God’s generosity to us last year—and our willingness to share it—gives us an opportunity to help our neighbors in need this winter. Let me explain how.

Most of you have probably heard by now the good news that we finished last year strong, giving a little over $30,000 more than we spent in 2018.  Simply put, the Lord provided what we needed—and then some.  The appropriate response, of course, is to be grateful: To thank God for His abundant generosity, which is always more than we deserve.

At some point over the last month or so, the story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel came up in my daily devotional reading.  The story is told in Genesis 28.  It got me thinking.  The story
itself is pretty straightforward. Jacob has run away from home.  On the road, he stops for the night to sleep and has this fantastic dream, featuring angels climbing up and down a ladder, and the Lord telling Jacob of the plans He has for Jacob and Jacob’s descendants.  The Lord ends the dream by reassuring Jacob: “I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you” (Genesis 28:15).

Jacob’s response to this dream—and to God’s promise—is to make a vow of his own.  “If God will be with me,” he says, “and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace”—in other words, if God provides for Jacob’s needs as God has promised—“then the Lord shall be my God … and of all you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you” (Genesis 28:21-22).  If God keeps His promise and provides for Jacob, then Jacob will give a tenth of what he has to God as an offering of thanksgiving and praise.

The biblical precedent is clear.  God provides abundantly and Jacob responds gratefully—not just with words, but also with a decisive, visible sign that conveys his trust in God’s ability to continue providing in the future.  Jacob’s offering here—along with Abraham’s offering in Genesis 14:20—is the Old Testament basis for the practice of giving ten percent of our income to the church.  The fancy word for this kind of gift is a tithe.  The amount, I think, is significant: Ten percent is enough to notice, but not enough to cripple.  It’s Jacob’s way of saying that God has blessed him before and he is confident that God will bless him again—so confident, in fact, that he willingly turns a portion of his God-given wealth back over to God.

God blessed us abundantly in 2018, giving us what we needed and then some.  As a sign of our gratitude and trust—and of our confidence in the future—I believe it’s right for us to follow the example of Jacob and give a tenth of our 2018 blessing—that is, $3,061—as a one-time special contribution to Crisis Assistance Ministry in Charlotte.   Consider it a “mission tithe” to support Crisis Assistance in its efforts to meet immediate needs for food, clothing, shelter, and warmth this winter.  God provided us with more than we needed last year, so let us use that blessing to help provide for our neighbors who are in need now.  Both the finance and missions committees have blessed this course of action.  I am glad—and grateful—that we are in a position to do this as a church.  Because God worked through all of us to make this offering possible, I will ask us all to affirm this offering at the next church conference.

How we respond to God’s goodness and faithfulness says a lot about our character.  Do we hold on tightly for fear of losing what we have—or do we open our hands for the joy of sharing what God gives?  I know what kind of church I want Providence to be.

May the peace of Christ be with you!