This year I made a lot of changes. They weren’t easy, but they were all things that I either wanted or felt that I needed to do.
Third change: Tithing. I’ve become a tither. 😮
When I first moved back to Charlotte, I searched for churches that would satisfy my desire for true fellowship, greater accountability and a deeper understanding of the word. One Wednesday, I was invited to attend bible study at a small church and by the time it ended, I was immediately hooked.
Now, as my pastor back home in Brooklyn would say, “You have to know Christ for yourself. One day I could go off my rocker and you need to know not to follow me.” This is what I’ve always felt, understood and believed. So as much as I loved this new pastor’s charisma and the energy of his congregation, I knew to always say a personal prayer before I entered the sanctuary.
The first few Sunday services were perfect. I was introduced to some new passages in the bible that I’d yet to get to on my own and the messages truly resonated with me. The third service happened to be about tithing. The friends who I invited that Sunday were unable to attend; and once I heard the sermon topic, I was a bit relieved. After all, tithing is not something that everybody takes to easily.
Given my joyful experiences from the two weeks prior I, personally, was open to learning something new and was excited to receive the message. The pastor—we’ll call him Pastor X—started with a disclaimer; one which basically stated that while some may be offended, it was important that he deliver this point. He mentioned that, “back in the day,” pastors would teach that you would be cursed if you failed to tithe. He said that they no longer preach it that way because people would then tithe only out of fear… but that we should “keep that in mind.”
Long story short, I was disappointed to find that the message so cleverly portrayed tithing as paying for blessings. It was a subtle way of manipulating it, but it was there. He opened with an example of someone walking into Best Buy, requesting the largest flat-screen-HD-smart TV, and slamming a dollar down on the counter. He explained that nowhere in the world could that happen. I completely agreed with the underlying point—that you shouldn’t be stingy when it comes to God and/or the church—but I did not like his analogy.
Pastor X took Old Testament stories to prove both obedience and consequence. And at the end, he chastised those in his congregation who insisted on only giving a tenth and never more. He said that when you don’t give the Lord what He deserves you can begin to, “slowly feel the Holy Spirit leaking out of you.”
When the offering plate came around, I gave more than I ever had before. And when I left, I was distraught, confused, irritated and disconnected.
I read my Bible, prayed and, yes, researched.
The thing I found most alarming was the fact that he used the Old Testament to show the fate of those who failed to appropriately tithe or sacrifice. It didn’t sit well with me because the stories he referred to were before Christ and therefore offerings and sacrifices were also a means to repentance. I felt as though he manipulated the message to shake us up. I had no real understanding of what it meant to tithe or why I should even consider it.
I then felt as though I could no longer trust Pastor X.
I still attended for a few more services before I found my current church home (Elevation). About two months in, our pastor (Pastor Steven) gave his own tithing sermon. Once again, I was ready to receive the message. He spoke about what tithing meant. He explained that it is the first 10 percent. In theory I already knew this—and call me silly—but in actuality, I guess I never truly understood that it should be: 1) the FIRST (don’t even think about it, set it aside, it is not another bill, don’t “see what you can do” after you’ve gone through your budget, this comes first) and 2) 10 percent (not 2%, not 7%, not 9%… 10%).
He explained that you are not “paying God back” for His blessings. What you have is what God allowed you to have. What you are doing is thanking Him for what you have by acknowledging that He gifted it to you to begin with. You are showing Him that you trust Him fully by handing over a small portion of your blessings; knowing that He’ll multiply it in ways that you cannot.
The pastor demonstrated the message by placing 10 pomegranates on a table on the stage. He allowed us to visibly see how little we’re truly “giving away.” He removed only one—a tenth—and in viewing the remaining nine, it was clear that we would still have abundance. Finally, he held up the one tithed-pomegranate. He explained that all we see is the full, juicy fruit and we are tempted to hold onto it, but if we were to give it to God…
…He proceeded to slice open the pomegranate.
We saw the number of seeds that remained inside. He let us know that that’s what God wants to do for us. If we can trust him with just a little of what we have, he can take it and dissect it and plant more seeds.
I loved the message and I loved that he did not leave out the fact that the church would benefit. He explained how Elevation would use the money to better the community, the congregation and the church itself. This is something that I personally feel is important for pastors to note.
I started tithing online and, amazingly, did not miss the money. I started feeling a greater sense of trust when it came to my finances, knowing that God had it under control. There came a time when I dropped one of my most stable accounts—I had been freelancing for 8 months—and as my cushion started to run out, I felt the effects.
It was a difficult time and money was truly low. And for some reason—though my sense of urgency was REAL—I didn’t stress in the ways I would normally. I truly knew that God would make a way for me. And I continued to tithe; even if some weeks it was only $5. One week it was $3. Oddly enough, every time I needed “a break,” God would give it to me in the form of more work or new accounts. He helped me weather a storm and get back on my feet with no injuries.
Tithing is truly about trust. It is not a repayment. At times I am moved to give more than a tenth, but I don’t believe that if you give 30% you are greater or more trusting than someone who gives 10%. Tithing is a big step and when you do not have disposable income, the thought can be overwhelming. But ever since I’ve started tithing, I have a new appreciation for the way God moves and His blessings are evermore apparent.
I am grateful for the people and opportunities He’s placed in my life. But I realize now that it is He who I depend on for all of it.
I am just so happy to understand it now.