If you’re anything like me, when you hear the pastor mention “giving” from the pulpit, your thoughts turn to money, and are immediately followed by a heavy feeling of guilt somewhere in your stomach lining as you finish off your three dollar latte and slouch further into your seat. The good news for you is that I’m not here to persuade you to tithe more, or to tug at those weary heartstrings. My aim in this post is to encourage you, wherever you’re at today, towards freedom in Christ, and a new perspective on what it means to give.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1
Up until very recently, tithing was such a burden for my husband, Doug, and I. We both came from families where money was either not available, or it was mishandled to the point of bankruptcy. We justified our little-to-non-existent financial contribution to the church by telling ourselves we contribute in other ways. And we really did – from Sunday school teachers to small group leaders we did it all. We sacrificed time, we invested in relationships, we felt the sting of cramped schedules and over commitment. Yet in all that time, not more than a few dollar bills made their way from our pockets to the offering plate.
I’m not saying that serving is less important than giving, or vice versa; both are required of us as healthy, contributing members of a church family. Acts paints a beautiful portrait of how the church should work, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” – Acts 2:44-47
For Doug and I, it was a matter of trust. Both of us were starting out in new careers, and we had no savings to speak of. Living paycheck to paycheck was all we had known, so the idea of having anything left over at the end of the month was so strange, let alone actually giving the first of our earnings to the church, and trusting that our needs will be met anyway. We came before the throne of God willing to sacrifice everything except for financial stability, and were discouraged when we felt like we weren’t growing. It became apparent what needed to happen; yet like stubborn children, we continued to cling to a false sense of security and safety we built with every paycheck. The gnawing guilt of not tithing festered, but we were determined to ignore it.
One evening, Doug broke down and said, “I have lived in fear of money my whole life. I’ve never wanted to be controlled by money, but I’m learning that even when you have nothing, you can still be a slave to security.” We confessed our selfish desires and ambitions, and discussed our fears. That night we promised to hold each other accountable for our giving, and started by writing out the first check to the church.
There was nothing super spiritual about that decision, and so far the floodgates of heaven have not opened and showered blessing upon financial blessing on us. In fact not much has changed on the outside. But we do not give in order to receive – we give out of obedience, and our obedience turned into joy. An amazing thing happened when we decided to surrender our finances to God – he took away our shame, just as He promised He would. The burden and stress of our feeble attempts to “hide” our sin from God was wiped away, and we were free to “walk in the light as he is in the light.” (1 John 1:7)
I want to challenge you today to take these words to heart, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” – Philippians 2:14-15
Guilt or shame should never be the driving force behind your giving; but rather a holy desire to be obedient to your calling as children of God, honoring Him in everything you do.