Wednesday, June 24, 2015


     Tithing's tough for most. I served as a church accountant for awhile and counting tithes and preparing annual tithing statements were among my responsibilities so I had a pretty good idea who was and wasn't tithing their full ten percent. Perhaps ten to fifteen percent of congregants did. And we had a very generous church.
     About that time I attended a seminar on church finances and the instructor said that only about fifteen percent of clergy tithe their full ten percent. Incredible! Perhaps this is why so many clergy find tithing such a difficult topic to preach?
     The thing about tithing that makes it seem so difficult at times is that when we have little we choose to believe we can't afford it. And when we have a lot we wonder at having to give soooo much!
     Most Christians are aware that the only place in the bible where God allows man to test him is in tithing: “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessings that you will not have room enough for it.” Based on my observations, it seems that this passage is always taken as suggestive, meaning God is in essence saying, If you feel like it, try it.
     But no clergy I ever heard said that based on the nuances of the original Hebrew text that this is the proper interpretation. In fact all the Bible versions that I've ever read of this verse in Malachi seem to suggest that God may be commanding us to test him in this. Should we?
     To my great chagrin, I confess that for the first time ever, I (and my family by extension) are tithing our full ten percent. A pastor said that when you do this, something breaks. When he said it, his hand motions suggested the breaking of a chop stick, pencil, or bone. And he obviously meant it in a positive way: we at that moment break our stubborn self-reliance and trust in money and instead turn to God, who is worthy of our trust.
     I have no regrets.
     God has opened doors for us, assigning us more active roles in church, and most importantly to me, allowing us to serve as a family. Deanne and I got to serve as ushers for a month collecting tithes and attendance sign-in sheets. Our pastor gave me a bass guitar to play with the Keiki worship band, which my kids participant in. And we are all traveling to an outer island to serve mostly second-generation underprivileged immigrant youth as missionaries at a vacation bible school. Braden will stay the entire week, whereas the rest of us will stay for two days and two nights (at my request, because I doubted we'd hold up well as a family much longer). It'll be a first mission trip for each of us and we are excited and blessed to be part of it. We requested to be considered for inclusion, and through God's abundant provision, we got invited and our payment portion will be minuscule due to generous scholarships.
     I also got asked to give a five minute explanation to the congregation on why I come to church, which will be part of a lesson on stewardship. I have a script, and a plan, and though by nature I hesitate to do such things, I feel at peace about this one, as if it'll turn out right. Please pray for me.
     I think it's true that I had to break a certain resistance to tithe fully, but once the decision was made, I've felt stress-free and nice about it ever since. And these feelings have carried over to other areas of my life, too—amazing how that works!
     And I've seen blessings in other unexpected ways: our family feels tighter/closer. I found a book of quirky but sometimes profound facts (Conversation Sparks) that we take turns reading after dinner. It's been fun and constructive, giving everyone a chance to contribute.
     Braden for the first time ever got near straight A's (except for one bad grade in music caused by non-attendance at after-school events due to discipline reasons—see my prior Expectations essay, regarding).
     Braden's scoliosis (fifteen percent curvature) is stable, so he doesn't need intervention or treatment (such as wearing a brace at night), though he still slouches (as do I, unfortunately, at times).
     All is not perfect, however, Deanne was notified that she won't be returning as a teacher's aide next year, so she's hunting for a job now.
     Our sole car is giving hints of trouble, and taking cars in for repairs is a sore point for me (having suffered at the hands of numerous dishonest mechanics).
     And our immediate and extended family continues to suffer assorted maladies and travails in health, relationships, job dissatisfaction, and other areas too numerous to mention.
     No one said tithing will get us to heaven.
     But the bible does say in Matthew, “Where your treasures are, so too shall your heart be.” Indeed, giving the full tithe has drawn me closer to God, perhaps closer than ever, which certainly is the greatest blessing of all.

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