The 10% Rule
For the longest time, I thought myself to be the best tither to ever grace this world. Ten percent of whatever I had was for God and ninety percent was for me, period. There was a hard line between what belonged to Him and me, though I understood that He could cross the line if He so pleased.
In a sense, I was a Pharisee in my attitude towards Jesus. Rules made faith so much simpler, and this way, I could treat Christianity as a checklist of do’s and don’ts. Although I knew that salvation came through faith in Jesus, I treated the morals in the New Testament the same way the Pharisees did the Mosaic Laws. I could be a “good” Christian so easily and without having to seek His guidance daily.
This attitude pervaded into every aspect of my life, heavily impacting the way in which I approached my relationship with Christ. Now that I think about it, it was definitely a clear indication of a larger problem that I had in my approach to faith: I was more legalistic with Christianity than I was personal with Christ.
Where Do I Go?
Coming to college was a big wake up call, as I took more charge of my faith and had to find my own communities where I could be honest with where I stood in faith. Getting involved with a campus ministry and Simple Charity challenged me to tackle questions about faith that I had never really thought about before. In particular, Simple Charity’s conversations about the heart of giving began to make me wonder from where my desire to give originated and whether I sought to glorify God or myself.
A passage that stuck with me from one of our meetings is 2 Corinthians 9, which addresses the heart of the giving. Here, Paul tells us of God’s love for a cheerful giver and tells us to give however much we have decided in our hearts, without reluctance or under compulsion. Paul’s emphasis on the heart of giving broke down my world of rules and legality; for what purpose was I giving, if Jesus only desired that I give however much I wanted? If the tithe was now an outdated rule, which new guideline was I to follow to try to stay on my path to holiness and Christlikeness?
Reason to Give
Interestingly enough, though I had thought and presented myself to be a consistent giver, the first time that I tithed in my college career was earlier in my sophomore year at a local church that I had attended since freshman year. Until then, I had been confused as to where I should place my money; should I give to this church, my home church, or elsewhere? The deciding factor eventually was that this church had helped me find a tight-knit community in the midst of a busy college life. I was thankful that, through it, God had placed people in my life that I could depend on when I had problems in my life.
In a way, this revealed a big character about the nature of giving: giving results from a heart of gratitude. When I am grateful for something, I tend to give more to someone who may have shown me grace or someone else who may benefit from grace in a similar fashion to me. But this isn’t the result of human kindness or love; it’s a byproduct of our beings having been made in the image of God. When God overflows your heart with grace, you are compelled to give in thanksgiving to God, and by giving, you become even more grateful to God. It’s a whole cyclical process of being holy, blissful, and generous. It displays how the Lord designed that we find beauty in both supplying and accepting the aid to and from others. This attitude is exhibited even in the early churches, where everyone’s need was met by the surplus of others in the church, and vice versa.
After realizing this, I began to wonder what God could do if I could properly respond to His grace with gratitude. If a heart change triggered by humans in the form of my church could move me so much more than a set of rules that seemed to promise eternal life, how much more could a heart change catalyzed by the almighty God move me? Biblical gratitude doesn’t stop at us being thankful to God for the ways in which He has provided for us through meeting our needs or through the ultimate gift of Christ’s sacrifice. In fact, 2 Corinthians 9:11 says that we have been enriched in every way so that we may be generous to others, which in and of itself displays our own thanksgiving towards God. My response of giving to the church was not only good in the sense that I found belonging in the church, but also in the sense that I was properly responding to the grace that God had poured out on me.
This was a vital moment for me, when I received a reminder of how much God wants our hearts and not our obedience. In the same way that we have not been commanded to be good givers but to be cheerful givers, there does not exist a set of rules for us to follow but a Savior with whom to be in fellowship—to follow and to love with our entirety. The attitude in which we approach our faith with God is so much more important than our actual act of giving.
If I ever really was a good tither, I definitely wasn’t the best follower of Jesus. The heart of worship was absent in this aspect of my life, where I felt as if I could decide what was best for myself and what was best for God. It’s only after I realized that God looks beyond obedience and to the heart attitude that I was reminded of His deep love for us.
Simple Charity Duke has a goal of raising $800 to support global education initiatives on Giving Tuesday. To give, visit their Facebook page by clicking here. Another way to support the students is by sharing this blog post.