By Sheryl Murray
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Malachi 3:10 (NIV)
Rob and I got married young. He was twenty and I was nineteen. And although we didn’t have much in terms of material goods, we felt we had a bright financial future before us. Both of us were in college, working toward professional degrees–Rob in engineering, I in teaching. Coming from blue collar backgrounds, we saw comfortably stable financial years ahead.
To begin we lived in married student housing and lived off scholarships, part-time jobs, and federal grants. Rob had his car from high school. We had no debt. We had both given our lives to Christ and wanted to serve Him. Some time in those first few months we had decided that we wanted to honor God in every area of our lives, including our finances. So, rather naively, we determined to give a tithe (tenth) of any income that came our way. Since neither of us were very astute in the ways of the world, we really didn’t give it much careful thought except that we wanted to please God and give Him His due.
Needless to say, reality struck home pretty early on. Neither of us had any idea of budgeting or accounting, so our outflow soon exceeded our inflow. Not wanting to be in debt and not having parents who gave us money, we each got full-time jobs and then took turns finishing our schooling. Two years down the pike, Rob felt called to full-time ministry so he switched his major to economics. After three years of marriage I was desperate to be a “family,” so we had our first child the September following my graduation. Rob finished his degree while we were living with and caring for two elderly ladies to make ends meet. Money was always tight, but we still wanted God to come first in our lives. He provided in a myriad of ways.
As our denomination turned down Rob’s seminary application, his economics degree was practically worthless with a nation-wide recession and government job freezing. With a toddler and another on the way, we switched gears. We moved to a tiny town where I got a teaching position and Rob stayed home with the kids. But we knew that would just be temporary.
Two years later, Rob decided to go back to school to finish his engineering degree. Now with two children, we were back to schooling and each working part-time so that we could raise our kids ourselves. That meant five more years before he got his first professional job. Rob was thirty. The kids were five and seven. After ten years of marriage, we finally had our dream: we owned our own home, Rob was making a good living, I was homeschooling. With His guidance, we had endeavored to honor God with our hearts, our time, and our money. God had honored our financial commitment to Him and generously provided for us. We really felt like the lean years were behind us.
But the greatest challenges were actually still ahead. Despite having his coveted engineering degree, his work in manufacturing coincided with the industry gradually outsourcing to foreign countries. Over the next twenty years, Rob experienced six layoffs, averaging five months each. We were committed to homeschooling our children so my income was close to zero. Each move we would re-evaluate our commitment to tithe. God had always been to faithful to us. How could we not continue to honor Him in giving to Him right off the top?
And the amazing thing was, there was always enough! We never missed a house or car payment. We never went into credit card debt. We didn’t have to borrow money to live. When it came time for college for the kids, God provided with scholarships, jobs, and special opportunities. We always had medical insurance when we needed it. And this was just His financial faithfulness! He took care of us emotionally and spiritually through our job moves and provided us with wonderful caring church families and friends. We were rich in every way!
Rob’s last layoff was three years ago. He was done with manufacturing, and we were tired of moving. So after much prayer and seeking God’s will, we moved to Lincoln to be close to our daughter and her family. It was another radical financial change. We were too young to retire, so we decided to take “retirement” jobs. Rob is now driving a bus for the city, and I am a part-time receptionist at Berean. How are we making it financially? I’d like to say that we have become expert accountants, but the truth is that God has providentially provided for our needs as usual. Over the years He has taught us two great lessons–1) spend less than you make, and 2) trust Him to pour out His blessings.
Now that you’ve read my story, reread the verse above from Malachi. Notice God says “Test me in this.” I’d encourage you to take Him at His word. God is faithful in every way. Let Him show you that you can honor Him and give generously, and He will provide in ways that will awe and amaze you!