Just Too Much Fun!
How would I know it could be so much fun!?! It seemed more like an obligation… a necessary action… a must-do kind of thing. After all, the Bible says I HAVE to give. Of course I don't HAVE to give, but if I want God's favor and blessing, I have to give... or so I thought.
When we were little kids trotting off to Sunday School with our parents, they gave my younger sister and me dimes to put in the offering. As we got older we gave quarters; then it was a dollar each. Back then, that was a LOT of money. We had to do it because "God said so."
I was always told, "It is better to give than to receive." I didn’t understand that we WERE receiving. After all, Dad was the church janitor. It was his full time job (he had 3 or 4 side jobs.) We benefited directly from the offerings given each week.
We had everything we needed. Our car was old but it got us from point A to point B, most of the time. When it didn't, it wasn't such a big deal. We rode our bikes or walked; after all it was a tiny town.
We had a house. Sure it was old. Cold air came in from the cracks in the floor and through the poor fitting windows and doors. But there was always plastic to put on the screens in the winter and fans for the summer. Sure there were mice and bugs. We got rid of them the best we could. Besides there were some great climbing trees and lots of wild animals (squirrels, 'possums, and an occasional garden snake or two.) It wasn't so bad.
We had nice clothes. Mom was a terrific seamstress and could whip up more clothes in a week than most people could in a month. Every year, my younger sister and I earned our way to church camp. Mom made new summer wardrobes for us.
Mom made everything from scratch. Her pies and cookies were the BEST! The fridge and the pantry weren’t bulging, but we were never hungry (unless we elected to be, and that was our problem.)
So how much does a person have to receive before they recognize it as a blessing? It took me a LONG time. There were times after I married that we couldn’t afford to purchase light bulbs. On more than one occasion, we had no heat, no water or no electricity. We owned a house for a while, but it went into foreclosure. When friends brought bags of groceries, I was ashamed instead of thankful. That generosity was a God thing. But I felt guilty that we weren’t supporting ourselves.
Then the unthinkable happened. My marriage fell apart, and I had two young children to support. Friends took us in until I could get work. My family saw to it that I had money for gasoline, insurance and to help our friends offset the cost of housing us. Still I was miserable because I wasn't taking care of my children and myself. I was far too dependent on others and felt ashamed.
If I’d looked at it without the guilt and shame, I would have seen God blessings. God furnished our apartment. Sure it was with other’s old stuff, but I didn't have to sleep on the floor any longer. When we were given clothing or the church gave us Thanksgiving food or Christmas gifts, He was blessing us. Our rent was paid on time every month. We had food, electricity, water and a car that worked (well, most of the time.) Is that God or what?
I finally made a decision to give my tithe AND some offerings even if it meant I couldn't pay my rent! (Always my biggest concern). Something big was stirring in my heart. I held myself accountable to a good (and very confrontive) friend. If I wavered at all about fulfilling my promise, I called her. I’m glad I did. That’s when the cheerful heart began to surface. Now it is almost like a game between God and me.
I am keeping score – tithes and offerings vs His blessing. So far, He's ahead. I cannot begin to describe how good it is to give with a cheerful heart.
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV
Those years of dread and the sense of obligation have long since gone. Even when I think I am "low on dough" I give. The blessings come back to us in many forms, and we are continually being enriched.
My heart's desire has been to have a home of my own for my children and me. I can honestly say that if I have to stay in the apartment forever, I will do so gladly, as long as I can keep giving. It's just too much fun!
The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and He adds no trouble to it. Proverbs 10:22 NIV
Update: About 4 years after I wrote this article, I bought a home. Giving is still a joy. The score? God is WAY ahead!.
Gail Casteen (c) 2003
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