What Running and Tithing Have in Common

Once upon a time I ran several miles a day. Then I moved to oxygen-deprived Colorado — in the winter. Before I knew it, the weeks of acclimating to the altitude and the weather turned into months, and all of my hard work spent building up endurance and resolve dwindled away. The habit of not running replaced the habit of running.

Not doing things are habits, too, and sometimes that can be healthy. But if we’re not careful, neglecting important disciplines can make us systemically apathetic. I think this especially manifests itself in regards to the discipline of tithing.

Many things can stifle your giving: You move, you’re looking for a new church, you’re unemployed. Whatever the reason, when we stop giving, we can start to become comfortable when the offering basket passes us by. While refraining from giving may be OK for a season, it’s important to not let holding back become our default setting.

Tithing is a good thing. When we give of our income to our church, we have the privilege of investing in advancing the kingdom of God in our communities and the world as well as in our congregations. By it, we cultivate hearts that reflect God’s generous heart toward us. But returning to giving after a season of not, takes intention.

I started running again this week. It’s not a mystery of what had to happen to get me out the door: I had to lace up my shoes, walk out the door and go.

Running was not as natural as it once was, but at the end of the run, I found myself smiling. In the midst of the huffing and puffing, there was joy.

Similarly, when I first began to write checks to my home church after a season of transition, it didn’t feel natural, but there was deep gladness in it. When I write my offering check during Sunday service, it is an act of worship. In it, I am reminded of my dependence on God and His unwavering goodness to me. I can only give because I have something to give. It’s a time to rejoice in His provision and in His generosity.

If you are not giving today, ask yourself why. Be honest with your answers. You may be in a place that legitimately prohibits your giving. But I fear sometimes we stop giving because we get jaded. We wonder if the church really needs such a big staff or if that new project is really going to be effective. We want to treat the church like a stock option instead of remembering this is a habit that the Father invites His children to practice.

If you are in a place of financial hardship, I urge you to be vigilant about cultivating a generous heart even in that place. Be grateful and free in your thanksgiving, and keep your heart tender toward others’ needs. Whatever you do, make sure you nurture a heart that responds to God’s goodness in your life.

My Aunt Alice often reminds me that we can’t outbless God. How right she is. Even in areas like tithing, where we are called to unique sacrifice, God is so abundantly kind that the obedience He asks of us produces something beautiful in us — hearts of gratitude.

So this Sunday, figuratively lace up your running shoes. Trust God and begin again in this habit of giving the first fruits of your harvest to the Lord. Break out your checkbook and your favorite pen, and give from a grateful heart to the God who has been so gracious to you.

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11, ESV).