Money shows us what we truly believe. In the same way that we might claim to love someone or something only to be disproven by our expenditures, we might make great claims about our faith only to have our bank accounts find us out. Think of the observation Jesus made upon seeing the example of a poor widow in the temple one day in Jerusalem:
He looked up and saw the rich dropping their offerings into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow dropping in two tiny coins. “I tell you the truth,” He said. “This poor widow has put in more than all of them. For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1–4)
Jesus wasn’t very interested in counting the amount of giving that day in the temple. True, the rich gave much more. But Jesus looked deeper and ascribed value in more than dollars and cents. This woman was a widow, a station in life which would have put her primarily at the mercy of others’ generosity. She was a woman of meager means, knowing that if she wasn’t careful she would not have enough to live on. And yet she put in all she had, a sacrificial gift that deeply moved Jesus and caused His attention to be perked. Consider for a second what this woman must have believed to be true about God in order for her to treat her money in this way. Consider what her small coins revealed about her faith.
In order to treat her money in this fashion, she must have been firmly convinced of the goodness of God. She must have believed in His great ability to provide. She must have had an overwhelming trust in His character to motivate such a reckless financial decision. The way she treated her money was a window into what she believed to be true. The same thing applies to us, and can be most clearly seen in the common custom of tithing.
I say “custom” because people’s opinions differ greatly on the subject. Some preach it as a Christian requirement; others paint it as more of a freewill offering. Some advocate for the generally accepted number of 10 percent; others see that as an unnecessary qualification that brings law where there should be grace. I’m not so much interested in the specific amount, as it seems that Jesus in this passage wasn’t either. I’m more interested in the faith that motivates it. And faith does indeed motivate giving for us as well as it did the widow that day in the temple.
For the sake of argument, though, let’s just say that you are a Christian who customarily gives to your church the first 10 percent of your paycheck. But then the economy goes south, or you acquire some unexpected medical bills. Or maybe you just take a hard look at the checkbook and realize how much more you could have socked away if you didn’t give that full 10 percent. So you are tempted to cut back. You justify it by saying that it’s not that you won’t ever tithe again— you’re just taking a few months off to get your feet under you. And isn’t it sort of legalistic to have to write this check every month anyway? And doesn’t God care about taking care of our families? That money could certainly be used to help them. Those are some of the things I have told myself, at least.
But all those excuses focus on a side issue. Tithing isn’t really about the money. Just like most things in the Christian life, tithing has little to do with the actual, physical act and much more to do with the spiritual significance behind that act. Tithing has very little to do with money, and very much to do with faith. When we make the conscious choice to regularly and sacrificially give, we show that we aren’t just giving lip service to God’s power to provide and His goodness in doing so. Our faith is measured by our actions.
I believe that to continue to tithe—to be generous and giving even when you feel like you can’t afford it—is an act of faith. It is a statement by action that I believe God can be trusted. He told me to do this, and so I will do it because I believe He is wise and loving in what He commands.
I will tithe also because I believe in God’s power to provide. There’s a lot that I could do with that money; and sometimes I feel like giving it away puts me in a position of need. That’s not a position I’m comfortable with, but that is a position where I must receive from God. Not a bad place to be.
And I will tithe because I believe that God Himself is better than any of the stuff I could get with that money. It’s an act of faith to choose God over comfort because, well, He’s invisible. So I give away the money that could be used to make me more comfortable because I believe that God is better than any of those things.
We give because we trust. When we don’t give, it’s because we don’t trust. Our wallets reveal, much more clearly than our words, the depth of our faith. Our faith is shown clearly in our common, ordinary expenditures…