Authored by Gabriela Farmer (a guest contribution)
My husband, Jonathan, and I recently returned from an extended mission trip in South Africa, and have started to set up again in our hometown. It certainly hasn’t been easy to find new jobs and a place to live, while still having to keep up with the bills and payments that never seem to stop.
One question we both asked ourselves before returning home was whether or not we wanted to continue to tithe 10% of our monthly income. In theory, tithing sounds like a great idea! The Bible describes tithe as giving a tenth of all that you receive to God, with a promise that you will receive blessings and abundance back from Him.
I think one of the earliest mentions of giving tithe to the Lord is in the book of Genesis, where Jacob has just done a terrible thing and needs help from the Lord. He makes a promise to give to the Lord in return for blessings and protection:
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God … and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”1
The Lord clearly honored Jacob’s promise and sacrifice by rewarding him, not only with protection but also with two wives, many sons, thousands of flocks, and the beginning of a whole new race of people.
So following Jacob’s example, Jonathan and I decided to promise to the Lord and each other that we would continue to give a tenth of our income to the Lord—no matter what the circumstances.
This has not been a walk in the park. It has happened, more often than not, that we’ll be scraping together our pennies to pay the rent, and then it hits us that we still haven’t separated the tithe from the rest of our income! Suddenly, tithing doesn’t seem like such a great idea after all.
I won’t lie and say in the last six months since we’ve been back from our mission trip that we haven’t been tempted to throw in the towel and say, “Forget it. We can’t afford to tithe anymore! This money is all we have left! How are we going to get through this remaining month?” At this point we also had to put off getting a car because we simply couldn’t afford it.
I imagine that the poor widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17 felt much the same way:
Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to [the prophet Elijah]: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”2
We’ve felt a little like that widow sometimes, when we didn’t have anything left and all we could do was scrape together a few coins to buy the food we needed.
Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’”3
That small jug of oil and handful of flour was all that she had! How could she possibly give all that she had to make some bread for a tired, scruffy-looking, needy stranger? How could she even believe him and his grand promises? What about her and her son? Surely she should put her son first, before Elijah, even if he was a prophet of God!
Sometimes the tithe portion is all we have left and we’re tempted to keep it for ourselves instead of giving it to God, or in the case of the widow, to a needy stranger. But she went ahead and gave all that she had left:
She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the words of the LORD spoken by Elijah.4
Imagine having your needs continually met at such a crucial time, without your needing to worry! That sacrifice that the widow made by giving up her last bit of food for the prophet Elijah ensured that she and her son were more than taken care of until the end of the famine! The Bible says we should give first, and then we will receive,5 but I think it’s a natural human tendency to want to see the blessings before we give our hard-earned cash! The Lord works the other way around, though. He often requires that we take the first step of faith, and then He’ll honor that faith and provide our needs. That first step of faith shows the Lord that we believe He will do as He has promised.
And do you know what? I am happy to say that since we have taken the step of faith to continue giving our monthly tithe, the Lord has never once let us down.
Here are just a few of the many blessings we’ve received from the Lord in the last year:
—We both secured jobs rather quickly that are reliable and provide for us.
—We have both received promotions in our companies—accompanied by pay raises!
—We were able to buy a vehicle after all, as well as cover the monthly insurance bills.
—We also received government benefits, which surprisingly gave us more than we had initially expected!
—We started out in a basement apartment in a not-so-ideal location with loud and aggressive neighbors, but have since been able to afford a better high-rise building with peaceful surroundings and helpful, friendly neighbors and management.
—We have been able to give Jonathan’s brother room and board as he gets set up in this same city.
—We have sent donations to those still involved in mission work in our beloved Africa. Our help is going a long way to benefit the needy people there.
And we’re sure there is still more to come!
The Lord says to bring all our tithes to His house, and then He says, “Test Me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”6
He has already begun to give beyond what we could imagine, and we’re on the lookout for further blessings that we’ll have no room to store, because we know they’re on their way! We know that as we continue to give to the Lord, just like the widow of Zarephath, we will not only be able to keep up with all our expenses, but the Lord will continue to take care of us until the end of our days!
Footnotes Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2012 by The Family International
1 Genesis 28:20–22 NIV
2 1 Kings 17:7–12 NIV
3 1 Kings 17:13–14 NIV
4 1 Kings 17:15–16 NIV
5 Luke 6:38 NIV
6 Malachi 3:10 NIV
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2012 by The Family International