This post has been nagging at me for weeks. It’s one I do not want to write, so I have been putting it off hoping that it will go away or that I will somehow find something else more important to write about. Don’t you want to hear about my cute kids? They are both pretty awesome! But, it seems that there is nothing more important than this right now. Every time I sit down to write about anything else, my mind goes blank or there are a million distractions. We do serve a persistent God and He’s been working on me throughout this holiday season in a big way. Quite honestly, I don’t like it. I am being disciplined and it hurts. I don’t necessarily want to write from over here in my time-out chair, but I may be here awhile so if I want to get anything done, I don’t have much of a choice.
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it was with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Philippians 4:12
Sometimes when I read my Bible a verse will come to life and I get so excited. It’s just what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment. I feel a peace come over me and I know I am not alone. God’s got my back. Other times I will read my Bible and quite the opposite feeling occurs. The verse still comes to life, but it slaps me in my face and I don’t feel peaceful at all. However, it’s still true that it’s exactly what I need to hear in that moment and God still has my back. I prefer feeling warm and fuzzy, but warm and fuzzy often is not transforming. Feeling comfortable does not refine the soul. I did not get the warm fuzzies when I read Philippians 4:12 because as much as I want to say that it’s true of my walk, it’s not.
Myself and all of my loved one’s are in good health. I live in a safe and comfortable home. My pantry, my fridge and my closet are all full. My marriage is great. My kids are pretty cool. I love my job and I don’t have a shortage of friends. My life is pretty warm and fuzzy. Too warm and fuzzy. My version of Philippians 4:12 read more like, “I know how to live with everything. I have learned the secret of living when things are great, with a full stomach and plenty to choose from.” (That’s the BED inspired version). No wonder it hurt to read what I actually should be content with. And that is nothing.
Tithing for me is very hard. I struggle with giving without seeing a tangible result. And life happens. My children always seem to need money for something, something always needs replacing and, since I am being honest, I really like to shop. My husband and I mutually decided early on that I would be the one to handle the bills each month. And each month for years I have been diligent about paying everything on time. We’ve been responsible and debt free for seven years. It’s a great feeling but it’s a lot of hard work. I decided I didn’t want to work so hard anymore.
This is how I ended up in the time-out chair.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi 3:10
It started with thinking that I didn’t need to pay the tithe one month because well, I thought it would feel better to have that money for wasteful things. I wasn’t struck down by lightning that month, so I didn’t pay it again the next month. I continued with this pattern for a while. It felt good to me to have that extra money in the bank for when my children needed it for something or (gulp) when I saw something that I wanted to buy. And then Philippians 4:12. Every situation? Really?
I realized I wasn’t content with what God provides for me and my family. I was trying to make it seem as though we had more when we really didn’t. The truth is that we’ve always had plenty, I was just caught it a web of greed. It’s amazing how sticky that web is and I wanted out!
The hardest part? Confessing to my husband what I had done. After all, it’s our money. If I wasn’t tithing, he wasn’t tithing. Let me just tell you that man is full of grace and mercy when it comes to handling me and all my flaws. I pretty much got out of that conversation with a very stern look and a comforting, “I still love you, but don’t let this happen again” hug.
And then I had to start the process of cleaning up my mess. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard. Just start writing those checks again. What’s the big deal? Um, discipline hurts! I don’t know about you, but I can remember times when I screwed up as a child and my parents let me know it with a spanking. God hasn’t spanked me yet, but he sure is making me uncomfortable. Ok. You’re right. A better term is refining me. He is teaching me to rely more on Him with each bill that I pay. In every situation I must rely on his provision and perfect timing. This has meant fewer gifts under the tree and DIY gifts for friends and family. This has meant me seeking His will and learning to be content with what I already have. And it has been so hard! I have whined. I have complained. I have felt sorry for myself. Which is probably the very reason why I am still waiting for the windows of Heaven to open up for me. Pretty sure I wouldn’t give my child who was still stomping her feet what she wanted either. God loves a cheerful giver and I am not there yet. I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to do things my way. But God is so amazingly cool it’s scary. Have you read the verse directly after Philippians 4:12?
And “everything” includes tithing.