Tithes?... ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww... leave that one alone. The last thing I wanted was anybody to try to get in my wallet. I worked hard for my money (or worked hard to get to other people's money), and I wasn't going to be so stupid to give my money away... well maybe when I had the house and cars I wanted, and all of the fun goodies I wanted, and a great retirement account saved, and I was too old to want to spend it on something else, and maybe after I hit the lottery... then maybe I would think about trying to make giving a regular part of my finances.
Well, that was the first premise I believed... then I got saved... and then came the conviction. We weren't making much money anyway, but my wife always paid tithes and I never did. Money was tight and we had just got married. I regularly gave my wife a very hard time about paying tithes, imploring her to please not pay tithes so we could put the money to a credit card (or something fun - my usual carnal stupid thinking). She never teetered an inch... she was rock solid on this. She was raised that it was not her money to spend and it was the first thing out of her paycheck. She and other christians close to me constantly brought this up to me, but it simply didn't make sense when things were tight.
When we got married my wife was a Teachers Assistant and I delivered pizza (she made about a third more than I did). Her health began deteriorating and she eventually could no longer work. Around that same time, she tells me we are expecting our first child. Now, I am the sole provider working as a manager of a pizza delivery store.... tithes?... you have to be kidding me... how?... no way.
I got the Asian flu (?) and missed a week of work (after not missing a day in three years), to come back to work and be asked to take a demotion... consequently I opted to leave - a decision good or bad I and my wife would have to live with. Now, no medical insurance.
No medical insurance, one income (very low), and our baby is born... then dies the next day. The doctors did everything they could to save our son in that day from the 8th documented case of strep group B caused infant death in the nation, but no amount of prayers were going to change GOD's mind... he was gone. As if the grief and the horrible things that come with an experience like that (a 22 year old young man sitting with dad and father-in-law picking out a casket that I can't afford, so I pick the one that looks like a cheap tool box)... the bills began to come in. I am not going to say that parents and others didn't do the best they could to help us (their generosity to this day is eternally appreciated), but after all of that... we still had nearly $15,000 dollars in medical bills. Those bills equated to 20 individual payments that had to be written per month - taking us nearly 20 years to pay off... a constant reminder of the most devastating thing to ever happen to us, reminding us every month for 20 years.
With no money to cover a place to live, food, and all of the other expenses - we had to borrow each month on a credit card... when a card limit was topped, we took out another card and continued to borrow from every financial resource we could until we could no longer afford to take another card out and make payments. During those early years between jobs I went on unemployment two times (less than 2 months), and went on food stamps two times (man were we ever grateful to have food stamps) for a couple of months. Note: unemployment and food stamps were a very hard thing for me to do, especially since I had never heard of my friends or relatives needing to take these steps - I felt like I was about as low as I could get. We would not have eaten well the rest of those early years had it not been for the generosity of my in-laws (those same people who I knew I had let down) and my brother-in-law.
So... 22 years old, one income, another baby on the way and I started selling cars. It didn't take long for me to figure out that I had a natural ability to talk little old ladies into confiding in me while I told the manager she had $5000 cash in her wallet and I would get full price and all of granny's cash. Yep, that was me... I would do/say anything to make a sale. For the first time, I was making really good money and rather than paying bills or tithes - I was saving it (in case something else bad happened). Even though I was making money for the owner, the car lot suddenly closed and all of the sales crew was looking for jobs. I worked various odd sales jobs and in the interim used up all of my savings. The whole time I was in sales, I was convicted about what I was saying and doing to make sales. I kept praying for a job far from sales.
My wife (naturally) had no problem at all with risking bad credit to pay tithes, so the first month's wages came and I put the tithe check in the offering plate... and waited for my credit to go right down the toilet. The end of the month came, and so did a first (in a long time)... we had a few dollars left over - and we didn't have to borrow money to eat.
Two years into my state career and the start of tithing I was listening to a Sunday morning message regarding "asking GOD to help us to use the gifts he has given us to their maximum potential". This concept was very new to me. I was used to praying for GOD to bless me, but I hadn't thought to ask GOD to help me use the things he has already blessed me with to their maximum potential. So that same Sunday night I prayed, "GOD help me to use those gifts that I might not even know I have to the max". GOD answered quickly when in the middle of that Sunday night's slumber I rose suddenly with an idea. Whether I had been laying there tossing and turning, dreaming, or GOD just "slammed it into my head"... I don't know. I won't say "GOD told me", because there was nothing audible. But I will say that in my entire life to that point I had never rose in the middle of the night with an entire idea before. Was it coincidence that just hours before I had prayed what I prayed?... I think not.
This idea involved computers, something I had ZERO experience with (except video games, but never on a home computer). So I have this great idea, but don't know anything about computers... maybe it was just a fluke... so I let it go.
One week later - next Sunday's message the pastor preached on "faith without works being dead" and he later stated VERY CLEARLY - "don't pray to GOD for something, then fail to take action on his answer"! How could this be? It was as if I had told this guy (or anybody) what had happened, and he was speaking those words specifically for me to hear. I hadn't said anything to anybody. It simply blew me away... GOD knows me well enough to know that he would have to pound me over the head before I would take the kind of action he was asking for... so he gave me a direct hit.
I told my wife everything that night after church and she confirmed that I needed to take action. The next day I went down to Radio Shack, completed a credit card application (by some miracle was approved), and purchased a high dollar lap top (piece of junk by today's standards). Next I sought after a programmer that I could pay to help me with this idea. It was all about money I didn't have to spend, at a time that didn't make any sense, with no experience in this field at all... it was blind faith and a total dependence on GOD to come through.
That initial idea never got off the ground, but the computer spawned a great career and lots of other opportunities and ideas. In addition, years later the terminal desease my wife had been diagnosed with had "mysteriously" disappeared (called miraculous healing or devine intervention). This didn't happen according to my time, but thousands of hours of prayer, and an untold number of people crying out to GOD for her healing... it finally happened. When once she couldn't work and she couldn't get life insurance (because of the inevitable dismal forecast), she was able to start working and today has a great career in the medical industry.
Not long ago, my wife and I talked about those multiple times we asked each other if we would ever be able to afford to eat at McDonalds again. I will never forget that feeling, and will never look down on someone in the middle of their financial struggle.
Oh yeah, let me say something about offerings. Offerings have nothing to do with tithes, and don't mix the two. Tithes go to the church without YOU saying anything about how GOD will use his money. You can (and should) give money and items when GOD prompts you to give extra - this is called an offering and should never be confused with tithes. Don't "play with" or look at how paying tithes might benefit you... give GOD his money since he blessed you with it... GOD will take care of the rest.