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. Mr D:

    Why give money to a church? Why build big fancy buildings just for people to show off their BMWs & new clothes each Sunday? I went to church with my wife for over 25 years (several churches over those years). Each and every week they keep drilling into people to give give give give. They actually had classes and courses and brain washing sessions just to drill it into peoples heads that they must give 10% (or more) to the church. Money gubb’n scum. And people seriously believe that god will then win them a lottery or something if they do. They always seem to rationalize it somehow. “Oh god did this for me or god did that” just because I gave money…. BS!!!! . How naive, how delusional. Look around your own city, your own country and the rest of the world. Please if you feel you must give 10% of your income away, please give it to someone who really needs it.

  2. mj:

    I been tithing 10% for two years and ill tell you it works god has helped me get an opertunity to get more money im very healthy all my bills are paid and ive got no complaints about gods math

  3. While I don’t believe in titheing as a set amount and personally want to grow my charity output, I applaud anyone who does

    Walking the path and talking the path are two different things.

    It is great o hear of good people who do the right thing, especially when it is hard to do!

  4. Rob Madrid:

    Were in the same boat, as we get debt free I’d like to increase our givings as well, my first goal was to give consistantly rather than hit and miss. I’ve also slowly been increasing our tithe with the goal of giving 10% (of the net I never think in germs of gross only net).

    I know from experience that God will provide, often not in the way that we expect though.

  5. Jenn:

    Hi Lynnae, I got here through Get Rich Slowly and really enjoy your writing. I have been thinking a lot about tithing lately. I don’t make much money, so I often think, “I could use this tithe money to pay more toward my student loan or save for a newer car, or to pay off that big bill.” But I know that if I am faithful in giving back to G-d what He gave me in the first place, He’ll take care of me.

    On another note–my parents raised me to put my tithe money into two categories: tithe and offering. Tithe was given to the church we were going to. Offering could be given to any other ministry or special need. I really like that practice, because I can be faithful in giving back to a church that gives me so much, but I also have a ready supply of money if a guest speaker comes in or if a friend is raising support for a missions trip.

  6. Lynnae:

    @Jenn – Thanks for stopping by! I think it’s initially hard to get past the “I could really use this for something else” feeling. But my experience as been that after time, you see God’s provision again and again. And you find your attitude changes. That’s what happened with me, anyway.

    I’ve also heard the same thing about the difference between tithes and offerings. I need to work a little harder on the offering part. When I finally get out of debt, I want to be able to give more than I give now.

  7. Lynnae:

    I love Billy Graham’s view! I hadn’t heard that before, but I’m going to remember it. It’s so true!

  8. Rob Madrid:

    Hi Lynnae Jon’s situation is somewhat unique in that he lives in a very nice part of town and attends a well to do church, but he works with the very hardcore homeless. Unlike the working poor the people he deals with can’t pull them pull themselves up with hard work, many are mentally ill and I think he finds the contradiction between the two very difficult to deal with. They talk about raising money to pay the mortgage off and he talks about raising money to feed people who don’t have enough. It’s hard to deal with. I really don’t think I could do what he does. I also know Konenia supports alot of missions as well.

    My own take on tithing is quite simple, it’s a statement that God is our provider. And Billy Graham put it best when said that most Christians find that 90 goes further than the 100. Our tithe currently goes to our church as well. Our church also gives 10% to missions and 5% to care.

  9. Lynnae:

    Thanks for the ongoing discussion, Rob. I’m finding it very thought provoking.

    “when he does fund raising he gets alot more money for the community than he ever does from the church.” I think that’s incredibly sad, especially considering how well to do his church is.

    I’ve always been taught to give 100% of my tithe to my home church to support it’s operation. What you describe in your brother-in-law’s situation is completely foreign to me. I’ve attended two churches regularly in my adult life. One was a fairly large church, and it took in a lot of money, but it wasn’t into ornate buildings and high salaries. A large portion of what it took in went out to the community. They started a skate church for skater kids, a support group for drug addicts, and lots of other things of that nature. In fact, at the end of the year, they zeroed out the missions accounts, no matter how big they were, by giving to various missions in the community and overseas.

    The church I currently attend is smaller with a small budget. For such a small church, we also put a lot of money into both overseas and local missions. Because of my experience, I’ve never had an issue with giving my entire tithe to the church. I can see where you’re coming from though. I don’t know what I’d do in your brother in law’s shoes.

    I think it always comes down to where your heart is. I think God is more apt to look at whether you’re a cheerful giver, giving to serve Him, rather than whether you’re obeying all the laws of tithing, so to speak.

  10. Rob Madrid:

    He is very correct, when he does fund raising he gets alot more money for the community than he ever does from the church. He doesnt even bother anymore because the effort isn’t worth the return. Kind of sad isn’t it! Unfortunately most Christians give 100% of their tithe to the church and nothing to other organisations that serve the community.

    My own take on tithing is two fold. From a PF point of view living on less is always good. From a Christian point of view I always say that what seperates humans from the animals is intelegence and what seperates Christians from Non Christians is faith and trust in God. I give tithe because it’s a statement of faith in God. Currently I give 5% and when we are debt free we will increase it to 10% (of the net). But more importantly than the amount is giving consistently. Also our church doesn’t raise enough money to meet all our needs to I give 100% of my tithe to the church.

    Our church designates 5% to care ministry and 10% to missions.

    Richard (our pastor) commented that Americans churches are really into buildings.

  11. Rob Madrid:

    This will be quite a long comment

    I asked my Brother in law the following question regarding tithing: He is the director for a cash strapped street mission and attends one of the largests and wealthest churches in the region. Secondly they teach and he believes in strict tithing.

    My Question to him:

    ” …..secondly since you attend a rich wealthy church and lwork for a poor cash strapped street mission he’s an interesting question. Most tithing churches tend to teach the following 10% to general fund and then extra to building fund,mission etc plus an extra you might give outside of that.

    So how do you give? I mean by that Koneinia is a very well to do church, can you attend while designating your tithe to go to missions only? ”

    His answer:

    I have never found anything in the bible that convinced me that I “Must give 10% to the church”. The closest I can see is in Malachi 3:10 if you focus only on the word “ALL”. Is Ray of Hope ‘NOT’ God’s storehouse? Then yes don’t give to us based on this. I believe all Christian parachurch organizations are God’s storehouse doing what the church should be doing. However, our society has segregated everything so worship is “church” and everything else is not. God knows I give 10% donations to Christian charity. It may only be 1 or 2 % to my church, only because it is extremely rich with huge surpluses. I have supported 3 World Vision children for 28 years, I support Promise Keepers who challenge men in their walk with God, I give to Refugees, some Dorothea and I give to Jeramey to help our nephew. I believe that I am being generous in giving more to Oasis every 6 months than all that Koinonia does in a year. They give around .005% to Oasis and .1% to the Dream Centre. They do give to a lot of other organizations, but continue to build their own industry first.

    I have to watch my attitude and I don’t know why God has me in the richest church in KW with the largest congregation, with a great relationship with the pastor, yet unable to get more than a pittance out of them.

    My bible says give to the poor over 400 times and refers to helping less fortunate people over 2,000 times.

    Pastors may be able to exegesis out of scripture how tithe or the first 10% is to be to the church and the church will then distribute it proportionately to the parachurch organizations. If this is true, then why are churches getting bigger with more new state of the art electronic equipment and buildings while parachurch organizations struggle more to do twice as much with less and less?

    Hope this answers your question.

    Wow!

    I’ll put my thoughts in next comment

  12. Hang in their guys, I know exactly how you feel and your dedication to God is exceptional. I have been off work for about 9 months after a long term illness, despite previously being fit and healthy and running marathons. To make matters worse my wife, who i was caring for is also very ill. Neither of us can work and the money ran out from my employment two months ago. God likes statements of faith and we both felt that we should continue tithing despite no formal income. We feel like the little widow who gave her two copper coins when all around everyone else was giving huge sums. However that’s not the point, what you guys are doing is much more valuable to God and whilst those who aren’t Chirstians think we’re mad for doing this, we know that God always provides and he has in the past and he will for you both (if he hasn’t already). I’ll be praying that this week you will see just how great God is at providing for your needs. I only just found your blog and I think it’s great to have a Christian perspective on finance keep posting!

  13. Maranda:

    This is a subject I have studied for a while..I also was brought up in a church where you gave from your heart. What I found were several scriptures in the bible about tithing, some saying 5%, some 10%, et cetera. I think that they just took the highest number. I think that we need to not be so concerned about money and get concerned about giving our time and talents as well. I think that some people give excessively in the offering tray just to make up for where they lack!

  14. Bev:

    I’ve been enjoying reading above comments, but ran out of time to get them all. That is a LOT of comment!
    Want to mention a comment at a Bible study when one woman commented: “Do you realize how much 10% would be?” Apparently her family income was too much for the tithe idea.
    Another one’s reaction was “We can’t afford to NOT tithe.”

    But what I wanted to mention is we have specific suggestions that I think should be mentioned in a sermon when it comes to stewardship: Malachi 3:10 “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

    Again in Proverbs 3:5-10 (all worthwhile, but) I am quoting 9 and 10: “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats wil overflow with new wine.”

    These are from New American Standard translation, and they are clear promises that we can claim. If you wonder, give it a try.

  15. Fuller:

    I just stumbled upon this website. It is very interesting. I find out that when i tithe , somehow I received more than enough to meet my needs and save some. Even when there seems to be no way out. I am now debtfree except for two hundred dollars that i will pay of January 2008.
    I am a believer in tithing

  16. Lynnae:

    Edi – I completely agree that people can become legalistic about tithing, and that’s not good. I really think that each person needs to do what the Lord leads them to do. I think it’s good to give something, because it reminds us that what we have isn’t ours to begin with.

    My husband and I (especially my husband) have always felt led to give 10%, but I wouldn’t recommend that for everyone. It’s better to give a little joyfully than to resent giving more.

  17. Edi:

    I’ve enjoyed poking around your website – I imagine we think pretty similarly to debt and finances.

    Here is one thing to consider regarding debt and tithing. An alternative way of thinking…I’m not sure I agree with it totally – but worth considering.

    I totally believe it’s Biblical to tithe – to give a portion of our earnings back to God. I acknowledge that He is the owner of all we have.

    But when a person is immersed in debt – they are not giving God from their own earnings – they are “stealing” from those they are in debt to. If you are ears over head in debt – I’m talking where you cannot meet your minimum monthly payments on credit cards, mortgage, car whatever, that’s not YOUR money to be giving to God.

    If I take $5000 from my neighbor b/c I don’t have $5000 this month for my bills that is ok – the bill collector doesn’t care where the money comes from.

    But if you cannot even make your house payment – you are giving God “stolen” money. That money is owed to your mortgage company.

    We can become so legalistic about the tithing issue that we miss the point of it.

    If you are able to make your minimum payments but are still deeply in debt – I think it’s ok to give less than 10% or whatever normal amount you are used to giving. God is more concerned about our heart condition, our relationship with Him and our attitude.

    It’s not a matter of “putting God first” or putting Him “last”…God isn’t interested in giving us something that isn’t ours.

  18. Rob in Madrid:

    Edi you bring up a good point about tithing. My own personal opinion is the same, if you up to year ears in debt you need to focus first on getting out of debt, tithing comes secondary. Which brings up a second point, I think the church puts too much emphasis on giving 10% and not enough on giving consistently. I ran the numbers in our church and if everyone gave a smaller but more consistent amount we’d be able to double our budget. Of course not everyone attends every week so it would be prorated, but the point is still the same. Focus less on the amount and more on giving consistently.

    I’ll post a couple of interesting tithing links from Joel Maxwell if I can find it.

  19. Edi, I think you have hit on the essential point – we worship God in the way that we use ALL of our finances. All of our financial dealings should be governed by a commitment to Christ and the morality revealed in Scripture.

  20. Ryan, if you are concerned about the ethics of your church’s budget – find another church. Most churches have business meetings throughout the year where the finances are revealed to all who attend. I can assure you that my church is not wasting money on “fancy buildings”.

    I hope that you are giving faithfully to the poor and needy if you believe that is a priority. Personally, while I believe the church should help the poor and needy, a church does not exist for that purpose.

  21. Ryan:

    why do churches need such big fancy buildings?
    Most of the money goes to keep the club house going.
    How much money goes to help the poor and needy? … not very darned much! This is not the exception.. but the rule. Look at the all the mega churches sprouting up.

  22. Lynnae:

    @Ryan – I’d really love to see some statistics to back that up. Mega-churches are becoming more common, but the vast majority of churches are still smaller churches with smaller budgets.

    That being said, at one time I did go to a larger church (though not a mega-church by any means), and larger churches mean larger budgets for more ministries.

    Have you ever seen a church budget? The large church I went to zeroed out their excess money at the end of the year. Do you know where it went? To people who needed money.

    Churches with more people need bigger buildings to accommodate the people. Larger sanctuaries are needed for larger congregations, more Sunday School classrooms are needed for the children, more nursery space is needed for the babies.

    However, bigger churches also tend to have more ministries. The large church I went to had ministries for men, women, children, teens, a church at the skate park to reach the skater kids, a ministry for recovering addicts, and many more.

    The church I go to now helps people who stop in and need help throughout the week. We provide meals every Sunday for the homeless. Christmas baskets for those who don’t have much at Christmas, and the list goes on.

    I’m sure there are probably churches out there where it’s all about money and big buildings. But I really don’t think those churches are in the majority. I think the majority of churches just want to point people to Jesus, and often that comes through serving others.

  23. Almost everyone can survive on 90% of their income and doing so and giving the rest to a cause that you believe in, will make you more content.

  24. Stephen Davis:

    “Prove me now and see..” says God. Then He says later….”they that tempt God are delivered.” You know, it is the same Hebrew word for both sentences. They should both be prove or tempt. As it is now, it helps the weaker minded of our brethren who have money extorted from them to chase a non existant promise. You should give joyfully to the poor rather than to the tares amongst the wheat.

    Exodus 16 and 17 is what God references when He says to ‘tempt me now’ as you did in the wilderness after you tithed your manna into the pot.

    Isaiah 33:15 He says to despise the gain of extortions (NIV) which is ‘ma’ashaqqah’ which is very near to ‘ma’aser’ which is tithe.

  25. Sal:

    Great posting! My wife and I have seen G-d’s work when we tithe and when we don’t. I’m glad someone has the courage to give G-d his credit he helps them!

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