I remember mowing Mrs. Taylor’s yard as a 12 year old and getting the biggest payday I ever had – $10! That was a lot at the time. I continued down the street with my push mower and knocked out Mrs. Johnson’s and Mrs. Ludlam’s yards as well. It wasn’t just mowing, but edging, weed-eating, and weeding the flower beds. These ladies expected an immaculate yard. At the end of the afternoon, I made $30! When I got home, I had to mow our yard without pay. My dad said it was part of my “room and board”, whatever that meant (I totally get it now). I’ll never forget the conversation with my dad that day. “How did you do, son?” I replied, “I made $30.” “That’s not what I’m talking about. Did you do a good job on those widow ladies’ yards?” You see, a job well done was far more important than bragging about how much I had been paid. That taught me integrity and pride in a job well done. Then he said, “I need $2 for the gas you used.” You see, profit only came after expenses. That taught me the value of a dollar. “Be sure and clean up the mower and put it up in the shed.” That taught me responsibility and honoring another person’s property. What he said next was more important than anything else I learned that day. “And remember, you owe Jesus $3 off the top.” Tithing was not just something he told me to do, he modeled it.
Every Sunday morning I would see him sit at the kitchen table and write out his tithe check to the local church we were members of. Sure, he was a deacon and a trustee in the church. But he was a believer foremost. He could have written it out any other time, but he made sure to do it in front of us. This wasn’t because he wanted to show off. He desired to demonstrate what a man of God did to honor the Lord. Scripture says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). Trust me, tithing never made us rich, and that’s the misconception for many today. What it did, however, was demonstrate God was our provider. We never had much, not even cable TV, but we never wanted for anything. I never missed out on anything because my dad was a tither. Tithing also demonstrated we were partners and investors in God’s Kingdom and local church. We simply didn’t go to church, we were the church. Church is a people, not just a place we attend. We just didn’t go and get, we partnered and gave. If serving needed to be done, my parents did it. Church was a way of life, not just an event we showed up to when it was convenient. It really was better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Tithing also demonstrated we believed God’s promises and would receive His divine protection for our family (Malachi 3:8-10). Countless times, God was faithful to our family, and we were faithful right back.
I’ve been a tither ever since. From my first real job at Bartons, to the breakfast shift at McDonalds, I’ve always paid God the first part. Uncle Sam may take his part, bill collectors may demand theirs, but I freely give God His. Will being a tither (first-ten percent giver) change your lifestyle? It’s not about what you have to give up, but what you receive. God’s promises, protection, provision, and partnership far outweigh the passing pleasures of this world. Now, I teach my kids about the blessing, joy, and responsibility of every believer to tithe. Some would say tithing is an Old Testament command of the Law, but Abraham gave a tithe 400 years before the Law was even given (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:2). Jesus didn’t tell the Pharisees to stop tithing. He told them to also practice the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness without neglecting tithing (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42). Tithing, like going to church on the first day of the week or giving God the first part of your morning, demonstrates you put God first in all things. Sometimes it’s not about ten percent. Depending upon ability of the believer and the needs of the body of Christ, it may mean more. That has been true in our giving at various times. Believers should pray, seek God’s wisdom, and study the entirety of the Scriptures, when it comes to generosity. The giving of all tithes and offerings should be done with a heart of worship, holy intentions, and a deep desire to serve the Lord and His church. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.