While I was reading a book today it started talking about how spiritual disciplines help us grow to become more like Jesus. Ortberg (2002) in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, described a spiritual discipline as “Any activity that can help me gain power to live life as Jesus taught and modeled it.” This got me to thinking about how we spend our money and specifically the act of tithing. For a Christian a tithe represents a tenth-part of one’s income which is to be given to the local church. This is a starting point of giving for a Christian. Tithing will not get us into heaven and in fact it is an Old Testament teaching. Even in the Old Testament though the tithe was only the starting point and it is estimated that more like 20 percent was given when other acts of giving are calculated in.
So, the tithe, or the tenth part of our income is an Old Testament teaching and Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law so where does the tithe come into play today? Well the specifics of a tithe don’t necessarily come into play, but the heart behind giving does. One last note about giving to the church as a tithe or offering, in the New Testament we are taught to support those who preach the gospel (Mt. 10:10; Lk 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:6-1; 1 Tim. 5:17-18) and to be generous to those in need (1 Tim. 6:17-19; 2 Cor. 8-9).
Christians are to be generous to those in need, humans are to be generous to those in need, and while the tithe is no longer a legal requirement it is a helpful starting point to look at how much we should give. Research has shown that generosity and giving help us to feel happier and is even good for our health. When we are generous in our giving it changes our lives and it increases the level of gratitude for what we have.
If generosity is good for us then why don’t we do it more often? First, we are not trained to be generous, and most things in our culture teach us to be selfish instead and to work hard to obtain more stuff for us. Secondly, if over 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck already then how can they possible be generous with their money and possessions?
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Mt. 22:36-40).
We are to love God with every part of ourselves and we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If your money is an expression of what and who you love then what would financial statement say about you? I am not trying to be hypocritical, so I will say that I too need to learn to be more generous and more loving. As a Christian I need to learn to give and I need to practice giving regularly in order for it to become natural. Giving and generosity is good for us and it helps others as well and we need to learn to be generous more naturally and the only way to do that is to be intentional and to practice doing it.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
Athletes train to run the race that they are going to run so that when it comes to the race they are able to perform to the best of their ability. The better they train, the more prepared they will be when race day is upon them. Weight lifters are not all of a sudden able to massive amounts of weight without ever having trained to do so, they had to put in the work, the time, and the dedication. We must practice in order to increase our ability to do things in life. Some things come naturally and some people are naturally generous, but most things for most of us take practice and generosity is no different.
If you cannot be generous or give at this time because of your finances then I have good news for you. You can change your situation! Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t because rarely is there nothing that you can do. If you would like some help figuring out how to get things moving in the right direction I am here for you. I seriously am here to help. Financial coaching is something that I do to help people, because so many people are truly hurting and stressed about their finances and it does not need to be this way. In the meantime, if you currently cannot give financially you will still be benefited by giving of your time and helping people. Maybe your neighbor needs leaves raked or sidewalks shoveled. Maybe you could just sit and visit with someone who appears to be down. Walk through the store and find someone who looks particularly detached and strike up a conversation with them. We need relationship and we need to know that people see us so simply talking to someone and taking some time out of your schedule to do so can be an act of generosity.
May God bless you as you seek him and may He fill you with the joy and peace that comes from it.