When my pastor asked me to give a tithing talk, the first thing that popped into my head (slightly misremembered) was “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.” The opposite of abundance is scarcity. I think I’ve said here before that I was raised with a belief in scarcity almost as a virtue. If any of you have seen the movie Babette’s Feast you know what I mean. I have thought about that much, especially since I started to take tithing seriously.
Some background: My grandfather was a teacher of religion who would have liked to study theology, but there was barely enough money for him to go to a rural teacher’s college. My father was an engineer who would have become a physicist if he didn’t feel that he needed a more practical skill to make a living. They both wanted me to live out their dreams. When I ended up studying economics instead, I said it was a good compromise since it was a science but also required a great deal of faith.
That may be true, but the basic faith of economics is the faith in scarcity. The scarcer something is, the greater its value, and what is too abundant becomes worthless. This is, of course, not all that economics can teach, but it’s still a dismal message from a dismal science — reinforced unwittingly by my father, who would not pursue his dream because he feared scarcity in a distant tomorrow.
My grandfather, on the other hand, was the first to tell me about the lilies of the field and to teach me the “Our Father.… Give us this day our daily bread.” It took me years to begin to let go of the fear of scarcity, to begin to understand that the abundant life comes from faith in God’s abundant grace and abundant love today, this morning and this moment.
I am nowhere near there, but I have found that tithing helps as a simple and regular practice. It helps keep me focused on today, on the act of sharing as an act of prayer, on trusting in God’s promise of his abundant life when we share our daily bread.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers