as a lark with it and it made someone a bit of money. Just a thought. I'll bet you can find a way to make extra money to help with the bills.

BTW: I am jealous that you can make spaghetti sauce with home grown products from you garden. Those tomatoes look wonderful. I hope you and the boys have a lot of fun with you Sunday company. Stay Strong...

Lucy Stern said...

Will, go listen to this Youtube video. Listen all the way thru:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMF_24cQqT0

curious servant said...

I love that song. The melody... the lyrics...

Let me share a sad thing (I know... I have shared a lot of sad things lately).

One of the last, perhaps the last, honest conversation I had with Brenda was about grace.

She was asking if I could take her back... If I could forgive her.

I told her I could forgive her, that the problem was trust.

We talked about forgiveness.

I pointed out that she thinks her value is based on what she does. That she is loved here because of her cooking, and cleaning, and laundry... I pointed out that she thinks we cannot love her because of what she has done.

I told her she is loved not for what she does, but who she is.

I said I believe she thinks she in unredeemable.

"I am. No one can help me now. I figured that since I have gone this far..."

"Yeah, in for a penny, in for a pound?"

"Something like that."

"You really don't get grace do you?

"There is no way we can do anything to fix the things we have done wrong.

"God loves us anyway. He forgives us, even though we do not deserve it.

"I can forgive you, though you do not deserve it.

"That is what grace is... letting something go that someone has done to us... "

"You're right. I don't understand forgiveness. I don't understand grace."

Brenda believes she is beyond redemption.

Her hurts from her childhood, the hurts that have happened since, she cannot forgive. Every mistake I have made she remembers, holds tight.

Her actions have caused the destruction of our marriage. But, her belief that she cannot be forgiven, that she does not understand grace, is what has kept her heart from opening to God.

Our marriage is over. It is a sad thing.

She believes her life is unworthy and cannot change. That is sadder.

Judas Hate said...

Hug!

Anonymous said...

he believes her life is unworthy and cannot change. That is sadder.

yes, very very sad. We all are unworthy. God changes. We have choices.

Jada's Gigi said...

Brother, can I just say that I love you..i love your family..I love your heart for God...If only all of His children would seek Him and listen for His voice as pertaining to them personally and seek to practically live that voice out...what a world we would be in..and yes, it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God...I can whole heartedly relate to that as well. blessings my brother

Vicki said...

I've missed coming by here, Will. Your words bless me. Thanks for this post...and I didn't realize what a cook you are:-)

Remembering Willy's birthday...

Becky said...

:) not going anywhere.....

Fred said...

I always struggle when putting money in the collection plate. Should it be 10%? 5%? 15%? I give what I can, hoping He will understand.

The 'maters looked great, but the spaghetti sauce looked better. You certainly have the golden touch in the kitchen.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I just wanted to tell you that I have tried to tithe most of my life even though it is not taught in my church. My experience has very much been that God blesses us for honoring Him and tithing teaches us more about our God.

My first tithing was when I was a student managing a tight budget. God saw to it that I was never short. If I ran out of money, something came up to take care of the shortfall.

I will confess, that it was a struggle for me after I started working and the amount corresponding to 10% began to increase and at times I failed. Still, I believe God blesses those who give to His kingdom. I am not saying God will make us rich because we tithe, but we will have more than we need and we will be blessed.