Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
I’ve heard of people tithing before. I know ‘good’ Christians tithe. At least, that’s what I always thought. While I went to church regularly, I reasoned that I ‘gave’ at least 10% through helping and volunteering. Because we couldn’t afford to give money (any at all?), I justified my work effort as giving enough. Thing is, those weeks and sometimes months I didn’t take the time to give, well… I don’t really think my ‘giving’ evened out. Offering God an amount would have been easier to keep track of. However, that seemed too tangible. It was too easy to see what I wasn’t giving when it was a recorded number. Making some kind of financial obligation and then filling in with service could hold us more accountable. But really, I don’t think we wanted accountability.
Besides, we didn’t have enough money. It was tough enough trying to pay our bills, and sometimes we didn’t even do that on time. We never seemed to have enough even after payday. From the very beginning, my husband and I blew our money. And did we ever have anything to show for it? No, not really.
Seldom did we spend our money on anything tangible. We did buy a dryer once. Other than that, we spent hundreds of dollars on movies and eating out and traveling other places to go to movies and to eat out. Things like that. There was other stuff, too, but I don’t really remember what it was.
When we ran out of cash, we charged everything. And charged. And charged.
And so how could we give money to the church when we didn’t have any? We just couldn’t.
Through the years, our financial stress and struggles became overwhelming. Even as jobs got better and more money came in, we stayed broke. The more we made, the more we spent. While we made promises to ourselves that we would start tithing, we never did.
In 2007, we attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. So motivated by his scripturally based program, we determined to ‘do better’. However, like we often do in our faith, we approached our financial giving and our debt reduction from the outside looking in. We tried to do the right thing but let other options grab our interest, attention, and money, and we never really got very far. We looked on the outside trying to control everything and hoped for success and contentment on the inside.
Over the next few years, we mostly just shuffled debt around here and there but never made real progress on reducing the amount, saving an emergency fund, and definitely not giving financially to our church. While we played at following Dave’s plan for several years, we never got anywhere.
A couple years ago, my husband and I sat down together to discuss money. For the first time ever before a financial discussion, we held hands and prayed. After finding ourselves deeper in debt than we’d ever been, we knew we no longer (never had been) were in control. Our faith in God had grown together through the years but for some reason we hadn’t turned our finances over to Him. I guess we thought that if we did, we were admitting failure. That’s tough on the ego.
This time, however, we didn’t mind admitting to Him we needed help. We prayed and then planned. Together, we felt God calling us to give to Him. First. After looking at our long list of payments due each month, the commitment scared us both.
“Let’s trust Him,” my husband said. “We haven’t done a very good job so far. Maybe it’s time to let Him take over.”
I nodded. “If we can’t do without the amount we choose to give, then we aren’t trying...or trusting.”
We made our first plan. No, it wasn’t for 10%. We’d dug ourselves in so deep that we just didn’t have enough money to cover bills, expenses, food, etc. (even after cutting cable!), but for us just making a specific promise to God for an amount and then following through was the biggest step for us trusting Him.
We started with 2%. Such a tiny amount, but every week we gave consistently. Throughout that entire first year, we never missed our planned giving to our church. As we did that, as we focused on making an offering to God first and trusting Him to take care of us financially, our budget opened up. Little bits of financial blessings began to fall here and there. We were able to give a little more to our favorite charities (we each picked one); the amount wasn’t much, but it came directly from our line item category for charity giving. We saved a small emergency fund. And, our debt began to shrink ever so slowly. None of this happened right away. We met setbacks and had to begin again on savings and extra to debt many times. But we promised God He would always come first, and for the first time ever, we kept our promise long-term.
The next year, we upped our church giving to 3% and continued to see our blessings grow. Every time something financial would ‘work out’ for us, we felt humbled and amazed and remembered to thank God.
We still aren’t at 10%. I’m not sure the specific amount actually matters; I think maybe it’s the amount of faith, love and trust in Him we have that matters most. I’ve no desire to debate that as I know others may feel differently, and that’s okay. I just know that for us, our hearts needed to change before anything else mattered.
We’re still plugging away working hard at saving, helping our college kids, paying down debt. We plan to raise our giving each year until we reach an amount He and we feel best about. We need a new roof and want about a million other things. We have something, though, we didn’t have for such a very long time - trust in God that all of those things will work out.
Julie Pfeifer is a Jesus-loving wife, mom of three, and grandma from Missouri. She has been a teacher for over 20 years but also brings a passion for writing to the table. She writes to encourage women in their faith at Loving Christ Ministries. You can also catch her on Facebook or Pinterest.