“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” ~Luke 16:10-12~
Just let me tell you, this post almost didn’t get written this week! I’ve fought the Lord about this topic for a week, but He won, so here goes……
Because I am working on the Creative Awakenings Prayer and Art Challenge (check it out here and join us next week if you haven’t heard about it yet!) and I chose “debt” as my issue to pray about for 21 days, the Lord just kept putting people and signs dealing with money in my path all week.
The Topic We Try to Avoid
I’ve wrestled writing it because it deals with money, debt, and tithing. Things most of us don’t like to talk about and I REALLY don’t!
How Did We Get In This Situation?
Let me back up and explain why this is such a painful subject for me. Two years ago I took a HUGE pay cut (about $11K to be exact) to take the job at Troy and Tom began his construction business about the same time, so we’ve struggled to make ends meet ever since. I know God is teaching us a powerful lesson and He’s got big things planned for us, but WE HAVE TO LEARN TO LIVE BY HIS PRINCIPLES or things will not change. We will always struggle.
We have been blessed beyond blessed since 2013 (parents who still help out occasionally, extra jobs here and there, unexpected money from complete strangers, etc.), but we are still deep in debt and struggling.
We give every month to our home church, but it’s not a total tithe (in other words, it’s not 10%). We have it drafted the 1st of the month, so we are giving the “firsts” of our earnings, but it’s still not 10%.
We have closed all of our credit cards and turned that debt over to a debit solutions company (GreenPath Debt Solutions if you need some help – they are awesome!) and we are working with money management counselors from our church (great to have as accountability partners), so we are getting things straight. Slow and steady wins the race, right?
So, when I finally realized what the Lord was trying to tell me, I thought, “Really? Geez! Things in my life are SO good right now, everything EXCEPT our money situation. Why do I have to talk about THAT subject this week?” It feels like a big, black cloud hanging over me all the time. Why would I WANT to talk about that? I don’t!
*BTW, because I have learned to listen to His voice, He usually gives me a heads up each week about what to write about, so although I knew it was what He wanted, it was NOT what I wanted. Selfish, I know.
Seeing The Signs
Then, low and behold, all sorts of signs started coming my way last week, but I almost missed them! I wasn’t focused on money last week, so when the signs started coming my way, I initially didn’t recognize them as the Lord speaking to me. I served at our church’s GROW Intensive with a friend from years ago. While catching up, she shared how she and her husband counseled couples getting married or married couples who needed help. Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, money issues came up. (Sign #1)
She recommended Robert Morris’ book, The Blessed Life, and told me once I read it I would never think about money, nor tithing, the same again. I LOVE Robert Morris’ messages! Love them! So, I went home and found the book, ordered it, and then found his message by the same name on his church’s website. I binged watched all SIX videos of his series in one night! I was in tears by the time I finished. My friend was right, I will never think about money or tithing the same, but I also knew something had to change. BTW, did I say I LOVE Robert Morris’ messages!?!?! (Sign #2)
But, I still didn’t want to write about it. Ugh!
Then, while trying to juggle money between two banks (technically one bank and one credit union) I was pinged with an overdraft charge at the credit union. Not that I haven’t done this before, but I had never done it at the credit union. I received a call from the credit union shortly after I deposited money we had unexpectedly received. (Sign #3) I was scared to death to call, but I was also curious. I knew I had deposited enough money to offset the overdrawn amount, plus some, so what could they want to ask me?
Well, the credit union lady, Ms. Pam, talked to me about an overdraft protection plan they have, but it’s a little different from a regular bank. She just wanted to know if I would be interested in talking to her about it. I told her a little about our situation and how I was trying to get all of our money to them and not the bank. She took off the two (didn’t realize there were TWO!) overdraft charges from my account and got started with the paperwork. I thanked her profusely and as soon as I got off the phone I broke down crying. (Sign #4)
When I went by the credit union to sign the papers, Pam proceeded to talk to me about how she had taken a $50K pay cut when the company she worked for closed and she came to the credit union. (Yowza! I thought $11K was a lot!) She also offered to look into refinancing our condo for a short time (we’re looking to sell in the next couple of years) and just took time to really talk to me. No judgment, no conviction, just kindness and compassion. (Sign #5) BTW, I balled again when I got out to my car! Crying is always a sign for me that He is working on my heart about SOMETHING.
Then I started Robert Morris’ book, The Blessed Life (a must-read for all Christians), and started underlining almost every other sentence. (Signs #6, 7, 8, …..) Did I tell you how much I LOVE Robert Morris’ messages! Wow!
There is no way to relay everything he says in his book, but the biggest takeaways I have, so far (still got a few chapters to go), are the following:
1-The Principle of Firsts – The principle of firsts comes from the Old Testament Law of giving of the first born, first crops, tithe, etc. The Law has always been a Principle God wants His children to follow, so He can bless us. It held then, it still holds true today.
Jesus was God’s firstborn. He was born clean. Jesus was born a pure, spotless lamb. BUT, every one of us was born unclean; therefore, Jesus was sacrificed to redeem us. Jesus was God’s tithe! (paraphrased, Morris, p. 31)
When we give Him our firsts (which are really HIS anyway!) so He knows we are putting Him first in every part of our lives.
2-Giving to the Lord’s House First – He doesn’t tell us to give to a foreign ministry or local charity; He says to bring the firstfruits to His house.
The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. ~Exodus 23:19~
We must give our tithe (the FIRST 10% of our income) to our local church (the church where we are members or call “home”). Anything above that is considered an offering.
3-He Will Bless the Rest – When we give our firsts to Him in FAITH, He will surely bless us because the firsts are what’s holy. Giving our firsts is the trigger that allows us to be blessed beyond our wildest dreams!
For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. ~Romans 11:16~
Again, if He sees us giving Him our firstfruits, He will know we are doing it in faith and will then entrust us with more blessings.
I’m Taking the Test!
There are many more ah-ha moments all through the book and I’m sure I’ll have many more before I’m done, but here is what I’ve heard Him say to me this week: “You’ve done a good job in giving faithfully, but you have not given me everything. I need you to give me the entire 10%. Test me and let me show you what being blessed really looks like.” Wow! Really? I’m barely able to make the bills and You want me to give you $110 more? Ouch, that hurts! But, what if I do and we’re blessed even more? What a testimony that would be!
What we’re doing is obviously NOT working, but we’re trying. At first I felt resentful and sick at my stomach at giving the entire 10%, but then I realized by NOT giving Him ALL of our firsts, we don’t stand a chance of truly being blessed. We want to honor Him as THE #1 PRIORITY in our lives, so I’m taking The Ultimate Faith Test and I’m giving the entire 10% on August 1, 2015. (Still a little sick at my stomach, but feel excited that He is teaching us a lesson about faith, grace, and humility.)
Plans Going Forward
Going into 21-Days of Prayer with our church and the Creative Awakenings 21-Day Prayer & Art Challenge, I plan to do the following:
1-Tithe 10% of my paycheck on August 1 (and the 1st of every month thereafter)
2-Go on a spending fast & only spend money on food, gas, & “essentials” (anything that we HAVE to have – household supplies, meds, etc.)
3-Intentionally pray and create art every day
The Lord tests us and asks us to test Him (at least when it comes to tithing), so if you’re struggling with tithing, your time, your talents, and your treasures, I first challenge you to rethink how you think and how you could take The Ultimate Faith Test with me and give Him ALL of your FIRSTS (first earnings, first part of your day/week, first of your best talents, and firsts of your earthly treasures).
“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 you will not have enough for it.” ~Malachi 3:10~
My prayer for you this week is that you all will seek His voice and obey his commandments and principles in every aspect of your lives. I pray that He will bless you and your families beyond your wildest dreams.
How has the Lord blessed you in your life? Do you find it hard to tithe? If so, why? Would love to hear from you.
BTW, please join us in the Creative Awakenings tab beginning August 2, 2015 for the 21-Days of Prayer and Art Challenge (Prompts will be posted August 1). We are praying big and creating small works of art for 21 days straight!
*Also, because school is starting back next week (on the road again!) and the 21-Days of Prayer & Art Challenge will be in full swing, I will not post a “full” post during the next three weeks. I will be posting in the Creative Awakenings tab during this time, so join me there.