Unemployment, Tithing, and God’s Provision

It’s been a month and a half since my husband lost his job. He’s worked a few different part time jobs, done a little freelance work, and is still currently looking for a nice full time job. It hasn’t been all bad though. We’ve spent more time together as a family, and we’ve learned a lot. And we’ve been stretched. But this isn’t the first time.

When my husband and I got married twelve years ago, my husband insisted that we give a tithe to our church. I didn’t grow up in a tithing family. We put a few dollars in the offering plate and called it good. Granted, we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so that made sense to me. If we didn’t have the money, we shouldn’t tithe, right?

But my husband insisted. And being the loving new wife that I was, I reluctantly agreed. Still, it was hard writing such a big check every week. I mean, I was writing three digit checks. We’re not talking just a couple of dollars here! But out of respect for my husband, I continued to write the checks.

When I became a stay at home mom, our income took a big hit. Still, we kept on tithing. And my attitude began to change. Somehow, through some miracle, we continued to have everything we needed. We didn’t necessarily have everthying we wanted, but we had food, shelter, and clothing.

One time I remember standing in my kitchen. It was December 2001. My daughter was three years old, and it had been a rough year. After two years of trying to get pregnant, we did, but then I had a miscarriage. My dad had had a heart attack a few months earlier. My mom had just been diagnosed with leukemia. And I stood in the kitchen looking at pictures of our family vacation, and I cried.

You see, the pictures were taken with a camera that I had received as a Christmas gift in high school. It wasn’t an expensive camera, and it was dying. The pictures from our vacation weren’t very good. I was feeling sorry for myself, and I cried because we only had one child, and I couldn’t even afford a new camera to take good pictures of her. If only I had $150, I could surely buy a new camera.

I prayed for God to change my attitude. And I said nothing more. To anybody. I knew telling my husband would make him feel bad that he didn’t have a higher paying job. And he was hurting too, as our baby would have been due that week, had I not miscarried. So I dismissed any thought of a new camera.

A couple of days later, I went out to check the mail. There was an envelope from the church. I thought that was odd, because we weren’t expecting anything. When I opened the envelope, I pulled out a check for $150…the exact figure I’d come up with when I thought about a new camera.

When my husband came home, I excitedly told him everything I had experienced…the depression, the prayer, the excitement of opening the envelope. We bought the camera and had some left over for a car repair we needed. What a blessing!

And the thing is, that’s not the only time Jim and I have seen God’s provision in this way. We continue to tithe on my husband’s small check from his part time job. But I don’t stress about money anymore, and my reluctance at writing the tithe check has turned to joy and gratefulness. I know we will have what we need. And we may or may not be blessed with what we want. But that’s OK. My faith has grown through the hard times, and I treasure that growth.

I often think back on that lonely day in my kitchen and know that God hears my cry and cares about me. And I know that someday I will be able to look back at my current situation and see how God worked in my life.

In times like these, I lean heavily on Romans 8:28.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Over the years I’ve learned that God’s definition of “good” and my definition of “good” are sometimes different. In the short term, God’s definition of good may look pretty bad to me. But in the long term, His definition of good is always better than I could have imagined.

Had we not gone through that terrible time in 2001, I wouldn’t have the memory of the despair I felt in the kitchen that day followed by the joy of realizing that God heard my cry and cares about me. And it’s often at our lowest times that we are able to see the love of God the clearest.

So despite our tight financial times, I will continue to tithe joyfully. I don’t know how it all works out, because it seems God’s math is different than my math. But I do know that He is worthy of my trust, and He won’t let me down.



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By , on Dec 6, 2007
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{97 Comments}

  1. I agree with you Lynnae that there needs to be accountability when it comes to the Lord’s treasury. That goes without saying and if there is none, then it falls on the shoulders of the elders and deacons of the congregation to make sure there is.
    That being said, it says in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
    18. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
    In this case the labourer is the preacher, evangelist, whatever you call him. The people of the congregation, if they have done so scripturally, have left the disbursement of the Lord’s treasury to the elders and deacons of the congregation. Of course it is the business of the people of the congregation where that money goes, but there must be no division over where it goes. If the elders cannot reach a unanimous decision over the expenditure, it should not be spent.
    This is a nice forum you have here. I am sad that Mr. McKibben seems to have had such a bad experience with his congregation. Generally speaking, the congregations of the churches of Christ don’t have the troubles with the money because we follow the dictates of the Bible only and not those of men. We always look to the Bible for our directions, whether it has to do with money or whatever.

  2. David McKibben:

    What an interesting notion! Begging for money, without actually begging. The people who are benefiting from this tithing are the churches(read preachers), and the return to the parishoners is so minimal to be almost neglible.
    It would make a lot more sense to be giving that money to a worthwhile charity, rather than furbishing the church with a new stain glass window in the pastor’s office, or getting him a new car.
    There is nothing in the Bible about giving the money to the churches to make them plusher, it was so they would be going out and spreading the word.

    No, unless there is an accurate accounting for the money I am giving the church, and it is going to Good Works, they get nothing.

  3. Lynnae:

    @David – I absolutely agree that there needs to be accountability when it comes to a church budget. On the other hand, I also believe that pastors need to be paid for their work. Often they are on call 24/7, and they have to make counseling calls that I’d never want to make. And they have families to support too.

    If I were going to a church where I had serious doubts about whether the money I was giving was truly going to further God’s kingdom, I’d have to seriously consider whether or not I was at the right church.

    As it is, both the church I went to at the time of the kitchen incident and the church I go to now give a lot back to the community. I know without a shadow of a doubt that the money I give back to the church goes to a worthy cause.

  4. Lynnae:

    @Ryan – I’m sorry that’s been your experience with church. I can’t say I’ve ever been to a church like that. I’ve seen the budgets of both of the churches I’ve attended as an adult, and I can assure you that most of the money goes toward ministries, and not extravagant building projects.

    @Robert – I’m sorry you feel that way.

  5. Robert:

    Oh man. Its articles like this that make me fear for the future of human beings…

  6. Ryan:

    Why are churches always wanting money? There is a church every 3 blocks! Why don’t christians get along well enough to join together? I attended church for 20 years…
    #1… they want money… lots of money… for mortgages, parking lots, buses, trips, etc etc.
    #2… they still want money… more money, lots & lots of money… that’s all they talk about… oh yeah… and they talk about jesus once and awhile, but for the most part it is to keep the club house going.
    I believe in giving, but not to churches. I will give money to organizations that truely help people, not pave a parking lot so that their BMWs don’t get muddy.

  7. While I appreciate everyone’s enthusiasm towards tithing, it is a non scriptural act. In the Old Testament (which we no longer live under) you were required to give 10% of whatever you were prospered.
    But, since the institution of the New Testament we are only required to give what we are able to give with a cheerful heart. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
    7. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

    Please notice especially verse 7. God does not want to force you to give back part of what he has prospered you as you do not always give with a cheerful heart. He wants you to give back what you can give cheerfully.
    I too am unemployed and I fight myself all the time when I write that check. There are those congregations out there that say you MUST give. That is just wrong and goes against what your and my God has told us.

  8. Lynnae:

    @Patrick – I appreciate your comment. I don’t ever want to come across as preaching that this is what everyone has to do, because I don’t believe that. For our family, we believe that God has led us to give 10%, and we give joyfully.

    Though I do believe everyone should give something, I agree with you that attitude is more important than amount in giving.

    I pray that you are able to find a good job soon. Unemployment isn’t ever easy.

  9. Lynnae:

    Thanks, everyone. And it is important to see even the little things as blessings….and to remember that everything is God’s in the first place.

  10. Joe:

    Thanks for sharing your story. The Lord has blessed us in amazing ways also, and I believe that, at least in part, it’s due to being cheerful givers. Remember, it’s not your husband’s work which provides for your family, it’s the Lord who does.

  11. Amy:

    I have always found that when you give, you get. (Not that that’s why I do it!) But God does provide, and also it is best for us to think of ourselves as being blessed and able to give rather than deprived (although we all feel that way at times).

  12. Bev:

    What a wonderful testimony of God’s goodness!

  13. Lynnae:

    @Chris – I totally agree with you. For that one time I did get the check in the mail, there have been many other times God chose not to bless us with extra money. Tithing doesn’t guarantee prosperity. I think someone else mentioned the “prosperity gospel”, and that’s just something I don’t agree with.

    @Mario – “The difference between tithing and offering is that tithing is a practice of faith and commitment while offerings express gratitude to God for the good he’s been to us.” That’s pretty much how I see things, though I don’t think tithing should become a legalistic practice, where people feel that they must tithe, or God will be out to get them. It’s all about your attitude. Thanks for your perspective.

  14. Mario:

    Thank you for your testimony!
    It was a great blessing for me!

    There was a question about tithing that I would like to address.

    I learned through my church’s Tithing workshop that you pay 10% of your gross income to your tithes. The difference between tithing and offering is that tithing is a practice of faith and commitment while offerings express gratitude to God for the good he’s been to us. I stress the differences because sometimes people get confused about the subject. The biggest question during the seminars was “How much do I give?” That question goes about things the wrong way. First of all, we aren’t giving to God, we are returning the money he has given us. It’s through him we receive those blessings so it’s only right that we should change “give” to “return.” As the bible says, 10% for tithes. In offerings, how much you return depends on the financial condition you are in. Give as much as you see fit, basically. :D

  15. I think it is important to recognise that God doesn’t owe us because we tithe. We give generously and joyfully as a response to the generosity of God which far exceeds our giving. Not everyone gets cash through their letterbox!
    In relation to how much to tithe, Paul’s advice is good: if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.

  16. I mean if you weren’t throwing money at the church, you’d have had money.

  17. If you were throwing money at the church, you’d have had money for the camera. It seems like things didn’t go so well once you decided to give away more money.

  18. Lynnae:

    @Carrie & Carol – Thanks for weighing in.

    @Rob – I have always been taught that the tithe is to go to the church you attend, and any extra to other ministries if you choose. But then churches in the states should be supporting churches overseas, too. Unfortunately, it seems that more and more churches are cutting back on supporting missionary churches, because the stateside churches are strapped. Not a practice I agree with, but it seems to be happening.

    @Harris – I don’t see this so much as about the camera as it is about my faith. No matter how little or how much money I have, there will always be something I want, but cannot afford, regardless of how much I give. The important thing to me, regarding this experience, is my realization that God cares about me and about the little details in my life. That’s much more important to me than the camera.

  19. Carol:

    Carrie,
    What a wonderful and uplifting comment.
    The Lord blessed me this past week also, with $ 80.00.
    I was down to one dollar in my cheaking account !!

  20. you cannot afford NOT to tithe is the way I see it. Of course, that is DIFFERENT if God tells you what to do with it, then it’s between you and God but considering that the Bible tells we should give then I have to honestly question people telling me that God tells them NOT to give at all. Kris and I have gone through different seasons in our giving…sometimes God called us to give of our time and our home…we had many kids from the youth group at our house and over for dinner and ya know what? Not once was there not enough food or not enough time. Even when we had very little of both in the world’s eyes.

    When we moved to Arizona we tithed regularly and when it came down to it and I lost my job and we had nothing to go on, we had cash handed to us left and right because “God put it on my heart to give you this” No one knew we were in SUCH financial dire straits except God.

    We got back here and God again put it on our hearts to tithe regularly and we have for almost a year and Lynnae, I have money just APPEAR in my house. Thursday was the most recent example. We had 20 dollars to put gas in and Kris needed to go to the dentist and pay at least 50 dollars for that. I said “Oh Lord I’m not touching the tithe…” (Our tithe is split between the four times we are at church between paychecks…Sunday, Wednesday, Sunday, Wednesday that way we are giving every week) BUT that was the ONLY place I KNEW we still had any cash left…I went through all our envelopes (we are on a cash payment basis right now…) and as I opened the last one, the gas one that I “knew” was empty because I had not put anything in it to begin with…two 50 dollar bills fell out into my hands…Yeah. Ok God I get the point.

    There’s more, Lynnae, you already know about my Christmas money from my Grandfather, and I KNOW that’s because we really have been faithfully tithing.

    Anyway, to the person who thinks you could use that money for other things, you’d be surprised. I find I have MORE money if I DO tithe than if I don’t.

  21. Rob in Madrid:

    Finance and Fat you bring up an interesting point, one I see quite often. If you tight for money should you be giving a large tithe? Along the same lines my brother in law has an interesting and rather unusual delima. He attends a rich prosperous pentecostal style church (and regular teaching on tithing helps alot) at the same time he’s a director for a a struggling homeless outreach. Recently the church put on big push to pay off the mortgage and took up an extra offering. He said the money raised by that special offering would have run his organization for a year. So the question is can he give his tithe to another more needy church or organization?

    It’s not an question to answer. As always I preface all with questions regarding tithing with the comments that ours is a missions church that depends on people in the US and the UK (and Holland to a lessor extent since Rjykie is Dutch) to pay the salaries because we don’t raise enough money ourselves.

  22. Carol:

    Hey Nick, If bullfrogs had wings they wouldn’t bumb their butts when they jumped. But they don’t have wings and they have no choice in the matter. We as people have choices. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s on you.
    For Christians who do tithe, look to Matthew 6, verse 19 to 21. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where theives do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
    By us “laying up” to and for our Church, we know where our hearts are.

  23. Lynnae:

    @Nick – I don’t think I would have felt much better with a new car and a new camera. Money can’t replace a miscarried baby or cure my mom’s leukemia. I think the reason that the money for the camera made me so happy was that it was a reminder of God’s love for me.

    And I could have bought a new car or a new camera with the money I tithed, but we didn’t really need a new car or a new camera. They would have been nice, but they weren’t true needs. And I know some of the money I gave to the church went toward people who truly needed food, clothing, and shelter. And the rest went to keep the church running. And I need a place to fellowship with other believers and learn from God’s Word.

    So, that’s my feeling on the subject. I appreciate your opinion, but as a Christian, I disagree. :)

  24. And Nick comes out swinging!

  25. Nick:

    Maybe if you had saved some of those hundreds of dollars you had been giving to the church, you might have had enough for a really nice camera and a new car, wouldn’t have been depressed in the first place and had enough left over to have a nice christmas with your family. But, hey, whatever makes you feel better…

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