My wife and I started attending Central UMC 30 years ago, which was a few months after we got married. I was in graduate school and working at an internship and she was substitute teaching. We did not have very much money. A night out for dinner for us, which was rare, was getting Dominos Pizza and eating it in our small apartment living room.
We were a little intimidated when we first started attending Central. There was no contemporary service back then, which is where we typically attend now. Rather, there were just two classic services in the sanctuary. I remember when the offering plate came around each week that I felt terrible because we either didn’t put anything in or just a few dollars.
We learned about Central’s Covenant Giving Program that fall of 1989, which was simply a covenant between the person/family and God. I was thrilled that the church would not know what we put on our card. We put down $7 per week and I felt pretty good about it. (I looked it up and that is equal to about $14.50 per week now).
A few years went by and I heard that some of Central’s lay leaders were going to be hosting an information meeting on tithing on an upcoming Sunday afternoon. I was interested but afraid of what I would hear. God moved in my heart. I attended and was taught biblical principles of giving that day. I went home afterward and told my wife that we had to start tithing. We started and have never looked back. God has been faithful to us and we have been faithful to Him. Even in times of challenge, we have given because we did not view it as optional. Cable TV – optional. Sports/entertainment – optional. Eating out – optional. New car – optional. Big house – optional.
I want to now share a few nitty-gritty details that may help you if you will read on.
- God owns it all. Everything we have belongs to the Lord – Psalm 24.1
- What does God ask? He asks us to give back 10% of all that He gives us – Malachi 3:10
- What is an offering? An offering is anything given beyond the tithe.
- How do you calculate a tithe? In simple terms, it is 10% of your income. There is no perfect answer to this, but Jovie and I have calculated it as 10% of whatever we receive in our paychecks and any other disposable income.
- Where does the 10% go? We believe God calls us to give 10% of our income to the church’s operation. We try to do more. We view 10% as the floor of giving and not the ceiling.
- What about church building funds? We give to these on top of our 10% given to the church operations.
- What about other non-profits, child sponsorships, and missionaries? We give to these on top of our 10% tithe.
- How can you do this? It is a simple concept - Live beneath your means. When we determine what our disposable/spendable income is going to be, we have roughly followed the 15/15/70 rule. We give away at least 15%. We save at least 15%. We live on the remaining 70%.
- What do you not get to do? We get to do a lot, but we don’t buy new cars; we keep our cars for the long haul; we don’t have high credit card bills (in fact we pay off our card each month); we live in a nice home, but far below what we could afford if we didn’t give and save; and we seek to live a minimalist lifestyle (meaning we make decisions based on what we need, not what we want) so that we are not slave to stuff. This allows us to focus more on others than ourselves, which I believe is what the Bible teaches us to do. Matthew 25:40.
- Should our pattern be your pattern? Not necessarily. Giving occurs through a process of prayer, listening, and discovery. What works for one person/family may not be a fit for another.
A final word. Generous people tend to have more joy in their lives. About 20 years ago, I met a man who shared with me that he and his wife gave away over 30% of everything they made AND they hoped to increase that. He was absolutely one of the happiest most spirit-filled people I had ever met. I wanted what he had. When I have a bad day…I give. When things aren’t going well…I give. When I have a good day…I give. When things are going well…I give. Regardless of the circumstances, giving brings me joy. I encourage you to try giving, but only if you want to experience joy, fulfillment, gratitude, and contentment. Anne Frank once wrote, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” So, if you haven’t already, start measuring your wealth by being a blessing to others, not how many dollars are in your bank account.