I was driving home one day in December. I was thinking about the idea of giving, maybe because of the season. Out of nowhere, God spoke very clearly to me, “Why don’t you trust me?” I went on the defensive. “What do you mean?”

I trust God. I’ve trusted him almost my entire life. But as I thought about my tithing, or rather the lack of it, I realized that his question was totally valid.

I thought that I had allowed my tithing to the church to slip because I was giving elsewhere. And to be fair, I was. However, and this is the critical difference, I was giving out of the leftovers, and only when I felt I could afford it. God very clearly asks us to give first, before anything else, and trust him with our needs. Major difference.

Without realizing it, I was thinking that I had to take care of my finances myself. I thought that if I gave 10%, there wouldn’t be enough left to meet my expenses. At the heart of that belief were the words that God spoke in the car. He was right. When it came to money, in my heart I didn’t trust him. Clearly, God and I had things to work through.

As I started to think about it, something else became very clear to me: finances can change in a heartbeat. I thought of all the things outside my control that could affect my finances — a fender bender, getting sick and missing work, accidentally breaking something. Finances looked like an area where I needed to rely more on God, not less. Why was I trying so hard to control something that was clearly safer in God’s hands?

I had fallen into the trap of believing that I couldn’t afford to tithe.

I had fallen into the trap of believing that I couldn’t afford to tithe. No matter what kind of budget you’re working with, 10% looks like a lot. I used to think that tithing was a discipline because you had to hand something over week after week. Now I believe that tithing is a discipline because it says to God, “I trust you with my resources so much that I’m going to put my money out of my own reach so that you can use it your way.”

It’s not an easy thing to do. I decided last year that I would start tithing regularly. I had decided on a trial amount that was lower than 10% but quickly realized how ridiculous that was. How could I step out in faith if I was still holding back? I knew that for me, I had to start with a full 10%. I took the money out in cash to be sure that I didn’t accidentally spend it. I remember putting it in the offering envelope and gasping a little. It looked like a lot of money. I said a very simple little prayer Dear God, please take this and spend it much better than I could. Whenever I become anxious, remind me that you promised to take care of me. Help me to spend wisely. Amen.

Sunday came and I put that little envelope in the offering. Two weeks came and went and the other 90% lasted just fine until payday. I wish I could say that I wasn’t surprised, but I was. Week after week there were groceries in my cupboards and gas in my car. It was enough, as God had promised it would be.

It’s been almost a year now and by God’s grace I can say that tithing is almost a habit. It is always an act of surrender but it is also a reminder that God’s economy is not the same as mine. He can take my little bit and use it to bless someone in ways I could never imagine. He can take the resources I have and make them be exactly what I need.

Finally, I’m not so surprised.

Photo Credit: Hans Splinter