Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How much?

We have been studying stewardship the last couple of weeks in our women's Bible study at church. What an uncomfortable topic for small groups. We are all so open and wiling to share our struggles and successes in prayer or service but let's not talk about money. But stewardship and giving are such a huge part of how we love and serve God. So we persevered and talked about tithing. We talked about percentages, gross or net giving and whether we have to give it all to the church or can we divide our tithes some for the church and some for other christian ministries. We talked about how we can find money in our budgets and our daily spending that we could give.

I am a big believer in tithing. I have been tithing since I was a child. My parents taught us to give 10% of any money we received to God. This was not really hard when my allowance was $2.00 and my tithe was .20. You can't buy anything with that little money. Even when I started making some money babysitting my tithe from a night was usually less than a dollar. It was not really much of a sacrifice in my mind. But it was good training. Because there came a point when the tithing started to be "real" money in my eyes. My grandfather gave us $100 Christmas checks one year. That was A LOT of money. 10% of a $100 was A LOT of money. But I gave my $10 willingly because it was what I was taught and I am so glad my parents taught me at such a young age the principle of tithing because the checks now are much bigger. And the blessings, the trust in God's provision, the joy of sharing our blessings with others is also so much bigger. We have always tithed and God has always provided. I don't doubt the connection between our trusting God with our tithe and Him blessing us beyond our needs.

I believe in tithing. But my discussions of stewardship and tithing often get caught up in the details which is so sad because God is not found in the details. He is found in our hearts and our obedience to what He is asking of us. This week in our study we read 2 Corinthians 9:6 - 8 which says,
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
I was struck by the phrase, "each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give". Paul does not write we should look at our checkbooks or calculate our tenths. He says we should give what we decided in our hearts, not our minds, to give.

So many people I know were not raised to tithe. They were never taught the joy of giving and trusting God. They have never experienced writing a tithe check that they knew they couldn't afford, only to have another surprise refund or pay increase appear. For so many tithing is big and scary and impossible. How can we give a tenth of our income? Budgets are tight and house payments have to be made. The tenth is the detail. But when we pray, when we seek God's guidance, what does He put on our hearts to give? That is what God is asking of us. He wants us to take the baby steps of trusting Him with our money, trusting Him to take care of our needs. He wants us to be obedient to what He has put on our hearts.

God doesn't need our money. He wants our hearts, our minds, our bodies - all that we are. Our money, while able to do amazing work spreading God's love and word throughout the world, is an extension of our lives. How we give is an extension of our hearts. Is your heart prompting you to give? Are you listening? Is there a baby step you can take this week?

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