“For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” 2 Corinthians 8:12
This passage caught my attention this morning. In context Paul was bragging to the Corinthians about the generosity of the churches of Macedonia. Out of their poverty they had given of their own accord in abundance to further the work of the Kingdom.
I often hear people say they have nothing to give. They are focused on their lack not on what they have available. I know at times I have done the same. I have been a single parent, homeless and jobless during my walk with God. I know what it is like to have lack.
I also know that God is our provision. He has proven this time and time again. When asks, He will provide. It may not look like we think it should but He will. It also doesn’t usually make any sense.
I remember back in 2008 when the economy crashed. My husband lost his job. He was the primary bread winner in our family. He also worked a lot of overtime which was not taken into consideration for his unemployment. It was definitely a hit to our budget. He suggested out of desperation that I stop giving so much to the church. At the time, I was pretty good at paying tithes, but at times I would let my budget override God’s instruction.
I sat down with the budget to see where we could make cuts. What I saw made both of us realize how important the tithe was in our budget. I showed him the months where I was faithful, there was money at the end of the month. The times where I robbed God, our bank account would often be in the red, even if only on paper. I couldn’t explain where the funds came from or how, but consistently it was true.
God wasn’t asking for more than we had. He was asking for us to give the tithe and trust Him to provide with the 90% that was left. When I was faithful to Him, He was faithful to us. Let me be clear, He is always faithful, but He won’t bless what I try to do my way.
There are two stories that quickly come to mind about how God uses what we have in our hand.
“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”” Luke 21:1-4
Jesus showed the generosity of the poor widow woman who gave little. Yet she gave all she had. He compared it to those who only gave out of their surplus. Even though it looked like more in the natural, it was less because of the abundance they had available to give.
The other is an Old Testament story with the prophet Elisha. God used what she had to meet her needs. My pastor pointed out today that the vessels ran out, but the oil didn’t.
“Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few. And you shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out into all these vessels, and you shall set aside what is full.” So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they were bringing the vessels to her and she poured. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not one vessel more.” And the oil stopped. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”” 2 Kings 4:1-7
We all have something to give, we are called to tithe. God blesses us, He even says “test Me” in this area. He promises as we give it will be given back. If our income is really zero, there are other areas we can give, our time, talents, testimony. But if you have any type of income, you are robbing God and shortchanging yourself in the process of you aren’t tithing on it.
““Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts. “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:8-12
“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”” Luke 6:38
It’s not that we give to get. I have never given $1,000 and immediately received it back. Not that it can’t happen, nothing is impossible with God. It is just that when we are faithful God provides for what we need. Sometimes it is an unexpected check, a promotion or raise, or lower bills than expected.
We cannot discount what we have to give, just because it is smaller than what we would like to give. When we are faithful with the small God can trust us with more. When we are not faithful with the little, just as we see in the parable of talents, even what we have is taken. We just need to give what we got, and let God work out the rest.