Recently a friend told me about the efforts she and her husband were making to teach their children about tithing and stewardship. During the previous week, their 9 year-old daughter, Kendra, had received some money in addition to her allowance. Her tithe that week amounted to three whole dollars! Generally Kendra was quite willing to give to the Lord, but three dollars seemed a little harder to part with than the small amount she usually gave.
When Sunday came, Kendra unknowingly provided a lesson for others in her act of worship through giving. She carefully placed the three dollars in the offering plate with a not-quite-willing — yet obedient — heart. As the plate passed to the other worshipers, Kendra longingly waved goodbye as her contribution was joined by the tithes of others.
That simple act of waving goodbye speaks so powerfully. As adults, we may feel, like Kendra, that we're saying goodbye to "our" money when we give our tithe to the Lord. But how we say goodbye teaches our children more about giving than the amount on our check ever will.
How Do You Say Goodbye?
Goodbye can mean several different things. Sometimes goodbye signifies a permanent parting, as when the parties involved expect to never see each other again. These goodbyes are difficult and somber occasions. This is the kind of goodbye Kendra expressed as she gave her tithe. Tragically, many adults also say goodbye to their tithes and offerings this same way.
Other goodbyes can signify an exciting departure, as when one is sending out another on his or her behalf. A commissioning is a goodbye with a purpose. A good example is a church's commissioning of a volunteer missions team. Our parting will accomplish something we couldn't go and do ourselves.
Yet another goodbye carries the casual idea of "see you later." Usually the parties involved expect to be reunited after only a short separation, so a "see you later" is not at all sorrowful; in fact, often it is cheerful.
Every day we say goodbye to our money in each of these ways. We don't, however, always use the right goodbye for the right parting.
A Permanent Parting
People say goodbye to their dollars when they spend them on frivolous things, excessive things, things that have no lasting value. Many people think nothing of paying a lot of money for entertainment. They experience a permanent separation from their money with nothing to show for it, but seldom do they express any remorse at the farewell. If any thought at all is given to the goodbye, it is generally an ambivalent euphoria.
A few would go so far as to misuse their money on lottery tickets or other forms of gambling. Others are willing to engage in risky investments or business ventures, hoping their money will bring a return. Both types may think they are commissioning their money; however, they may be saying a permanent goodbye, never to see it again.
Some people, when they give to the Lord, view their offering as a permanent loss with no return, and thus are not so cheerful in their giving. Often they see the resources God has blessed them with as their possessions rather than seeing themselves as stewards of what God has placed in their care. When we truly understand giving, however, we will understand that tithing is not the time for a sad goodbye.
Parting With a Purpose
When people spend resources on expenses such as utilities, groceries, or housing, they legitimately view them as going out for a purpose. Although they are making a temporal investment, they are commissioning their dollars to provide a roof over their heads or to put food on the table. And while they may grow tired of making a monthly house payment, they are grateful for the shelter their home provides.
When Kendra placed her tithe in the offering plate, little did she know that, through her obedience, she and her money would become part of God's work. Perhaps her tithe helped buy gas for the church van to bring another child to Sunday School. Maybe it paid for a piece of Sunday School literature that helped win a child to the Lord. Her three dollars may have helped provide water for the baptistry where that child was baptized. Her money may have even gone to a missionary halfway around the world or helped purchase a Bible for someone who needed one. Just as someone else's obedience in giving helped bring the gospel to Kendra, her offering will help present the gospel to others.
The Lord takes the gifts we give Him and uses them to further His work. When we see giving as commissioning resources to serve God's purpose, our attitude about giving should change from one of drudgery to one of enthusiasm. Paul reminded believers in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that "God loves a cheerful giver." It is appropriate for Kendra, and for all believers, to cheerfully say goodbye to the money we send out to further God's kingdom.
Parting Until Later
Another way people part with their money is with a "see you later" attitude. When people put money into a savings account, they expect to go to the bank later and withdraw that money with interest.
In Malachi 3:10 God challenges us to test Him. If we will bring the whole tithe to God's storehouse, He promises to "throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." God desires to bless His people. We deprive ourselves of His blessing when we withhold our tithes and offerings. Jesus affirmed God's promise in Luke 6.38: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap."
Stewardship is a kingdom investment, not an expense. So when the offering plate reaches us, let's smile as we invest those dollars, because we're teaching children like Kendra how to say goodbye.
7 Ways to Teach Your Children to Give Cheerfully
- Model a thankful heart. Express aloud your thankfulness for God's provision of your family's daily needs.
- Explain what the Bible teaches about tithing, and show children how they can figure their own tithe. Let them see you tithing cheerfully.
- Explain that we are the managers, not the owners, of all the resources God has placed in our care. Model good stewardship for them as your family decides how to spend money.
- Explain how money is used when it is given to the church. If you have older children and teens, discuss the church budget with them.
- Introduce your children to the ministry personnel of your church and to missionaries who visit in your church and discuss how tithes help them do God's work.
- Participate in ministry and missions opportunities as a family so your children can see their tithes at work.
- When God provides for your family in unexpected ways in times of crisis, call attention to His faithfulness by having a special time of prayer and thanksgiving.