He came back in because he had forgotten something. This time his footsteps were much lighter, and his face was beaming a warm and uplifting smile. The conversation in the earlier visit had roamed over many different topics. The mood, generally, had been serious. This time he entered with uncommon joy.
Fortunately, he did not leave me long to guess at what was happening. The first words out of his mouth were, "I forgot to give you my tithe!" He had recently discovered the joy there is in giving God the first-fruits - that 10% right off the top of our income. And, I assure you, I am not putting words in his mouth. He has told me on more than one occasion of the positive impact this little action has had on his life.
It reminded me of another recent conversation. This was with someone who had signed up for automatic electronic giving. They were thanking me (though I deserve none of the credit) for making it so easy. They had wanted to support the ministry of Christ's church. They were looking to make some positive changes in their life. Through the automatic withdrawal of their giving (It did not sound like they were giving a tithe - they were starting at a lower, fixed amount) they were giving to God first, and living very nicely on what remained. Their story told me they, too, were experiencing uncommon joy.
While it certainly has not been the entirety of our marriage, my guess would be that Monica and I have been experiencing this uncommon joy for around 35 years. For us it started by hearing the clear message in God's Word. Then we attended a class that helped us with Christian financial management (we still fill 3 envelopes each payday). Ever since then, the first check I write each time (we still give the old fashioned way) is written with joy to Saint Thomas Lutheran.
My favorite illustration of this uncommon joy is found in 2 Corinthians. Paul writes, "We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia: During a severe trial brought about by affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. I can testify that, according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us by God's will. So we urged Titus that just as he had begun, so he should also complete among you this act of grace. Now as you excel in everything - in faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love for us - excel also in this at of grace. I am not saying this as a command. Rather by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love." (2 Corinthians 8.1- 8) Paul continues with additional story. He is talking about the joy found in the grace of financial giving. I recommend you read the rest of that chapter on your own.
Are you ready to give it a try? Jumping right into tithing (always giving the first 10% to God) is the best plan, but starting at some lesser amount works, too ($100-200/month ... $30/month ... $10 ... 2-5% ... ?). An easy way to set up electronic giving to STL (though, if you have a different church home, you should be giving it there) can be found right after this article. While this simple little action will not eliminate hassles and frustrations, this 'sacrificial act' does offer something special. And you know, the offer is to those who make big bucks, to those who live on disability, social security, or welfare, and to any and all in-between. What is that offer? I suggest you read those first two paragraphs again!