Malachi 3:10 "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 you will not have room enough for it."
This is a passage in the book of Malachi in the Old Testament of the Bible on tithing.
Tithing is one-tenth part of something, paid as a voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy. Today, tithes (or tithing) are normally voluntary and paid in cash, checks or stocks. Historically and Biblically, tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products.
This passage "spoke" to the heart of the pastor of St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Saylorsburg, the Rev. Keyone Kale Yu. He wanted his parishioners to understand tithing and the importance of tithing in a Christian life.
"We are living in difficult times. People say they can't afford to tithe. But according to God, the reason we are living in difficult times is because we do not tithe. He even tells us to test Him in this. I asked the congregation to try it. We have been truly amazed at the results."
Pastor Yu did not ask each member to tithe on their own. He asked that the church, as a whole, tithe by committing $300 a month to be given to the community. At first, not all of the congregation was in favor of the tithing. They did not feel their church was in a financial position to do so.
"But I think this is where faith comes into it," says Yu.
It was hard to remain non-committal when they saw the results of their tithing.
They began to tithe in the beginning of the year 2007. They didn't grow in membership but by the end of the year, the church saw its income rise $15,148.45 from the year before. In 2008, when the economy went bust, the income dropped a couple of hundred dollars but is now just about back to the income of 2007 again.
"It works. We attribute it to God," says Yu.
Yu believes that St. Peter's did what God told them to do. To test Him.
Each month they put $300 into the Lord's "storehouse." They do that by giving a monthly donation of $300 to other local churches and organizations such as the ambulance, Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network and Salvation Army. They sent to missions like Touch the World, Youth For Christ, Christian Missionary Alliance, and Voice of the Martyrs, to name a few.
When St. Peter's gives a donation, they send a letter which includes the passage from Malachi.
"We learned that our letter was read aloud to the congregation of one church and a member was so touched by it, he gave back to us in the amount of $3,000, a hundredfold of what we gave," says Yu. "We give and the Lord is blessing us."
He relates how one family in his congregation was going through a very difficult time and didn't know if they could afford to tithe but did their best.
"Within one week of tithing, they saw a blessing."
St. Peter's heard about a church in Alaska that burned to the ground and sent them $300 because St. Peter's understands that kind of devastation.
"Our church, which had been located on Brick Church Road, was flooded in the early 1950s. The church building was condemned. It made national news. Churches across the country heard about us and sent us money," says Yu.
With all the donations they received, it enabled the church to purchase the current land and build a new church where it now sits along Old Route 115, for $3,000.
"In hindsight, the flood was a great blessing since it allowed the church to expand in space. The new church reminds us of being the recipient of the generosity and kindness of others," says Yu.
Grace Burden, St. Peter's UMC's treasurer, agrees.
"In essence, we're trying to help others because we were helped," she says.
Grace, a bookkeeper, mother of three and grandmother of five, believes "We should use our money to help churches and organizations, like the Bible says, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'"
So the decision to start tithing comes as a way of paying forward.
Yu says that when we hold on to money, it can be stressful.
"Being in these hard times, there is fear. Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is when you expect something bad to happen. When fear of money sets in, it permeates everything we do. There is no peace, not in the family and not in the church because everyone is struck by that fear.
"Faith is the opposite of fear. Faith is when you believe something good is going to happen. When people tithe, it can be very freeing and it takes the fear away because we are saying, 'OK God, you take care of it.' When we help others in need in God's family, He gives back to us blessings."
Yu says that God doesn't want our money.
"It's already His. He wants us to depend on Him. If we don't invite Him to our home or church, He is hurt. But tithing is an invitation for Him to come in and participate in our lives."
Yu quotes, Genesis 8:22 "Whatever seeds you plant, while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."
The message is that in order to reap a harvest, seeds must be sown, whether for food for the body or food for the soul. God is the one who grows the plant and brings the increase, but He can do nothing for the harvest unless people first plant that seed in the ground. No harvest can come from an unplanted field. People have to be patient and full of faith. His message is that people will reap a harvest if they do not give up. They have to have the faith and the commitment to the word of God to keep doing what they know to do and not allow the devil to discourage or talk them out of the promises God has made.
Galatians 6:9-10: "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
"When we tithe, it's an expression of our dependence on God. When families try to pay their bills, it's a burden. But when we tithe, it's an expression to God that we trust our finances and needs to Him. There is peace that comes from that. We're not alone," he says.
One of his parishioners believes he is a recipient of that peace obtained through tithing.
Bud Gouger, an operating engineer, of Saylorsburg watched his wife, Melissa, battle cancer.
"I believed in God. But not. I believed all the church wanted from me was my money. When Melissa became ill that was when I began to tithe. First it was $10 a week, then $20. At first it was for selfish reasons. It was 'I'll give you money if you cure my wife' kind of thing. Eventually I began tithing the 10 percent. It became the beginning of my faith because I finally said I was going to trust God," says Bud.
Even though Melissa lost her battle with cancer, Bud's faith continued to grow.
"It was the words of Malachi that inspired me. It's like if you had a 90 percent chance to beat cancer, wouldn't you take it? Well, God is telling us that we can keep 90 percent of what He has already given us. We only have to give back to him 10 percent of what He already gave us. In doing so, I have been blessed above and beyond with what I deserve," says Bud.
He has remarried. Together, he and his wife, Carol, are raising seven children. Buddy, 20, Ryan, 18, Garrett, 12 are the sons of Bud and his late wife, Melissa. Christopher David, 20 and Jacob, 18, are the sons of Carol, a teacher, and her late husband, George Chamberlain.
"Before I even met Carol, I had a dream that I had a daughter named Elizabeth," says Bud.
Their daughter, Elizabeth, was born to them five years ago.
Through Bud's youth ministry, a young man by the name of Christopher Lee, 20, entered their lives and is under their guardianship but Bud says unequivocably, "He's our son."
The Gougers, who also have a small construction company, believe they have been truly blessed and that is because God has given them so much, they are able to help others when in need.
"It's an incredible feeling."
Pastor Yu says that he has used a Wall Street Journal article and a video of Suze Orman, a popular financial guru, in parts of his sermons to help his church realize that the secular speakers and secular research have figured out that giving is a crucial part of personal financial growth and blessings, as well.
An excerpt from The Wall Street Journal article: "Arthur C. Brooks (an economics professor at Syracuse) argues in his book "Who Really Cares," which identifies the forces behind American charity, that people who give in a way that pinches are happier and, surprisingly, end up wealthier. According to Brooks's analysis, a dollar donated to charity led to $3.75 in extra income for the donor in 2000.
"They often create great discomfort among their families, but when people give, there is substantial personal transformation," says Brooks, an economist and professor of public administration at Syracuse University's Maxwell School. "They tend to work harder," leading to greater prosperity, and in the long run, he says, "this leads to more success, both financial and nonfinancial."
In Suze Orman's Web site video she says things like, "People first, then money, then things;" "In all realms of life it takes courage to stretch your limits, express your power, and fulfill your potential ... it's no different in the financial realm;" "A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from worry about the what-ifs of life."
Pastor Yu offers these two Web sites to reinforce these statements: http://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB118368071597158638.html and http://www.about-personal-growth.com/generosity.html.
"We're telling our story of tithing to be a living lesson, to show people that it works," says Yu.