From Obligation to Joy: A Story of Hope

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May 10, 2021

For the past five weeks, our church family has been engaging in a series about biblical generosity called Overflow. We wanted to take a moment and share with you Lauren’s story about how choosing to view giving as a form of ministry changed how she and her husband viewed money. It turned something that seemed like an obligation into an act of worship. Take a moment and read her story below. 

At the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I were two 23-year-olds essentially living off school loans. My husband was in dental school, and I was a dental assistant making $12 an hour. I, too, had school loans of my own at the time and was just kind of floundering. We had felt the pull to make tithing part of our walk with the Lord but had only an extra $45 to give and some months, even this was a stretch.

We had a sweet young Rwandan man come to our church one Sunday to tell us about all of the ways that a ministry in Africa had changed his life, how God had used this ministry to alter the trajectory of his future. I had felt the weight of this and knew God wanted us to commit to helping, even in our lacking. It took me promising my husband that I would give up any and all Starbucks for the duration of dental school (a promise I always failed to keep), but my husband agreed that we could do this, so we made the commitment to give. We committed to do everything we could to make this $45 payment every month. From that moment on, we didn’t miss a month because we decided to let this ministry depend on us and stuck to our word.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

There’s power in making a choice to couple up with God in ministry. Many people view supporting and working in ministry as someone who teaches or goes off to a foreign country to do mission work. Still, a lot of times, ministry support looks like committing to give and be obedient in the follow-through on your financial word. Understanding our giving as an active part of a ministry changed our hearts from tithing out of obligation to viewing tithing as an act of worship and support in what God is doing in the world, whether in Africa or in our own city.

There’s power in making a choice to couple up with God in ministry.

After a few years of giving our $45 a month, we finally graduated from dental school, and my husband began his dental career. Every payday, my husband and I would still give to our same ministry, but by the time we would pay as much as we could to our student loans (yowza!!) and then pay our credit cards and all the bills, we would barely have anything left to give to our Rwandan ministry and our local church. We would still give our $45, but we knew this action was not giving out of cheer but giving out of obligation. It wasn’t giving from a place of abundance but scraping up what was left and giving out of scarcity. There was no joy to be found in this because it wasn’t out of a heart of worship.

After some reflection and sitting with this before the Lord, we made some changes. We knew we were doing right by honoring our commitment to give, but we knew that the details of the giving lacked in something: cheer. We decided to sit down at the dining room table together, log on, and “give” as a family. We would take joy in it. We were worshiping God and honoring Him, and giving back to Him what He had blessed us with.

“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.” — Leviticus 27:30

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” — James 1:17

We began to recognize that everything we had was from God: our jobs, our resources, each other, etc. It was all from God and for God. From that point on, we would sit down and give to Him and His ministries as an act of worship. We began to take deep joy in giving. We no longer gave in “auto draft” like our other bills because this was no “bill.” Though we still technically had it on “auto draft” as a source of accountability, we no longer had our hearts giving in “auto-draft.” But, instead, our hearts were giving in intentionality and abundance. We began to view our tithing and giving in the same regard that we held our house payment, our school loans, our credit cards, we knew something needed to change. As we made this shift in our thinking, we became free of credit card debt and built-up savings we were proud of at this time. However, the most powerful way the Lord blessed us was by giving us a deep joy and the gift of being people who operated with hearts of generosity. We knew we were making a difference. We knew we were obedient, and we were a family that these ministries could depend on for help. The blessing of obedience is peace, and he was gracious to give us that peace.

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” — 2 Corinthians 9:6

What does your giving look like — is it out of obligation or worshipful obedience? Does it produce cheer or dread? I would encourage you to pray over what kind of commitment to giving the Lord is calling you into, and my prayer for you is that you would have the courage and obedient faith to step into that place of worship and cheerful giving.

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