I’m not thinking of taxes, yet. I will be in a few weeks when I sit down to organize everything. I’m just thinking about how much I love the interaction between Christ and the political/spiritual leaders who tried to trap him in his words regarding taxes.
In Mark 12:13-17, they asked if it was lawful to pay the imperial tax, thinking it was a no-win situation for him. Who wants to pay tax to an oppressive military occupying your country and taking all the money back as tribute to the conquerors? Most don’t want to pay their own government–even when it funds schools, parks and public services. Especially because the school bonds never seem to end and very little appears to trickle down into books and teacher salaries. People spend other people’s money flippantly.
We want to be in control of our own money.
But, I think this is one part of why we should tithe. Of course, there are several valuable reasons. To acknowledge, consider and then care for the poor. To have personal investment in other believer’s needs, so they become like family. To keep money flowing and fund important things instead of hording like a dead sea.
But really, the point is to not be in control of our own money.
There was a time years ago when I wanted to tithe, but did not see where we could. We’d come to Idaho to serve in a ministry. Life had always been tight, but then, we had to ration everything to make it. Lights, gas and heat. Our fridge was typically near-empty a few days before payday. We did not have any entertainment or unnecessary spending we could eliminate. I didn’t know where charitable giving could be squeezed from.
Wealth wasn’t my goal, and I certainly wasn’t thinking that God would owe me worldly baubles if I did tithe. I was growing, and wanted to be obedient to him, and I believed that we needed to tithe to do it. I added a line in my spreadsheet with Malachi 3:10, just to take him at his word.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
I remember driving down the road and asking God, “Will you please give us enough money to tithe?”
Shortly after, my husband received a raise that netted about 10 percent to our budget. Enough for the traditional tithe, but not enough to add Netflix (which was RedBox at the time) or a trip to frozen yogurt as a family.
I knew right away that God had answered my specific prayer. I think when I asked him if he would keep his word–he asked me if I would keep mine.
We started to tithe. But I will tell you, even though we now had enough, it was not easy to send the money away. The church we attended had a frivolous spender at the helm, so there was a learning curve of how and who to tithe to. But every month we’d give our money away, we’d juggle our bills, and we’d live frugally.
A lesson worth more than money
Notice in Malachi that God does not promise blessing in the way of wealth. As we did this, I discovered that I gradually trusted God more and more. Especially when there was exactly enough. But in order to do it, I had to write out our paper check and verbalize, “God, I need you…more than I need fifty-three dollars.” It was almost comical to say sentences like that out loud as I spelled the numbers in long hand. Duh. The God of the universe who holds all things together is just a little more security than fifty bucks. Even then.
But then later, as the amounts changed, the sentiment never did. “God, I need you more than one-hundred and thirty-two dollars.” It has gotten to where I’ve not seen an amount that would give me pause to write out without declaring that I need God more than that number. (Although I don’t write physical checks anymore.)
It wasn’t flawless. There were growing pains. On more than one occasion I would hold back a tithe because we “couldn’t afford it.” Something unexpected like a random bank fee would usually come up. I remember one unexpected bill that was the exact amount of the tithe I held back.
I learned that I really did need God more than one-hundred and thirty-two dollars. And when I’d write it and say it, I’d imagine intangible blessings my storehouse could not contain, and not want to be without whatever God would pour out over me in my trust.
Money seems like one of the hardest things to relinquish. So, you want to be able to see the monies of this world as belonging to the Caesars of this world. But there are so many other arousing things that whisper provision and satisfaction.
If you belong to God
When there is a thing, a person, or an action promising joy, fulfillment, pleasure, tranquility… but it means to step outside of a relationship with God to embrace it, we can use same phrase. Even if it is something good or benign, but it isn’t the right time, I have found success saying it out loud.
God… I need you more than I need this item.
God… I need you more than I need this relationship.
God… I need you more than I need this sin.
God… I need you more than I need ___.