It was two years ago almost exactly.
Our church was having a 2-week tithing series called "The Blessed Life" where we talked a bit about our vision and the provision needed to accomplish our audacious dreams. Along with casting a culture of generative generosity, we showed two videos by Robert Morris that pierced me to the core. The 1st week was called "The Principle of the First" and the 2nd week was called "The Principle of Multiplication". After years of hearing about tithing, I wasn't expecting to learn anything new.
And I didn't need to.
Heidi and I tithe faithfully so we needed no convincing. But what I didn't know that I needed was conviction. I needed to move beyond the duty of it. I needed to feel the worship of it and the exchange of affection in it. I needed to feel its sacred place in my life, something more than an empty ritual. I needed to remember the "why", the white hot why as some people refer to it.
I remember feeling moved deeply as Robert Morris simply laid out the Biblical idea of tithing that started back in Genesis with Cain and Abel. How I could have missed it in that story I'll never know. The text clearly says that Cain brought "what he wanted when he wanted" and Abel brought God his firstfruits. The concept of bringing God my firstfruits was infused with fresh life. It made so much sense as it symbolized the way I wanted my life ordered in every other arena. I wanted God to get the first of my day, the first of my energy, the first of my love, the first of my resources, the first of my requests, the first of my reliance. This idea of tithing transcended money and exposed how often God slips to a distant place in the pack way behind whatever surfaces as first.
Tithing has always hurt a bit for me. I can say it is my pleasure and privilege to give, but honestly, there is a dull ache setting aside that sum of money each paycheck. My flesh fights the transaction with every excuse in the book. But I've noticed that as I press through the pushback, something is established that sets a precedent in every other area of my life. God will be #1. Matthew 6 says that "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." It's true. My treasure doesn't follow my heart, my heart follows my treasure. And when my treasure honors God first, my heart begins to honor him first as well. My worship follows my wallet. My meaning follows my money.
For the first time in my life, I didn't just give our 10% to God mindlessly, I thought about it deeply and it became very special to me. Every paycheck became a opportunity to renew my vows afresh to God that he was my First Love and that he would always be First Place in my life. My finances would showcase my faith. I would not give out of emotion, but devotion. I would not give out of convenience, but obedience. This was a game-changer.
This weekend our church is sharing the cornerstone concept once again with our body. There are many who will see it as redundant, but to me it's a stone of remembrance to remind me of my creeds and the place God holds in my heart. It causes me to revisit a place and time in my life when God showed himself powerful and personal to me...and I'm able to reflect on what he's done in my life and what he longs to do.
In our culture, we just move on. But in Hebrew culture they saw the value of rehearsing the same prayers and revisiting the same places to keep the story alive. Passover wasn't new or different or fresh every time...it wasn't meant to be. It was meant to cause everyone to remember the the meaning behind the symbols and to reorient everyone's life to orbit once again around the familiar story of the Exodus where God showed himself powerful. It never got old because people need opportunities for remembrance. Communion is like this. We don't spice it up...we just let the bread and wine do what it's meant to do, to make us stop what we're doing and to remember the death of our Lord so that we don't forget his sacrifice. That's sacred. As creatures prone to wander and forget, we need symbolic rituals to keep the main thing the main thing.
I tithe to remind myself that God is first. I tithe to bow in worship to his preeminence. I tithe to align my life and bring things into their proper order. I tithe to orient my heart and to show it what it's to follow. I tithe to resource the kingdom before I resource my lifestyle. I don't want to rob God of what is rightfully His, but I also don't want to rob myself of the blessing he promises when I put him first and foremost on the throne of my heart.
I will never forget this day two years ago. It did not change what I gave, but it drastically changed how I gave...and it's made all the difference.
"God, I want to bless you so that you can bess me so that I can bless others."