Psalm 37: 3 “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” (NASB)
Sharon and I were fortunate to grow up in Christian homes. Our parents were the first ones to disciple us. They were the first ones to teach us about the Lordship of Christ in all things, including our finances. This meant that every time we made money, we prepared an offering envelope and in went our tithe – 10 percent. It was important for us as young believers to learn about Lordship, especially with our finances.
On my side of the family, I didn’t grow up in a pastor’s home. My dad was an auto worker and my mom was a homemaker. As believers, someone loved them enough to teach them about faithfulness to each other and to the work of the Lord. Part of that discipleship training included tithing.
Even with a small amount of money, I remember learning about giving a tithe. My uncle was willing to pay me $10 to mow the grass in his backyard. The yard was severely overgrown and the job took days in the hot Texas sun. But finally it was mowed and I got a $10 bill and my uncle got a good deal.
On the way home from his house, there was the service station where I had bought the gas and oil for the mower. The day I was paid, I stopped there and changed the $10 bill into ten one dollar bills. When I got home, I knew enough about my own nature that the first thing I needed do was place one of those bills in an offering envelope for Sunday’s offering or I knew I would spend it on me.
As I sealed the envelope with a lick (the glue they used in those days was awful), the thought ran through my mind, “You know what you could do with that dollar?” Where do you suppose that thought came from? It was from a source other than what belongs in a worshippers head. So to “flee youthful lust,” I placed the tithe in my Bible and the very next day, my tithe was given to the Lord though my local church.
Many Southern Baptist adults can remember learning the same lesson I learned: That is, the tithe is not ours to play with or to give away to some other worthy organization. The tithe belongs to the Lord and is to be given through our local church.
As I continued to grow in the Lord, other mentors reinforced this Lordship discipline. When Sharon and I married, we wanted every area of our lives, our marriage, our parenting, our income, our spending and our giving to be under the Lordship of Christ.
We agreed every time we received a paycheck, we worshipped the Lord Jesus by giving a tenth to our local church. We did not divide the 10 percent between our church and other worthy ministries. All 10 percent went to our local church. We were faithful to tithe, and God continues to bless in the lean times and times of prospering.
Malachi 3:10 is an Old Testament teaching with New Testament application. The only thing that has changed is our percentage has incrementally grown through the years. And God has honored it.
For most of our married life, I was pastor of a local church. So we didn’t have the experience of seeking out a church home. But when I became Executive Director of our Missouri Baptist Cooperative Program-supported ministries, I found myself, along with Sharon, looking for a local church.
We desired to belong to a church that made Cooperative Program participation a priority. Part of being Baptists is that the church is free to determine the allocation of its resources before the Lord. However, I have become more convinced that cooperative giving is a wise stewardship decision by a local church. It is the premier way to begin to reach all levels of the Great Commission simultaneously.
While I know it is not spelled out in Scripture, there is some powerful truth in a statement I heard from a man much wiser than me. He said, “Cooperative Program giving is like the church’s tithe to the greater work of God. When I give my personal tithe, I am still personally responsible for the other 90 percent to make sure it is under the Lordship of Christ. But the tithe is first priority. So the Cooperative Program should be the first priority for my church.”
Today there is a constant grab for our personal and church finances. There are some powerful noble ministries besides those funded by the Cooperative Program. However, you would be very hard pressed to find a collection of ministries with as much comprehensive Kingdom impact as those supported by your church’s giving through the Cooperative Program.
“ . . . it is required of stewards that one be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4: 2 (NASB)