The phone call came as we were just beginning a capital stewardship program in preparation for a major building project. The consultant had suggested that we ask people with testimonies of God’s blessing in their giving to share them with the congregation. Sally was calling to say, “Pastor, if you need a testimony about tithing, I have one.” My interest was piqued, and I asked for the details.
“We were driving home from church one Sunday morning after you made the ‘money-back guarantee’ about tithing. My husband Sam raised an eyebrow and said, ‘Money-back guarantee-huh? Maybe we should try that.’”
What I had said was that, if you have not been tithing (giving a tenth of your income to the Lord’s work), and you begin to do so, you can trust God to provide for your needs. But if you are worse off financially in six months than you are today, we will refund your money.
The first time I had announced this, the treasurer got a bit nervous. But the truth was, God had been faithful. Over the years, we had never needed to give anyone a refunda, although one man was close. He told me, “Pastor, I was two weeks from coming back for the refund, but then God gave me a new job.” In fact, it was the best job he had ever had, and 14 years later, he was still working that job.
Sally continued, “You need to understand that my husband has been a stingy man. He’s been stingy with his time, with his affection, and certainly with his money. In fact, there were times when I was hoping to find some generosity, but it just didn’t seem to exist in his heart.
So when he made that comment in the car, I was quick to respond because I have always wanted to give to the Lord, and this was quite possibly my opportunity. Well, Pastor, we began tithing. The incredible benefits to our family have been that my husband has become generous in his affection, generous with his time, and generous with his money. It wasn’t just a matter of starting to tithe to bless the work of the Lord, but it brought a change in our home and in my husband’s heart. If I can share that with anybody, I’d be glad.”
You can be sure that I signed Sally up to share her testimony. I would suspect that every pastor and every church treasurer has said more than once, “If only all of our members would tithe, we’d have no financial problems.” I believe tithing is God’s plan to support his work, but the reality is in most congregations, only a limited number of people actually do it. The 80/20 rule is often the reality: 20 percent of the people give 80 percent of the finances. Why is this?
Perhaps one of the reasons is that, as pastors and leaders, we ourselves are not fully convinced that tithing is a current biblical principle. We acknowledge its Old Testament roots but are not as sure that it applies today. While some would say we are not under law, but under grace, Jesus was very clear in Luke 11:42 when he said, “But woe to you, Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (NKJV).
The New Testament does not negate the principle of tithing, which existed long before Moses. Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, who was a type of Christ; and it became a principle that goes through the Scripture. God challenges his people to “‘bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10 NKJV).
Just last week, we were able to share a testimony of a young, single woman who had been out of work for about five months. She had been doing some odd jobs, which really didn’t provide adequately, but she could not find a permanent job. Two weeks before, on a Sunday morning, she came to me after service with an envelope that contained twenty dollars. Through tears she said, “Pastor, this represents my tithe. If I give it, I’ll have eight dollars to my name. What should I do?”
The hardest thing I have ever done was to pray with her and then allow her to give that which belonged to the Lord. I was tempted to manipulate the situation and give her some money. But it was a time to learn to depend on God. The good news is that, within a week, she had a job, and the Lord is beginning to turn things around for her financially. God is faithful to His word, but we need to trust Him.
If you have difficulty with the issue of tithing in your own personal life or in teaching it to your people, trust God to help you do it, and then challenge your people to “lay up treasures in heaven.” Some in your congregation may need just a little encouragement to begin enjoying blessing in their lives while they bless the kingdom. That’s what the “money-back guarantee” is all about.
John Sprecher is senior pastor at Rock Church, Rockford, Illinois.