Two years ago, I had just started a new job, it was a fancy career job which paid a salary and everything! For the first time in my life, I had an "adult" income stream coming in. And for the first few months I did not give a full tithe (10%), as Christian tradition suggests. There were a whole host of reasons for this in my head, most related to the uncertainty of what expenses I would be incurring and what the taxman would take from me (always too much).
For the next three months, I worried about money a lot. It was on my thoughts almost daily and my income, though much bigger than anything I'd ever earned before, just didn't seem enough for what was required. December was the third month and Christmas was a struggle not to panic at how expensive the festive season is.
Over the Christmas holidays, my conscience finally won through and I was convicted that as my God had given me a salary, so I had to make giving my first priority. So in fear of what might happen and what unplanned expenses would be incurred, I increased my giving to the full tithe.
Almost overnight, my money worries vanished. This surprised me. It should not have. For my story is not unique nor is it out the ordinary, it is the economy of God working as it always does.
There are two economies in this world: the economy of man and the economy of God. The former works on the laws of supply and demand, on thrift and industry, on hard work and a little bit of luck. There never is a free lunch, there is always a price to pay, what you get out is often less than what you put in, it isn't fair, it isn't perfect and it can cause untold misery. There is a reason why economics is called the dismal science.
The economy of God could not be more different. It is the only economy where 1+1 regularly and usually exceeds the value of 2. To give, as a Christian, is to partake in this divine economy and as many will testify too, it is impossible to out give God.
Giving is the one thing Christians are allowed to test God on. As it says in Malachi 3v10: "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house." Here the prophet is recounting the words of God to his people in Israel. They are not giving the full tithe, as I wasn't in the above story, they were scared of giving that much. And God tells them to give the full amount and then says: "'Test me on this,' says the Lord Almighty 'and see if I do not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be enough room to store it all.'"
Some Christians get angsty about using personal reward to motivate giving but it is a very common theme throughout the Bible. As Jesus says: "When you give to the poor do not let your right hand know what your left is doing, so your giving will be in secret, so that your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6v4).
Biblically speaking, giving should be done in the faith of a) a reward and b) the opening of the floodgates of heaven. These things are promised and what is promised should be looked for. Elsewhere, Jesus speaks of receiving a hundred time what is given up in this life for him. With interest rates running at near 0% what greater incentive can we have to lay up treasure in heaven with a much better return?
I think Christians don't like giving and reward from being connected because they fail to grasp the divine economy. Giving is not done to have less, as though God were a miser; giving is done in faith that God is the supreme giver and giving is of net gain to all concerned. I will happy say that my giving is motivated by all the promised rewards and blessings which God has said about giving.
Society today thinks that giving is about pain and suffering. Witness the silly lengths people go to for sponsorships (where if you die in doing anything charity related you get the most money). Giving is turned into a work which has to be earned from others or it is turned into a show to gain the reward of men. In this, the divine economy is lost, 1 + 1 = 2 where the first 1 equals pain and the second 1 equals suffering.
When a society loves money more than God such a harsh economy is to be expected. However, rightly done, Christian giving is the most potent way to destroy the love of money and the power it can wield over us. As an economist then money has always had a fascination for me and as a natural saver, the love of money is never far away. Giving keeps that false love at bay for it is an act of obedience which puts God and his will above a love for money and a desire to hold onto it. Giving is an act of faith which puts God first.
Tithing is spoken of as a burden when it is a freedom. It frees from the terrible mistress of money and the unquenchable desire for more stuff and more things. It frees from the false security of a large bank balance. It frees from the materialist consumerist society which we live in.
The Christian faith teaches us of the best way. Giving done as a grace, in response to the giving of God and giving done in secret, for the eyes of God alone. This is the giving that pleases God. As Paul writes in the letter to the Philippains, their gift to him was "a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God." (4v18). It is of great joy to consider direct debits as fragrant offerings.
And yes, of course, the cause I am giving to matter too. It matters that I give out of the abundance of all that God has given me, to help those less fortunate than myself. It is important that the cries of the poor move my heart (and my wallet). These things are good and true and right. But why should this contradict a desire to know blessing? If God has promised that in giving his people should expect to see God out give them, who am I to say to God - "No, do not bless me, I do not want it"?
I will testify that in God's economy of giving 1 + 1 = 3, 4 or possibly 100. Put God to the test, give more, and see that God will only give more.