I have heard that Christmas season is the most stressful time of year for a lot of people. And understandably so. It seems to have turned into a time of year when we have a lot of expectations.
You know what I mean? We have that expectation that if we give someone a gift, that person would give us one back. And then when we DO receive that gift back, we act all surprised that we even got one in the first place saying things like, “Oh, you didn’t have to do that. Really, you shouldn’t have.”
And then there is the whole comparison thing. You know, comparing your gift to theirs and wondering if maybe you spent too much or maybe you didn’t spend enough and yada yada yada.
In so many ways, Christmas has become a tit for tat type of ordeal. Not exactly the Christmas spirit, #amiright?
Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of folks that genuinely give for the joy of giving. And if that’s you, well, that’s great. Fantastic. I need to get on your level. I’m just being honest with myself. There are times when I have given to receive. There are times when I have given to receive only to have received something that was not on the same caliber as what I had given. There have been times when I gave to receive and got nothing in return.
You know, it happens when you have an acquaintance that is kinda sorta not really a friend but you feel like you HAVE to give them something because they’re kinda a friend but not really; it’s a gray area. You seriously consider not getting them anything but then you think about what they would think of you if they got you a gift and you didn’t get them one.
So then you rack your brain trying to come up with gift ideas that you think they would like but are also priced in a range that is not too expensive but also won’t make you look like a cheapskate or that won’t make it look like the gift was an afterthought. And then you give it to them. Wait for them to give you their gift, realize that they didn’t get you anything because you are a kinda-sorta-not-really friend after all and then you have to act like you aren’t mad as you listen to them apologize and mumble something about being busy and not having time to shop for anybody.
That can’t just be me right?
I mean, in all fairness, I don’t give to receive most of the time. Hey, I give just to give. Sometimes, I come across something in the store that catches my eye and I think, oh so and so might like this. So I get it for them just because. Sometimes I give just because I like to do something nice for someone.
But Christmas is different. I have that expectancy that I’m going to give something and get something. And that got me to thinking about tithing and its idea that if you give, you will get. And that led me to wondering, is it really bad to expect something in return for giving?
For the longest time, I struggled with the idea of tithes. Before I get into my personal story, let me say that boy, there is a lot of controversy around whether or not we have to tithe. A LOT. For all the people that say that you do not have to tithe, there are an equal number of people that believe that you do.
For those that do not know what a tithing is, let me explain. Tithing is the practice of giving 10 percent of your earnings (income, produce, harvest, etc) back to God. Many tithe through their church, giving 10 percent of their income to the church so that the church can put the collective tithes to use to advancing God’s Kingdom. According to my study notes in my Life Application bible, tithing begin during Moses’ time (Leviticus 27:30-34; and Deuteronomy 14:22).
That being said, this post is not going to be about whether you should tithe. I think the bible is very clear about tithing and I think that we are still required to tithe. Trust, I have read all points of view and tried to justify not tithing and could not. I decided that I will tithe. That was my decision and if you are unsure about tithing, I encourage you to really read the bible and really ask God to show you what He’d like for you to do.
If you decide to tithe like I have, let me tell you. It is not an easy task and I have fallen off the tithing wagon many times.
I’ve been tithing off and on but within the past few years, I have not been tithing at all. Reason being was because I was in credit card debt, student loan debt, car loan debt and trying to buy a new home. With all that I had to pay for, in my mind, it did not make sense for me to give away 10 percent of my income when I could be using that to pay off my debt.
So I told myself that I would first pay off my debts and then tithe because that way, it would not be a huge financial strain and I could truly give like I wanted to give.
The problem with that was eventually that thinking turned into “well, why don’t I just pay the minimum due on my debt and put that 10 percent into buying a new home.”
And then once I got the new home, my thinking turned into “well, how about I use that 10 percent to buy furniture.”
And then, “I could use that money for some new things I need for work (clothes, shoes, whatever).”
So that’s what I did. I used that 10 percent for everything but tithing.
One day, I was talking to the Lord and I asked Him to show me areas I needed to improve on. His holy spirit convicted me that I needed to do better in the area of tithing. He showed me that everything that I had belonged to Him and all He was asking was that I return 10 percent of His own money back to Him.
But thats not it.
He asked me why I always expected more from Him when I couldn’t even responsibly handle what I had. He guided me to the bible. Specifically to Malachi 3:8-12, where the Lord is telling the Israelites that they have been robbing Him of their tithes and offerings (verse 8). He pointed me to the verse where He promised the Israelites blessings if they faithfully tithe (verses 10-12). He said: TEST ME (verse 10).
That reminds me of back in the day when I’d be tempted to do something that I knew would get me in trouble and my mother would catch me about to do it again, she would come from around the corner, arms crossed saying, “I see what you are thinking about doing even though I told you not to do it. I’m telling you again, if you do what I told you not to do, you will get a spanking. Test me. See what’ll happen.”
Now, just so we’re clear, the Lord saying “test me” ain’t the same as mama saying “test me.” You test your mama, you get a spanking (I know I did). Here, in Malachi, you test the Lord, He’ll give you blessings.
Psssssh, I know what test I’m taking.
So I decided from that point on that I was going to tithe. Through the church I was able to set up automatic donations from my bank account to their account. So every pay check, I sent 10 percent of my net pay (I tithe on net pay, not gross pay. And yes, there is even some controversy around whether you should tithe off net or gross pay. But again, I’m not here to dispute this; I’m just telling you what I do. You’ve got to prayerfully decide the right move for you.).
All was well for my first month or so tithing. I thought, eh, this isn’t so bad. A month or two after that, I started to struggle a little.
One of my checks bounced. My checking account balance said $0.00 more frequently than I would have preferred and I had to pull money out of my savings so that I could cover my bills and my spending. My credit card balance shot up because instead of using money out of my checking account to pay for bills or stuff I needed, that money was used for tithing.
When all was said and done, I was left with $8.08 in my savings account; a little over $13k in credit card debt, about $20k in student loan debt, still had $10k to pay off my car loan and felt like I was living paycheck to paycheck.
Where was my blessing(s)? Where was my increase?
I remember being frustrated and even angry at the Lord. Why was He sitting around watching my finances deteriorate and not doing a thing about it? I was tithing, every two weeks on my net paycheck, yet charging my credit card to pay for groceries. Gas. Bills.
And let me be fair. I was also charging my credit card on things that I didn’t really need. But still. I was tithing and God said to test Him. He said that if I faithfully tithed, He would pour out a blessing so great, I wouldn’t be able to take it all in (Malachi 3:10). So where was my blessing?
I started to feel foolish for tithing when my finances were a hot mess. I felt dumb. I felt fiscally irresponsible for tithing when I, frankly, could not afford to.
And then I started to hear that pesky little voice tell me:
Yeah, you’re wasting your money.
You can’t afford to tithe.
You’re in so much debt.
You should stop tithing, put that money towards paying off your credit cards, loans, etc.
It’s a waste of resources.
Think about all the stuff that you could buy with that money.
It’s not giving you a return.
God isn’t going to bless you just because you tithed.
You were blessed when you weren’t tithing so what does it matter if you tithe or not?
I almost listened to it. That was when I started googling ‘tithing while in debt’. I started to look for articles and opinion pieces from other Christians on the matter. I wanted to see what they were doing. But really, I wanted to read something that told me that I did not have tithe to be blessed. I wanted to read something that supported those devilish thoughts that tithing is a waste of money, especially while in debt.
And I found plenty of articles to support it.
Wow, I’m going to stop here because I feel like this is a good stopping point. I’d like to talk to you some more about my story, the reasons behind why I tithe, and also what I feel God revealed to me about tithing in the next post.
I’ll see you there.
Until next time, may He overwhelm you with His blessings, today.
Image by Jennifer Pallian via Unsplash
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