A few weeks ago I helped with a pottery camp. Although it was very warm and quite exhausting, it was a great week–the kids had a blast, and the fellowship with the other adults was sweet, and I’m glad I did it and hope to do it again.
Another perk was that I made some money, meaning I had money to tithe. If you tithe weekly from your paycheck, this may not sound exciting. The paycheck comes, and a little is taken out for church, and it’s just part of the routine. Until, that is, weeks pass with no paycheck, and the plate is passed every week and you have nothing to offer.
I am familiar with Jesus pointing out the widow who gave all she had, and in a way, I’m not as impressed with that story as I could be. I hate to say it, but when you don’t have enough to pay bills and you’re facing financial ruin, it isn’t that hard to give. It sounds wrong, but just stay with me a minute and see if I can clarify. If you don’t have enough to live on, whether you keep it all to yourself or only keep ninety percent of it or even give it all, you still don’t have enough to live on. All three cases take a great amount of faith and a clear realization that survival is of God. Income or not, God sustains us.
For some reason, God has recently placed my family in the story with the ever-filling oil jar, so to give God his money in the form of a tithe isn’t hard. We are pretty confident that the little we have will continue to be enough, so tithing doesn’t hurt at all. It’s actually rather exciting.
I think it’s harder sometimes for people who have plenty to give, and I speak from past experience. They have dreams of how to spend their money–vacations, homes, vehicles, repairs–and when they give, some of their dreams have to shrink. My family is in survival mode, and God seems to want us to survive, so we don’t really give up anything when we give. As impatient as I am for my husband to work, the lack of money isn’t the hardest part, because so far God has put into our hands every penny we need to keep going, and usually I don’t doubt that will continue. Sure, I miss luxuries, but I don’t miss them as much as I expected. (Okay, I’m tired of seeing awesome vacation photos on FB, but…I have a thing for beaches and adventures, and I miss those. What can I say?) Of course I experience moments of panic where I fear we’re going to be homeless and starving, but not often.
Talking at camp with another mother in a less-than-ideal financial situation, we were laughing over our vehicles, which are rather pathetic-looking things that run like tanks. God has heard a lot of prayers over both our vehicles. I suspect our situation will be like the manna in the wilderness–the moment my husband’s work situation changes, I bet my car will die never to run again. The stock market may fall and our retirement may no longer grow. The jar will no longer fill by miraculous means, and we’ll go back to more normal means of sustaining ourselves, namely a regular paycheck. The wild stories of God’s providence will become less wild. And that’s okay–it’s still God who provides, whether by normal means or otherwise. The trick is to remember that and remain thankful. It’s easier to remember to be thankful when events are so clearly bizarre and supernaturally from God’s hand. In the routine of regular income, it’s easy to take God’s providence for granted. I hope not to do that.
This week the plate will pass without anything from our hands, but that’s okay. God provides–for us, for his church, for his people. Not always in the way we expect, but in the right way for his plans. I’ve railed against God’s plans for my family in the past couple years, and I’m not proud of that, but I’m also thankful to see how the journey is shaping my children’s character, changing my priorities, and preparing us for whatever God has in our future. For today, I am thankful. I hope to remain thankful regardless of our situations, but perhaps it’s enough to be thankful today.