I recently sat down with a soon-to-be college graduate who asked me about the greatest financial lesson I’ve learned since I got married and graduated college.
Without pausing, I answered: I learned to tithe.
My sudden response surprised me. I wasn’t trying to be spiritual; God knows it’s been a lesson learned. But it’s a lesson that kept my heart in check and put my treasure in Christ alone.
I went into marriage with a somewhat solid understanding on financial success: live within my income, spend wisely, and save as much as I’m able. Of course, it isn’t always that simple, which I quickly learned as a young, newly-married college student. But I grew up with a dad who was very wise with his money and taught me basic financial principles that I took seriously. So granted, I went into marriage with a solid conviction to live within my means, even if it meant living with less than what all my friends were able to have. Sure, it kept me and my husband humble. We weren’t trying to match what others were able to spend, and we weren’t pretending to. We just wanted to live humbly with what God provided us and be content with His provision.
Of course, I admit that I’m
kind of overly frugal. So it wasn’t until Mike and I got married that I slowly learned to give to God, and to give cheerfully. My husband has the gift of giving and a deep conviction to give to God. Me…not so much, not initially. Our conversations early in marriage began like this:
Husband: I prayed about our tithe, how much do you think we should give this month?
Me: Oh dear, he remembered. I hoped he’d forget. We don’t have the money to tithe! Well, what’s the LEAST we can do…hmm…(numbers rolling through my head)…uuggh…I guess whatever 10% is.
Husband: Pray about it. I think we should give more.
Me: !!! MORE?!?!?!
I know…my heart was ugly. So I’d humble myself, pray, and of course, God would give me a number. I’d write it down; Mike wrote his down; pass and exchange paper; and waalaa…they’d often be the same! And if they weren’t, I submitted to his number because let’s face it, his heart was beautiful and my heart…well, not so much.
So now, five years later, God’s changed my heart and taught me more about godly stewardship. I’ve learned to give of our first-fruits, not our leftovers. I’ve learned to give enough that my flesh cringes as I release its grip from my hands (and heart) and drop it in the offering bag. I’ve learned to give enough that I have to trust God. And I’ve learned that God always…always…provides (what we need, not always what we want). Because at the end of the month when I did the budgeting, the numbers didn’t always make sense, they didn’t add up, but somehow we came out even.
Is tithing an end-all to our financial struggles? No. I think godly stewardship is about a whole lot more than tithing, but I think that tithing is at its core. God promises a blessing with it; and He blessed us. Ok, ok…God blessed Mike, but I am his other half. ;) So thank you, Mike, for your faithfulness to God and for teaching me what it looks like to give from your heart. And thank you God – for challenging my heart, for changing my heart, and for giving us abundantly more than we need. Though the world may call us poor, we are rich and overflowing.
What financial lessons have you learned?