This article is reposted from The Black Giraffe blog from October 2, 2016.
Even during stewardship season, we often look for ways to follow Jesus that don’t involve increasing our financial stewardship. Nevertheless, the inescapable, troubling, and joyful fact remains that our financial giving is intimately connected to our spiritual lives. We can’t hope to grow in our faith and discipleship if we don’t give of our money.
My own experience of financial giving is a journey that began in fear and has led to increasing freedom and trust in God. Giving, specifically tithing, has allowed me to stop giving my leftovers to God after I tried to take care of myself. Instead, I can begin by tithing my firstfruits to God, taking a step out in faith, and trust in God to provide for what I need. And God has provided what I need – maybe not what I thought I wanted, and rarely in the ways I expected, but God has always provided. Financial giving has opened my eyes how God is always at work around me and is faithful even in the most practical stuff of life.
The most important spiritual growth has resulted from beginning to tithe my firstfruits. In the Old Testament, farmers would bring the first fruits of their crops to God, trusting that if they gave God what he asked at the beginning of the harvest, God would give them what they needed out of the rest. Most of us aren’t farmers today, but the idea is the same. We give God the first 10% whenever we receive any money, and we trust that God will provide for us out of the other 90%.
My wife and I began tithing our firstfruits at a time when we had almost nothing. I was in seminary and she had a part-time job. We started giving out of her small income, and within a year we went from feeling like we couldn’t make ends meet to making a donation to help provide for other students in financial straits. After graduation, we continued to tithe and have accumulated many stories of ways that God has unexpectedly shown up to provide for our needs. Whether it was finding a used van on someone’s front lawn, the right job at the right time, or a surprise check to deal with an unexpected expense, God has consistently come through as we have obediently trusted in him. We have never gone without anything we needed because we tithed our income.
One of the most important effects of making a commitment to tithing has been on our marriage. As is the case with almost any two people, my wife and I have had our share of disagreements. When money was tight, our differing financial priorities and approaches caused significant friction. Once we made the decision to tithe, however, the tenor of our disagreements around money changed. We had committed to give God our first fruits, so we had to figure out how to live in ways that allowed us to tithe. When I had to make sacrifices, I wasn’t just making them so that my wife could spend money on what she wanted. I was making sacrifices and she was making sacrifices so we could be obedient to God. Then we could rely on God together to have the strength to get through whatever sacrifices we needed to make. Everything wasn’t easy, but everything became possible. This giving also drove us to pray together for what we needed. We had to ask, together, so that we could receive, together. We came to realize just how much we were united “for richer or for poorer”, and the blessing that could be, even when things felt a bit more on the “for poorer” side. Tithing the firstfruits of our finances together meant that we were obedient to God together, and it drove us to prayer together which has significantly deepened our spiritual life together.
During this season of stewardship campaigns, I urge you to make a decision to tithe your firstfruits to your church. If you are already a tither, I urge you to share your story with at least one other person. Take a leap of faith to God, and get ready for the ways he will bless you.
The Rev. Adam Trambley is the rector at St. John’s, Sharon.