Throughout the New Testament, leaders are challenged to lead by example. Paul encourages believers to put into practice what they see in his life (Phil 4:9) and exhorts Timothy to “set the believers an example” (1 Tim 4:12). The author of Hebrews tells believers to imitate the example of faith set by their leaders (13:7). Peter admonishes spiritual shepherds to be examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3). This biblical principle could apply to a near endless list of spiritual disciplines and virtues including the realm of stewardship.
I learned to tithe by the Baptist Sunday School Board’s envelope system. Not only did the envelopes allow me to fill out the amount I was giving as my offering to the Lord, a specific box could be checked to indicate that my gift was a tithe. With that accountability, my allowance and the money I earned keeping our coal furnace filled and mowing most of the yards in the neighborhood, provided a weekly opportunity for me to experience the joy of giving. It also instilled a lifelong spiritual discipline that I’ve never questioned nor found to be a strain.
Those who have tested God’s faithfulness through generous giving know that God is faithful. Always faithful. Abundantly faithful.
Over time, my practice of tithing became informed by the gospel. I came to understand my life had been bought at the price of One who had suffered and died in my place. Thus, I live every day, own every possession, make every profit, draw every breath only as a steward of that which has been entrusted to me by the Lamb of Glory who has taken away my sin. He has been faithful to me; I long to be faithful to him.
Desiring to be faithful with our finances, Michelle and I give our tithes and most of our offerings through the church where we serve as members. We have two reasons. First, we feel an obligation to support the church we belong to and whose ministers and ministries bless our family. Second, we have intentionally chosen a church that, through sacrificial Cooperative Program giving, supports a long list of Great Commission ministries we believe in.
Closely related is the fact that we eat our bread from the CP table. Since the sacrificial giving of Kentucky Baptists through CP provides for my family, I feel a strong sense of obligation to be a member of a church giving sacrificially through CP. To me, that is non-negotiable.
My challenge to others who eat their bread from the CP table, including those who are administrators or staff member of agencies or institutions receiving CP support, is that you will also join and give your tithes through a church giving sacrificially through CP. I call it leading by example.