I started tithing while I was in graduate school, which was an interesting time to start because I have never been closer to the poverty line. My tuition was paid for, but my stipend for books and living expenses was only $600 a quarter. And more than $200 of that went to rent. So, after my tithe and my rent, I was trying to stretch about $300 out across an entire quarter.
I ran out of money with three or four weeks left in the quarter. It wasn’t life-threatening, because I knew that if I really had to I could ask my dad for money and he would gladly send me some.
But I also knew that that probably wasn’t what I was supposed to learn from my new commitment to tithing. So, one night after looking into cupboards and a refrigerator that were all but empty, I got down on my knees and prayed, “God, for the first time in my life I am trying to be obedient with my finances. But right now I don’t know what to do, and if you could encourage me somehow I’d be grateful.”
The very next day, when I picked up my mail, there was a check for some work I had done several months earlier while I was on a break. I had long since forgotten about it because at the time I did the work it seemed like a trivial amount. The check was for $23 and change, and $23 never felt like so much money. It covered my next trip to the grocery store.
Two weeks later, same thing. No money. Food almost gone. Similar prayer. “God, here I am again. I am ashamed to have to ask you for some encouragement again so soon, but I could really use some.”
The next day, I was walking across campus, past the office of a man I knew from my previous school who worked in the athletic department. I thought, “You know, I should drop in and say ‘hi’ to Steve. It’s been a while.” I popped into his office, and we had a great chat, catching up on a couple years’ worth of changes in each other’s lives.
As I was getting up to leave, he said, “Oh, by the way, CBS is broadcasting our basketball game tomorrow, and they asked me to round up some help. If you’re available, I could use you. I think they’re paying $50.”
Fifty dollars! That would easily get me through the end of the quarter, with plenty to spare. It could just as well have been a million dollars for how happy and relieved I was.
Now, I know the skeptics will attribute all of this to coincidence. After all, that check for $23 was something I had coming to me. It’s not like God made it fall out of the sky so I could find it on the sidewalk. But it was all about God’s timing. I had completely forgotten about it, and God used it at just the right moment to encourage me.
And I had walked past Steve’s office 100 times without ever once thinking that I should go in. Why did I get that prompting at the perfect time? That’s not a coincidence. It was the Spirit setting a divine appointment to encourage a young believer who was, for the first time, trying to be obedient with his money.
I’m not suggesting that because I was tithing, God owed it to me to provide money every time I felt squeezed. Nor am I saying that He has always done so or will do so in the future. No way is that what I’m saying. But I do know that God is faithful and loving as well as sovereign, and since that time I have never had any trouble tithing.
What stories can you share about God’s providence as you responded generously with your treasure?
For a great book on Generosity and Treasure, see Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle.