Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore
Four years ago, I had a heated argument with my family and moved out on my own. At around the same time, I began attending a small family church.
The pastor’s wife invested a lot of time in mentoring me. She studied the Bible with me weekly, and often lent me her listening ear. I was incredibly grateful. I did not know how to repay her, so I started tithing to the church out of a heart of gratitude towards her; I did not want her to invest in me without any returns.
The other reason I started giving was because I saw that the church was small, and every cent of the tithes and offerings collected from church members counted. I remember one month, our pastor announced that we did not have enough to pay rent for that month. Though I was not rich and did not earn a high salary, I decided to prioritize tithing over other finances.
Eventually, I reconciled with my family, and began contributing to the family expenses again. However, this additional expense strained my finances. Yet, I was still determined to continue tithing, as I felt grateful for the help that the pastor’s wife had rendered me during the hard times, and I did not want the finances of the small church to be affected.
At this point, I was not tithing out of a personal conviction to please the Lord. Instead, I was tithing to please people around me (the pastor’s wife, the people at church). Tithing on my own strength and for the wrong reasons, I soon started to grumble. Though I continued giving the 10 percent that my church recommends each member to give, I was inwardly unhappy.
I also began to find fault with what our usher—also the person in charge of collecting tithes and offerings—would pray before the collection. She would typically say something along the lines of, “I pray we will all give with a cheerful heart.” However, her words meant nothing to me. I would continue to grumble in my own heart, thinking to myself, “As long as I give, it’s okay . . . It does not really matter whether my heart is cheerful, as long I’m not hindering church finances, it should be fine.’’
What I Had Been Getting Wrong About Tithing
But God was concerned about my attitude of giving. He did not give such grumbling a chance to linger. During my quiet time one day, God mercifully showed me that the prayers the usher prayed were from the Bible. The final part of 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 struck me, where it says that we should not give “reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
As I studied this verse, I felt as if God was lovingly saying, “I want you to be cheerful as you give. Do not give out of compulsion. If you are not cheerful, please keep your money. I don’t want it. I will rather have your heart.”
I felt guilty. I realized the truth—God only wants my heart. He wants my attitude to be made right before Him. God does not desire my money; His desire is for me to love Him with a heart of conviction, and to give Him a place above everything else in my heart. I felt a tender, fatherly love flowing out of the words of the Bible, saying that I am more precious than anything else in the world.
So why had it been so difficult for me to give cheerfully from my heart? Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). I realized that I did not love God enough. Outwardly, I declared that I loved God, but inwardly, God was revealing to me the true condition of my heart.
Tithing Is An Act Of Surrender
I learned to see that tithing is not mere grudging obedience; instead, it reflects how ready I am to surrender my heart. A surrendered heart is a heart that is cheerful in giving, and God can do far more in our lives when we live with a surrendered heart.
Ever since God revealed to me His desire for my heart, I no longer grumble about tithing. Though my finances are still tight, 2 Corinthians 9:6 encourages me: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” God’s kingdom is not about material things of the world; it is about eternal values that last forever. As we tithe generously, we may not see financial returns in our bank accounts, but we definitely reap returns that are of eternal value.
As I surrender tithes to the Lord even when I am financially tight, I have learned far more than when I am rich. I have learned what it is like to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and I am grateful to experience God’s truth in His promises each time I surrender. Slowly and surely, He is teaching me to trust more in Him, and each time He does that, my love for Him only grows more.