I’ve not always been a pastor. My first full-time job was at our county’s court house while working part time at law office that eventually became my full time job while going to night school to become a paralegal where I worked 7 years. I remember the first paycheck I received from full-time employment and the joy of writing a check to pay my tithe (donating 10% of your income to the church you’re attending as taught in the Bible) then going shopping for clothes with my sister at Hills Department Store in the Lincoln Knolls Plaza.
While I had been an active volunteer at my church throughout the 7 years working at the law office, one day I became a full time employee at the church in a clerical role that included bookkeeping. (that career transition is another story). As bookkeeper, every Monday morning, I sat at the computer for several hours entering the data from contribution envelopes received that previous Sunday. That’s the way donations got designated to the category as marked and the contributor got a giving statement at the end of the year for tax purposes. It wasn’t unusual to end up having an encounter with God that would bring me to tears during that Monday morning process. These envelopes came from people I knew well and I got an inside view into how they worshipped God with their finances.
Who would think a person would have a spiritual encounter with God to the point of tears while processing tithe envelopes. But it happened often.
- A mother of young children going through a divorce and continues to tithe plus keeps her commitment to give $20 a month to missions. “Oh, Lord, please help this family,” I would pray.
- A widow received life insurance proceeds because her husband just died and she tithed on the proceeds. That will make you cry. Because she’s grieving? Because the church is getting blessed? Because she’s trusting the Lord at an incredibly difficult season of her life? Yes, yes, and yes.
- A prosperous businessman. a gainfully employed laborer at the nearby auto factory, a two-income family, (you fill in the blank) continues to just throw chump change at God’s work or never gives. “Lord, help them to grow spiritually and learn to trust You with their finances.” I would pray for the non-tithers with compassion because neglecting to tithe always comes back to “I can’t trust God to do more with my obedient 90% than I can do on my own with 100% of my income.”
- We had a retired missionary on staff and I knew what he earned weekly because I also wrote the church checks. When I came to his envelope, it would be marked up, first with his tithe, then on the front and the back with missionaries to which he donated. That would make me tear up every time. That also contributed to the passion I carry for missions to this day.
- When our senior pastor would say from the pulpit “please join my wife and I in giving to…” then he’d name the cause, he was modeling good leadership publicly. Then I would get to see it modeled privately on their offering envelope as they followed through and gave as generously as anyone. Friends, that’s leadership.
I remember a day in October, 2002 while opening the mail that I opened an envelope containing a check from our network office to help us start Rockside Church where I now serve. It included an offering from a missionary who wanted to help us start our church. The soberness of that moment that we were now on the receiving side of other’s sacrificial giving caused me to stop in my tracks and sob. (it also causes me to use coupons for church purchases to this day, but that’s another story too).
Three decades later from those Mondays as a bookkeeper to the church I now pastor, someone else gets the blessing of processing contribution envelopes and mailing out giving statements and I choose not to look. But money still makes me cry as I see the faithfulness of God in the lives of people when they trust the Lord with all of their lives … including their money.