Tithing and the Single Parent
(Part of the His Word Never Says Unless…Unless series)
As a single mother who lives only on a teacher’s salary (and now a private school salary, which is even less), I know how hard it can be to try to make ends meet.
Yes, there are plenty of two parent households living on one salary, but usually those salaries are far more substantial than that of a single mother. Furthermore, with 1 adult working and 1 adult at home, there are meals made, time to clip and use coupons, time to take care of clothing and other household duties, and the like. As a single parent, I often find myself buying convenience meals because I am so exhausted at the end of the day. When I do have the chance to clip a few coupons, I usually find the grocery store shelves picked clean of the really good deals, thanks to the extreme couponers. It is difficult to take care of the house, and clean the laundry as often. (I embarrassingly admit that there have been times when I actually bought clothes because everything was dirty.) Simple things that are not particularly burdensome for a two parent household can become quite expensive for a single mother. If something goes wrong with the car or the house, there is no husband to tinker around and fix the problem.
Sadly, it seems that more and more single mothers that I talk to are receiving little to no child support.
Knowing all of this, surely God understands when we just cannot manage to pay our tithes. That few hundred dollars or so a month can really make a difference when you are living paycheck to paycheck. He is such a good God, and loves us so much, that He must realize we NEED that money. We have to pay bills and buy clothing and food. We have to put a roof over the heads of our children. We have to buy health insurance and life insurance (what if something happened to one of them…or to me?). So, God doesn’t really expect me, a single mother, to faithfully tithe to Him…right?
Not according to His Word.
Let’s first look at what He says about tithing in general:
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:8-12
It is clear here that God considers a lack of tithing the same thing as robbery. Not only that, He also says those that are not tithing are cursed with a curse. He also makes it known that even only partially tithing is wrong when He says bring the FULL tithe into the storehouse.
Wow. Truthfully, this frightens me. Yes, it is Old Testament, before Jesus took the sacrifice for our sins, but still, this scares me. Of course, there is only one reason for my fear – my guilt. I have not always faithfully tithed, nor have I given what I felt was the right amount (more on that in a minute).
But here’s the thing. Look at what God says…just look. I am always floored by His patience and His love for us. He goes on to give us a second chance! And not just a second chance, no! He literally challenges us, basically dares us, to go ahead and start giving to Him the way we should. Then, He says, step back and watch what happens as I bless you and bless you and bless you. Seriously? After all my messing up and robbing You, Lord, You are still going to bless me until there is no more need? Thank You, Lord. Just, thank You.
Don’t think He is satisfied just to bless us until we have no more need. No way, He is bigger than that. He says He will rebuke the devourer for us. Who or what is the devourer? In this case, it most likely means locusts, those worms that eat everything, or any other pestilence that eats crops. God will stop them from destroying everything. We don’t have quite the same problems with bugs now (unless you farm), but we definitely do have a devourer that destroys our fruits. It’s called debt. Debt devours our paycheck. It devours our savings. It keeps us from seeing the real fruit of our labors, because it ever taking. When I read this verse, I feel like God is paralleling the devourer with my debt. It is as if He is telling me, “You do what I tell you, give to Me, and watch not just how I make sure you have enough, but I will also tackle all of that debt you have amassed.”
Why Would He Do That?
He is just so good to us. When I think about it, it literally brings tears to my eyes. It is far beyond my comprehension as to why He would turn around and bless the people – His OWN people – who were robbing Him just a minute ago. Still, I do see some of where He is going with this. Notice, at the end of this verse, He says the nations will call us blessed when they see all of these things come to fruition. Imagine that. Imagine Christian single mothers doing so well that others look at them and call them blessed! What a testimony that would be! Single mothers, under the care of our LORD, faithfully tithing Him, even when it is so hard, and He making good on His promises. The one thing I notice in these verses is the fact that the only thing we do is follow His command. Nothing else. He doesn’t give advice on how to make more money. He doesn’t send down a Heavenly budget sheet. He doesn’t send the Old Testament people a giant can of bug spray, nor does He become a debt consolidation advisor. No. HE does it all. There is nothing of man’s doing, other than trusting His commands. (And isn’t that everything, in the end?) When the blessings start pouring out, all the glory goes to Him! I cannot even begin to think how lives could be changed when people see Christian Single mothers living a blessed life while literally giving all the glory to Him.
He basically says it again in Luke 6:38 (NIV)
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
That is a wonderful metaphor there (sorry, the English teacher in me just can’t resist). He is using a measuring cup to make it visible to us. A good measure – no cheating. Pressed down – like when you press down flour – you can fit a lot more. Shaken together – to get all of the air out and make even more room. (Kind of the opposite of a bag of chips today. Running over – can you see it. Put in your lap – again, not your doing, He does it and just drops it in your lap. If we give with this kind of enthusiasm, He will give even more to us. Beautiful.
So, Just How Much Do I Tithe?
Good question. I am certainly no theological expert, but I do think that the 10% from the Old Testament is no longer the rule. Jesus freed us from the rules, and now it is all about the heart. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 says
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Good news, right? Now we can go back to the “I’m a single mom” excuse. How could we possibly give cheerfully when we are so strapped? He only expects us to give a little bit. There are a few problems with this thinking. First, the verse BEGINS by saying if you sow big you will reap big, so it is safe to assume the opposite is true. Give a little and you will only get a little.
You see, it is all about your heart. How much do you trust Him? How much faith do you put in His Word?
And, before we pull the single mother card, we need to take a look at this verse:
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4, NIV)
Look at what Jesus honored. He honored the fact that she gave ALL. SHE. HAD. TO. LIVE. ON. Whoa! What? Why would she do that? Why would He honor that? How is she going to live? How will she feed her children? Isn’t that irresponsible? Well, if you gave all you had to live on to something earthly, like a money making scheme, then yes, that is extremely irresponsible. But this single mother gave it all to Jesus – the one who literally gave it all for her. Can you imagine the looks on the faces of the rich standing there? They so proudly dropped their big gifts into the box. Then, here comes this poor single mother. Maybe they pitied her. Maybe they ignored her. (That is often how single mothers are looked at in the church.) But Jesus, our Lord, pointed her out! He saw her heart in her offering. She was trusting God to take care of her – REALLY trusting Him. It shamed the rich standing there, and it shames me right now. She gave all she had. I find it hard to give 10%.
Reading this verse, it makes it clear that Jesus does not “expect” the 10% from the Old Testament. Instead, He expects it all, even from a single mother. He tells us to examine our hearts (pray about it) and then give cheerfully. Give some, or give all, it is all about how much we trust Him to take care of us.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)