When we rode in the car for long trips, my sister and I had a line we didn’t cross. The line wasn’t always in the middle—it changed from trip to trip. On some trips, the sister who had the hanging clothes on her side of the car got a bigger portion of seat. I was the youngest and, for many years, the smallest—so sometimes I had a smaller portion of seat. Our family spent entirely too much time fussing and fuming over the way that seat was divided.
I wonder sometimes if God looks at our conversations about the tithe in the same way I now look back at those seat squabbles. In the Old Testament, the example of the patriarchs and the Levites in God’s instructions indicate that setting aside 10% of mint, crops and other income was a regular practice. So in the church, when we hear God’s Word to give generously or to set aside a tithe to bring into the church—10% of our income seems like a good portion. I was taught to tithe from a very early age—starting with putting a penny in the plate when I’d received a dime.
But the consistent message of Jesus and the New Testament writings seems to be about the attitude of our heart in giving our part rather than about the actual amount. My proportionate giving has changed its size and shape over the years. Sometimes it’s gotten larger, and other times it’s gotten smaller—depending on my life circumstances. I’ve gone through some rough times financially, but always, when God provided, there was the consideration of what portion I would give back. I have to confess that I sometimes asked God if I “had to” tithe on something or how much was required. At times, I was set on giving a portion of God’s provision, and well meaning friends and family assured me that I didn’t “have to” tithe on that. I’ve tried to be consistent—always setting aside a portion, even if that portion was small. God has been faithful to provide through even the leanest days.
Sometimes it seems like the church is always asking for money—just like as a little girl, I was always sticking a toe or a finger over that line to increase my portion of car seat. I’ve learned when the people of the church join generously, with each person doing their part by deciding on a portion of God’s provision that they will give back, there is no need for the church to beg for pennies, minutes or even time and strength. Just as God always provides for his children, he provides for his church to grow and to do the work he has established for us.