I have really been enjoying the recent messages on RC Sproul’s Renewing Your Mind radio program. Dr. Sproul has lately been addressing the topics of stewardship and economics. The messages have been powerful and the timing has been perfect, particularly this one on stewardship.
One thing that struck me about this message was when Dr. Sproul quoted an old saying that was used in the early Christian church about tithing, “Let your alms sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give them.”
Dr. Sproul explained that the quotation means that we should carefully consider and examine to whom and to where we give our tithe. But I also thought of another way to think of this saying: we ought to give an amount that makes us sweat, that makes us a little nervous. We must offer an amount that is hard for us to part with. If we’re not giving till it hurts, then we’re not giving enough.
You see, as I was listening to this message, I was sweating myself. I was on a morning jog. I was running and sweating because, what good would a run be, what would it accomplish, if I didn’t run far enough or hard enough to sweat?
It made me think of all the things that I push through in my life despite the pain. If the kids are cranky, and it’s been a long day, and I really need some time to myself, I don’t just say, “Goodbye, boys,” and close the door to my bedroom. No, we finish the day. I feed them, I bathe them, and I put them to bed.
I go to work even when I don’t feel like it.
I grade papers when I’m tired.
I cook a nice meal for my husband when I would much rather pop a frozen pizza in the oven and put my feet up.
I tutor when I’d like to be watching TV.
And yet. And yet! When it comes to tithing, I am not so heroic. How many times have I given an offering when I didn’t want to, or when I didn’t think I could afford to? Not very many. Why is that? Is God, or his commandment to tithe, or his work, any less important than my family, my work or my health?
When I set off on my morning runs, I always have a goal. For the most part, if I plan to run a certain number of laps or miles, I do. So why, when God has set a goal for my giving, do I allow myself to regularly fall short?
Yes, we should bring our offerings into church gladly. We should rejoice when we have the opportunity to give back to God what is already his. But I am convinced that godly giving also requires sacrifice, and it shouldn’t be easy. That big check that we write out each week or each month should sweat in our hands before we drop it in the plate.
Yesterday, the sermon was on tithing. We’ve been going to the church for more than a year now, and I’ve never heard the pastor speak on tithing. But, frankly, I wasn’t surprised. God has been working on my heart in the area of finances for some time now. Yesterday’s message was just another confirmation that God wants me–really, Joe and I–to get our financial house in order, to be better stewards of what He has given us. Tithing ten percent of our income is a part of that.
But yesterday’s sermon was just like icing on the cake because I already knew that we were going to tithe, and what amount we were going to give. We weren’t going to short God this time by writing what we *thought* we could afford. We were going to bring our “whole tithe into the storehouse.”
So yesterday morning, I quietly wrote out the check, took a deep breath, and let that check sweat a minute in my hands.
Then, I dropped it in the plate.
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. Malachi 3:10