I once asked Frank, a friend and successful financial planner, for the best advice he gave to his clients. I was shocked by his response:
“Eric, I tell all my clients to calculate how much they earn during the first two work days of the month. Then I tell them to give that amount to God monthly. If they say they won’t do it, I won’t take them as a client because this is the basis of all my financial planning.”
His formula was simple: Monthly Income/20 (4 weeks of 5 work days per week) x 2 = Giving Amount
For a financial planner, it was a profound statement of Frank’s belief that financial prosperity is built first on financial generosity.
As a family, we have embraced this belief and taken on tithing (returning 10% of our income to God) as a discipleship practice. In the process, we’ve learned two things:
We live in a culture that makes giving generously very difficult. We are influenced by the idols of consumerism and materialism. Many of us face instability in our finances because of past spending choices, unplanned expenses, or disruptions in our income.
It is important to recognize that the New Testament does not command the practice of tithing but promotes “first-fruits giving.” First-fruits giving prayerfully considers giving to those organizations we are grateful for and/or causes we are broken-hearted over and prioritizes that giving amongst the most important expenditures in our budgets.
While the New Testament does not command the practice of tithing, we should also not disregard it. In the Old Testament, the tithe was to be set aside for the work of the faith community, supporting the worship life and the mission of God in the world. It was designed to be the starting point for generosity.
What makes tithing easy is that it is proportional to one’s income. If you earn a little, give a little. If you earn a lot, give a lot. Tithing removes the guesswork from our budgeting and removes the guilt that comes from thinking we “should be doing more.”
Frank’s advice was nothing if not direct, but, in following it, our family has learned how to simplify our lives and how to adjust to different levels of income while still answering God’s call to generosity. We’ve found that God always provides in both small and significant ways, and we have never gone without our true needs.
Ultimately, we are free in Christ to give as we are led.
God loves a cheerful giver and is not looking for us to give out of guilt of obligation. However, He also invites us to trust Him as the true Giver of all we need for life, which frees us to be generous in our giving to advance God’s mission.