"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it..."
- Mal. 3:10
The above is the only place in the Bible where God actually tells us to test Him - the only place where it is not considered a sin to do so.
Its the end of the year for youth group, which means we're on our 7th checkpoint - Others First. A couple weeks back the passage for the lesson was from Deuteronomy 15, another passage promising abundant blessing upon God's people if only they would trust in the Lord's promise that the land He was giving them had more than enough for everyone, and share accordingly with the needy among them:
Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
I'm constantly being challenged to give more. There's a billion opportunities, from the homeless ministries in the city, to missions trips to New Orleans (one of which I'll be going on this summer with the youth group), to the people in Darfur...there's just need, as far as the eye can see.
I don't give nearly as much as I'd like right now, and I keep telling myself its because of my debt and that the prudent thing to do is to eliminate it first and then give from a state of liquidity - in the end I'll be giving more that I would pay in interest otherwise. The real challenge will be to see if I truly can find it in me to give radically when I do break free of my debt.
But I do give some, and that's the key - at least for now. Even if it's only a little - it is the first step in the right direction. I always think of my childhood friend, Aaron. His mom was raising he and his brothers with no father around to help pay the bills, and they struggled more than most to make ends meet. But that lady paid her tithe, on her precious little income. I never knew it at the time, of course, but years later my mom mentioned it by way of pointing out that 10% of a precious little is a whole lot more than 10% of a much larger sum. Its a matter of perspective, not volume, at the end of the day.
As with the rich young ruler, giving is an issue of the heart, not the wallet.