The phone call left me with a worrisome heart. I turned to Paul and informed him that the church treasurer was coming to visit. I was one of two teachers at this lovely country church school and I knew that especially for a female church worker, a visit from an official of the church was not likely to be a good thing.
As he walked up to our door I noticed he was not dressed as a farmer; he was in a suit and tie and a concerned look on his face. I searched my brain for what I might have done or said to cause that concern and then welcomed him in.
As it turns out he was going over the records of tithing and noticed that Paul and I were among the church families that gave the most for the previous year. Out of concern for the fact that he knew Paul was out of work and starting school, and because he was well aware of my income, he wanted to encourage us to tithe less.
Yes, you read that correctly; the church treasurer was encouraging us to give less money to the church.
I heaved a heavy sigh of relief and thanked him for his gracious concern. But, Paul and I did not change our giving habits.
You see, I married a tither. My faith in this area has always been weak. I want proof that God will take care of me before I step into the arena of risk taking. But for Paul, this issue has never been worthy of discussion. He remembers a professor preaching at our childhood church. This preacher leaned over the pulpit and shouted: "God doesn't NEED your PENNIES. He could write the Gospel in letters of fire across the sky." Both the words and the shouting made quite an impression on him! God has made it easy for me to give in to the directive to tithe, and in that process, something interesting has happened. Through word sacrament and the nurturing work of the Spirit, my ability to trust God has increased. My faith has grown.
Now, a bit of a warning is necessary, here. This is not a formula for successful trust development. God does not say first you tithe and then I will bless you.
The blessings God bestows on us have everything to do with Him and nothing to do with us.
Because of His powerful all encompassing agape love, God has blessings already planned for us. He does not wait for evidence of worthiness. He knows we are not worthy of these blessings but extends them because of the worthiness of His Son.
The blessings are there, but we often do not realize them because we prefer to stay in our own little worlds where we believe in our false sense of control. Accepting the blessing of God's provision, means we trust enough to let God be in control.
The blessings are there; so often we walk right by them with our heads bowed in our own worry and grief.
I have always worried about money issues. I usually blame the fact that I am a first born in a family that struggled financially due to medical bills. The truth is I am a sinner in a sinful world. When God used Paul to teach me to tithe, the trust came slowly. I remember weeks of eating only government issue cheese and those cute little pullet eggs. I remember checking the gauge on the propane tank and wondering if we would have enough to heat the house until the next paycheck. I remember worrying and I remember God providing.
Trust came slowly for me and I still struggle on that journey; yet I can see how God has worked in my heart. Leaving teaching and enrolling in graduate school has been a huge change that brought with it many, many risks. Some of those risks are financial and that is where my faith is still at its weakest; and yet God still provides. I believe that if God had not led me to tithe, and used that to help develop trust, I would not be enjoying this blessing, now.
He doesn't wait until I trust first, to bless me. He just takes me by the hand and brings me along. The blessings are there, the Spirit stands ready. I just need to lift my head from my own worries and look up to see what is set out before me on the table of blessings. By providing me with the opportunity to tithe and by caring for me through met needs, forgiveness and the nourishment of His word, God brought me to a place where I could trust Him for bigger things. I have a long way to go in terms of trusting. I know I won't ever get there, this side of heaven. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to tithe; not only because of the blessings of what is done with that money, but also because of the blessing tithing brings to my heart.
God doesn't need our paltry change. He doesn't need our money. Instead, He knows we need to give. He knows we need to trust Him for all things. He knows we need to look up, away from our worries and into the face of His blessings.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22