I once heard someone jokingly compare tithing to a slot machine. “Sometimes you put in a dollar and get tenfold in return,” he said. “Sometimes you put in a dollar and get … zilch.”
He wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. We were talking about the relationship between what we give … and what we expect to receive in return. His point was that some folks are disappointed when tithing doesn’t appear to reap a financial return.
The expectation isn’t entirely without merit. After all, we’ve all heard testimonies of people who have tithed their last few dollars and then received a surprise check in the mail for 20 times that amount.
The Bible itself supports the idea that we can’t out-give God. For example, there’s the verse in Luke that says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38).
And let’s not forget Malachi 3:10 which says, “’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.’”
So what happens when we give and we DON’T hit the jackpot?
It can be disappointing at best. In a much more tragic scenario, it can be grounds for a crisis of faith.
I remember several years ago having a conversation with a friend who was disillusioned and angry with God. Faced with a looming financial need, he had given money to his church with the expectation that God would multiply and return that money in time to meet the deadline he faced. When that didn’t happen, he remained frustrated and bitter for months.
And yet I believe we are to give expectantly. But what are we expecting and believing for? We do ourselves a great disservice when we focus on a narrow outcome we’ve identified for ourselves, rather than focusing on what the Bible says clearly that we can anticipate.
Here are some of the things that, according to God’s Word, we can expect when we give:
We can expect to be blessed when we tithe.
Let’s revisit Malachi 3:10 for a moment: “’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.’” This is one of many verses in which God suggests and even promises that He will reward giving with blessing. How? When? In what manner? We may not know the answers to those questions, but we can trust that He knows the answer and He will be faithful to His Word.
We can expect that God will be pleased when we give cheerfully.
Giving isn’t a “have to,” it’s a “get to.” We get to give. The Bible underscores this idea through the following verse and others: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
I love Paul’s report about the cheerful—actually joyful—attitude of the Macedonian believers toward giving: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” (2 Corinthians 8:2-4).
Their joy in giving was so great, neither severe trial nor extreme poverty could dampen it; in fact, their poverty seemed to work in tandem with their joy to inspire their generosity!
We can expect that God sees our giving.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
“Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12:41-44)
We often read this story and focus on the sacrificial gift of the widow. But check out the beginning of the passage where Jesus positioned himself so that he could see people as they gave.
The Lord is interested in our tithes and offerings. He sees how we manage our treasure, where we put our trust, how we value and serve people in need around us, what our motives are. I don’t believe He is watching to judge or punish, but with His pleasure and our blessing in mind:
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)
We can expect that our gifts will result in people praising God.
When I tithe or support God’s work through various forms of giving, I think about how my gift is pleasing God, blessing others, and meeting needs. You know what I don’t consider nearly often enough? The fact that my giving is actually blessing God by generating thanks and praises to Him.
There are many scriptures that talk about man blessing the Lord through thanksgiving and praise. Psalm 34:1 is a good example (“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth”) but there are other verses, too, that describe praise as a blessing to God. (Check out Deuteronomy 8:10, Psalm 100:4, Psalm 145:1-2, 21).
So how do my tithes and offerings bless God? Because as the needs of others are met through my gifts, the natural response of the receiver is to offer thanksgiving and praise to God. Paul describes this beautiful scenario to the Corinthian believers:
“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
“Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” (2 Corinthians 9:11-13)
We can expect that our tithes and offerings will leave us changed.
When we give, we are not only storing treasure in Heaven, we are anchoring our hearts to Heavenly things as well: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
In other words, giving changes you and me in important ways. Someone who gives will not be the same person they would have been if they had invested their treasure only in earthly comforts.
When it’s all said and done, we really can give with anticipation. Amazing things happen, on earth, in Heaven, and in us, when we give—even if we don’t physically witness these things.
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