Experiences, Learnings, Realizations

So I start tithing again…

The year was 2016 when I decided to do tithing to our church as our pastor insists that we should tithe since it is commanded by God. That I’m robbing God if I don’t tithe (citing the scripture in the book of Malachi). I did it for a couple of months, even though I only earn a few every paycheck, and my wife and I need to prepare for our upcoming baby. I worried so much about the upcoming expenses since there’s a chance that it could be a cesarean delivery. The doctor explains to us that we should be also prepared for that since if the normal delivery is risky to the baby, they need to do a cesarean. But I guess it is more of a trend, and our doctor wants it for a higher professional fee, hehehe!

But guess what? Everything came smoothly. Our first baby was born healthy and delivered via a normal procedure. We only paid 40% for the doctors’ professional fees because my wife is a health provider company employee during that time. We were not able to secure a private room in the hospital because other patients were given priority over us due to the maternity package that they avail prior to their delivery date, but I think it is a blessing since our hospital bill is cheaper because we’re just in the ward. The ward is big, and only my wife and another new mother are there so we still have our privacy. We also got a discount from PhilHealth (mandatory health insurance in the Philippines), and my wife’s company offered an installment plan for our hospital bill with 0% interest.

I was so amazed during that time at how God performed miracles. I think too much of the expenses that I forgot to just follow God and let him unload my worries. Until now, I still can’t imagine how I was able to do those things even with a small salary and still give financial support to both our parents, and can still afford to provide all the vaccines needed by our baby which are all from a private provider (not free vaccines from the government).

But as I start reading the bible, I learned that tithing is not for us. It is for the Israelites during the old testament, and it should only be the Levites to collect these. Also, I noticed the lavish lifestyle of our pastor’s family. Going on an out-of-the-country trip once a year, house renovation from time to time, upgrading their appliance even the ones being replaced are still in perfect condition, 24/7 air-condition of their whole house, and many more. Then I looked into my own, I can’t even replace my 24″ TV from an unknown TV brand, can’t get a 2nd hand car, live in a flood-prone cheap apartment that always makes me worry every time there’s a typhoon, we even bear the heat during summer just to save on electric bills, and can’t even travel for leisure. Only going to malls and having free hotel staycations (thanks to the credit card points).

That is when I decided to stop tithing. I think I was cheated by our pastor, using scriptures from the bible for self-gain. But I continue giving to charities, to the persons in need, I even give generously to them since I no longer give the 10% of my income to the church. I just give a small amount to our local church to at least give a share for their operations like for the utility bills, and other expenses in the church, but no longer to make the pastor rich.

2018, when I decided to attend a different church. I just do it in secret since I don’t want to hurt the feeling of our pastor who is also my wife’s uncle. The reason is that I like the service better, and I noticed that most of my friends attending that church have a positive attitude and behavior, basically, they are good people. Eventually, they learned about it and said negative things about the church which made me realize that I did the right decision to leave the old church.

Ups and downs came to me and my family. I was able to leave my old job and work on my own consultancy business, which is a major breakthrough in my life, a huge decision, and a leap of faith. I was able to buy my first car (which is just 2nd hand), and able to provide for my family while in the comfort of our home and freedom in terms of working time. This lasts for a year and a half until I noticed that we are just able to meet ends. Not having much savings and no investments though I’m still giving to my chosen charity and still able to give some financial help to friends and families.

I decided to look for a full-time job again while maintaining my consultancy business part-time. Blessings came, a good salary, continuous projects from my part-time, and we were able to get our first insurance and investments in stocks and mutual funds. Everything seems perfect, we are living abundantly, we can travel (though just locally due to the pandemic), experience things that we cannot afford before, able to move to a better condominium at the heart of the city, and many more. Basically, more money, more expenses.

In 2021, my daughter started going to school. We are now paying for her tuition fee and other school expenses. Opportunity also came that a foreclosed house and lot is offered to us. We found it a good deal for its price, payment terms, and lot area. We started paying the downpayment using our savings which we are confident to do since we have enough savings to cover it. Confidently think that while our savings are being spent on the house payment, we can still save some money on that 12-month period for other expenses like renovation works once the house is turned over to us.

Fast forward to 2022, as we go near to completing our downpayment, I noticed that we really didn’t save for the renovation expenses. We spent a lot on unnecessary expenses like eating out a lot, food delivery almost daily, and spent too much on birthdays and anniversary celebrations, travels, gifts, etc. So I started to ask myself… what happened?

I started to worry about our finances. Grocery costs us more due to the high inflation rate in our country, fuel costs and utility bills surged, and everything becomes more expensive. My investments in stocks and mutual funds are lower in value, even my reserve foreign currency, the exchange rate is not good. My part-time consultancy business is also in a bad shape. I know that we are still blessed because we still have enough for our day-to-day expenses, and can even have the luxury to eat out and spend on small things, and can still give to those in need and support one of the missions of our church. But I cannot avoid worrying about the next big expenses once the house is turned over to us.

I started to ask God for guidance, and as he always does, he answered me through the Sunday service in our church. The topic is about what the bible tells about handling finances. What the pastor tells about tithing is that, yes, it is a thing in the old testament, and in the new testament, it should be given based on your heart’s desire (which I totally agree with since that is also what I understood when I read it in the bible), but in today’s time, it is more on where is your heart is and how you trust God with the blessings you got that came from him in the first place. If you worry about your finances, basically, you’re not trusting God. You don’t believe that God can make things even the impossible to resolve our problems. Then I remember the miracle he has done to my family last 2016 when we are financially challenged and almost have nothing in our savings account but my wife was still able to give birth in a private hospital and even complete my daughter’s vaccines from a private provider. During the service, it is mentioned that no one can serve two masters. Either you hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). So if my heart is reluctant to give the 10% of my income to God, it only means that I’m devoted to money and not to God. So I decided to do tithing again. But not out of compulsory which is not what Jesus wants, but to train my heart to trust God fully, believe that when I seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, no need for me to worry because God will provide everything.

It’s been almost 2 months since I started tithing. I even level it up, instead of giving 10% of my net income (which I used to in 2016), I made it 10% of my gross income. This is a test of faith for me, I’m in need of money for the upcoming expenses but I decided to trust the Lord fully.

Last week, I completed the downpayment, and I received a call from the bank to tell me that I was approved for the housing loan that we applied for early this year. I was happy and excited, and we immediately processed the requirements. As my wife and I are happily planning on the renovation work that we want for our future home, we became worried again, since based on our research online, it will cost us a lot of money for the renovation that we want. We don’t have enough savings to cover it, and when we apply for a loan for the renovation cost, based on my computation, the budget will be so tight that we might be in trouble financially if we push through. Our dream is somewhat shattered and we need to make compromises just for us to save costs. But we are still not at ease since we still haven’t talked to a contractor. Their estimate might be higher because of other fees/charges, and of course, the high inflation rate that we are encountering right now.

As I was looking at my budget spreadsheet to check on where we can cut our expenses, I was tempted to stop tithing. It is a huge addition to our savings if I stop giving, it’s 10% of my monthly income. But I realized two things; First, even during the time that I’m not tithing, I’m still not able to save that much. Second, I’m not trusting God if I do it. As a human being, I struggled with my decision. I decided to continue tithing but I asked God again to help me with my struggle. I’m thinking of a lot of things that God might do to resolve my problem like a salary increase/promotion so that I can afford an additional loan, a huge project for my part-time consultancy business, the contractor will be good enough to give us a huge discount, someone will lend me money with low to zero interest, or someone will just give us the money we need out of generosity (which is extreme but not impossible to God). But of course, only God knows, all I can do is to have faith in him.

Again, I was answered by God through the Sunday service in our church. The service’s message is about God will always keep his promise. The timing might be late based on our human standards, but God knows when is the right time to fulfill his promise. All we have to do is to trust him, believe that he will take care of us, and knows what is best for us.

To be honest, I’m still a little bit worried, but I’m trying not to, and live everything to the Lord. Hopefully, someday, my heart learns to never doubt God even just a little, and accept that God has a better plan than what we have for ourselves.

In addition to why I chose to attend the service of my current church, every time I ask God for guidance, the topic is always related to my struggle. It’s like God is talking to me via that church’s service. Enough reason for me to continue attending this specific church.

God bless us all.

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