Editor’s note: This column by the late Bev Davis originally was published April 4, 2001. Davis passed away Aug. 1, 2010, of a sudden illness.
A friend and I got into a discussion about money and the church. Regardless of the denomination or religious affiliation, no church, synagogue or temple can function without money.
Bring up the subject, however, and brows furrow, lips curl and tempers flare.
There’s a lot to be said for the benefits of the biblical principle of tithing — giving 10 percent of one’s income to the church, synagogue or temple.
An Old Testament writer advised, “Bring your tithes into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house.” The tithing system of that era involved 10 percent of everything that contributed to one’s livelihood. Farmers planted and left unharvested a percentage of their fields, so travelers could glean fields for food during their journey.
Animals used for the sacrificial system also represented financial sacrifice, because these lambs, goats and bulls were the fiscal means by which many people survived.
The system provided care for widows, orphans and those in need. When practiced faithfully by all members of a community, there was no need for governmental intervention to feed the hungry and care for the poor.
Early New Testamant churches followed the same plan, putting into place guidelines to prevent people from taking unfair advantage of the system. Those who could earn their living were expected to do so.
My friend, who is a member of a small flock, said he believed if everyone in his group gave a full 10 percent of their income for one year, this assembly could function for the rest of its life without another dime. It occurred to me that probably would be true for just about any church.
In my own struggle with faithfulness in giving, I have seen the miraculous happen. When I looked at my expenses and saw no way to give 10 percent, but did so anyway, there was not only enough left to pay the bills; there was extra! Go figure. When I have hoarded my 10 percent, ironically, I struggled all month and come down to the 31st in want.
I’ve learned that when it comes to giving, it’s not about money; it’s about trust. Do I trust God enough to bless the 90 percent I have left and make it meet my needs? Did the cruse of oil in the temple really last eight days when it was supposed to last only one? Did Jesus really feed 5,000 people on a meager amount of food or not?
I believe the stories are true. They must be. They’ve lasted thousands of years, and when I apply the truths they illustrate, I am blessed.
It’s easy to confine religion to spiritual realms alone, but if we are going to feed the hungry, provide medicine for the sick, offer religious instruction, preserve places for believers to fellowship together and maintain sanctuaries for worship, our religion will ultimately have to engage our wallets and purses.
When our place of worship thrives, we all benefit. When we withold from its stores, we not only rob God; we steal from ourselves something that is more precious than money — our faith in a God who gives more abundantly than we can ever appreciate.