Years ago, our teenage daughter came home late one night from an exclusive Boston fashion show she’d been invited to with several friends. “Look what I won in a raffle!” she said, and held out a gorgeous Yves St. Laurent handbag. I turned over the label and saw the price: $940. “That’s wonderful!” I enthused, secretly worrying that her head might be turned toward high living. “It’s a mark of favor,” I added, not knowing why I said it.
The next evening I sat at my computer, our daughter lounging nearby. Suddenly she piped up, “Last week when I started working at Dunkin’ Donuts my tips were $12. I tithed $3. The next day my tips were $33, and the day after, $45. Then I won the bag! And this …” She’d also won five other extravagant gifts.
Wow. Sure, she’d tithed 25 percent, not the 10 we’d taught her, but this seemed a pretty outsized blessing. Just as God seems to pay special attention to the prayers of young people, we felt he wanted to show our daughter he’d noticed her giving heart.
Beyond the Tithe
Though not a popular sermon topic, money and its various forms—gold, silver, wealth, riches—is among the most oft-mentioned subjects throughout the Bible. We are given much instruction on its proper use and place in our lives. The Old Testament commands God’s people to tithe, with assurance of blessings to follow: “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Psalm 3:9-10).
The New Testament, by contrast, emphasizes the principle of generous, willing giving: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). But we are also warned against covetousness (Colossians 3:5); that jealousy of others’ property amounts to idolatry (Ephesians 5:5); that the greedy won’t inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10); and not to make wealth or worldly success an idol: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” (Luke 12:34).
The message is clear: Our hearts must belong to God, first and foremost, and our giving should flow from that. When we obey, he promises great blessing and to care for our needs. A friend’s marital testimony includes “always being faithful with our tithes and offerings no matter the circumstances. We have refused to cut our offerings during hard times, trusting God to keep us whole, which he has always done.”
This is wonderful. But God goes even further: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), and could instantly give us everything we want. But in his infinite wisdom, he knows we would turn away, forget our need for him, and spend it on our pleasures. And so our finances, like the rest of our lives, become a journey with a wealth of lessons, including trials whose purpose we may not understand. But through it all shine his goodness and faithfulness … and yes, desires met.
Stories of Faith
Sharing testimonies of God’s blessings, whether our own or others’, can be tricky. Some things are best kept secret, lest we appear to glorify ourselves rather than him. With this caveat, humbly directing attention to his goodness and admitting we all still struggle with sin, consider these stories of faith put to the test:
As young marrieds, newly saved, my husband and I determined to take Matthew 6:33—the end of the Sermon on the Mount passage mentioned above—as our life verse. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Our primary ambition would be to please him and to trust that everything else would fall into place. And it mostly has; no one’s life is problem-free. But a great benefit of growing older is being able to look back and recognize God’s goodness at work. Nearly four decades later, we can say with hearts overflowing, God’s way works. He is true to his promises, faithful in all things. The more we put him first in any aspect of our lives, the more he blesses us.
A few high points: The year our daughter won the handbag, 2008, had been a tight one for us. I don’t remember if we gave anything beyond the norm, or were just faithful in tithing. But at one point my husband and I both felt him promise, intriguingly, that “I will bless you.” Within days, he gifted us with two microwaves (one for a rental unit in our tiny business), identical to what we’d almost bought new; two garden beds’ worth of mulch because our local Garden Club overbought for our street corner, which made our yard look lovely and tended; two like-new Cuisinart frying pans from a yard sale, at $4 each—(the blessings came in two’s, like the animals in Noah’s Ark)—and then the family members who held our mortgage called unexpectedly to say they were reconfiguring our rates and loan duration. Savings: $300 per month, enough to buy our first cell phone. Blessings: Gratitude. Finances eased. Desires met.
God loves to bless his children, and is infinitely creative in his ways. We think he enjoyed doing this.
As my husband and I walked together in faith, many opportunities presented themselves to give over and above our basic church tithe. Then came bigger opportunities that stretched our faith. My husband is a lifelong boater, and as our first church embarked on a major building project, we were asked as part of the congregation to make a commitment. We had no spare cash in our budget, and no savings—but oddly, we were both struck with the same thought: sell our 18-foot classic wooden motorboat which my husband had restored, and donate the full amount.
We prayed, followed God’s leading, and soon after were offered unlimited use of a catboat owned by a wealthy member of our church. It seemed God was reassuring us that he wasn’t taking away our love of the water. Several years later, my father-in-law gave us his 34-foot sailboat—but its upkeep wasn’t something we could afford—so God also provided two precious couples to share the use, work, and costs of the boat. All three couples loved hospitality, and during our eight-year partnership, many members of our church had the chance to go sailing. Blessings: Expanded boating (desires met!). Great fellowship. Knowledge of blessing others.
So Many Stories to Tell
At some point, as we heard peoples stories we realized our experiences with generous giving being blessed mightily weren’t unique.
- A pastor went up to a family in need, shook the father’s hand, and gave $100 to them. The next Sunday a man approached and shook the pastor’s hand, leaving a $100 bill. “God blessed me and told me to share it with you,” he said.
- A well-off family contributed $400,000 to their church building fund. The next day their investments experienced an unexpected windfall, and they were able to give another $100,000.
- A godly couple devoted to their church’s missions efforts felt led to give far beyond tithing, year after year, sometimes up to half the husband’s paycheck. They even emptied their children’s college education fund, a significant amount. All three of their children attended college on full scholarships. Blessings: Financial reward. Satisfaction.
- One winter a young, newly married pastor had no painting work coming in and no food in their cabinets. He and his wife took their last $20 to church and said, “Lord, if this is true about your Word, please show us”—and donated the money. That day his mom, not knowing their situation, brought over bags of food and the husband received four calls for jobs, more work than he could handle. Blessings: Needs met.
- Another pastor and his wife have funds withdrawn automatically from their bank account each month for extra giving to areas they feel strongly about: “…God has blessed us with good health, a strong marriage, and family and children that love the Lord. We have enough for our own needs and some left over to bless others and to enjoy getaway vacations that are simple but much needed.”
- A young Massachusetts couple felt led to provide the entire remaining amount needed so a young woman could accompany her future husband on a mission trip, which turned out to be an extreme blessing … and they haven’t worried about income since. Blessings: A better home. Finances eased. Deeper faith. Desires met.
Finally, the primary benefits aren’t always financial. A friend shares how years ago, she and her husband’s newly blended family became knitted together spiritually through their “extra” giving: supplying needy children overseas with monthly support through Compassion International and World Vision, donating to mission trips, and participating in church building campaigns. “It seemed the more we gave, the more the Lord gave us opportunities to give,” she said, adding that God also protected their jobs and gave her husband wisdom and focus for their finances. “You can’t outgive God,” she concluded, and added some wise counsel: “Don’t just give to ministries. Give and pray for them, together. God loves generous givers and cheerful givers!” Blessings: A family unified. Wisdom. Job protection.
Radical giving isn’t always easy. It can be scary to step out in faith when God nudges us to give funds we don’t feel we can spare. But maybe you’ve sensed a nudging toward some over-and-above generosity. Ask for confirmation. If you’re married, does your spouse concur? Then, if you dare … open your heart and hands. “And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10).
No one can outgive God.