Norm and I visited at Plainfield Christian Church in 1998, at the invitation of Norm’s co-worker, Fred Brasher. We quickly felt at home and were eager to learn and settle in as a newly married couple. Norm and I got married in 1992, each of us with two kids. We both had church backgrounds, but I can say for myself, that although I was raised in a Christian household, I had only begun to understand that my faith had to be my own, not my parents. My first step was to be reborn through baptism in June of 1999.
When it came to our giving, Norm and I both understood that we needed to put an offering in the plate. We also both knew enough about church to know that a tithe meant 10 percent of our earnings. 10 percent—was that before tax or after tax? Do we owe an offering if we didn’t get paid? What about a tax return, did we owe an offering on tax returns? What if we were on vacation and weren’t at church, do we still “owe?” We had so many questions and doubts. How were we going to be able to do this when we were a newly blended family of six with financial obligations and less income? There just wasn’t much left over and the thought of giving up 10 percent was overwhelming. So, when we joined the church, we asked all of these questions. We didn’t receive guilt in return, just biblical truth and encouragement that we’ll start to see God work if we’ll trust Him. Every week we put in what we could, and we kept coming to church. We got involved in a small group and kept listening to the sermons and the Spirit’s leading. We didn’t receive pressure to give, only encouragement and biblical truth.
One of the truths we heard about was tithing as a first fruit BEFORE we paid any other bills. Wow, that was going to take faith. We prayed about it and we wrote our check before buying anything or paying any bills. And you know what? We survived! We were new Christians, growing month after month, which soon turned into a year. And then another.
A few years later, the book, The Treasure Principle, was given to every household of the congregation. This little book changed our thinking from just being disciplined and “paying our offering” every two weeks to, “giving to the Lord” because it’s actually His to begin with. As the church read and studied this little book in our small groups, we were learning how to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. I know this may sound silly, but I was actually starting to look forward to giving to the church every payday. We were investing in the Kingdom and asking God to show us how He views our treasures.
Towards the end of that year, the congregation was encouraged to try and increase our tithe by one percent. I was surprised by this because I thought that once we got to 10 percent, we could settle back and start to enjoy the extra. Wasn’t that what God wanted us to do? After all, we had been very disciplined and had been continuing to grow in our faith. I remember praying specifically about this and asking God to let us know what we should do. And you know what? We trusted Him in this and survived! And we kept growing month after month, which soon turned into another year.
Every year after that we kept adding one percent to our tithe. We learned that there really isn’t a cap on your investment in the Kingdom and that you can never out-give God. We moved to another house and, by that point, we knew that our budget had to support giving our first fruits to God before anything else, even a mortgage payment. Because of this, things were tight financially again. I have to admit, there was a temptation to skip a few tithes along the way, but we knew that something else would consume our first fruits if we weren’t careful. To our surprise, we found that through the journey of seeking the Lord and continuing our tithing, the Lord had changed the priorities of our hearts.
Next week, Jill continues the story of how God used their changed hearts to transform other areas of their lives and further refine their approach to valuing things of eternal value.