Mission Lab 2018

Tithing a matter of faithfulness, church members say

March 2nd, 2017 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

Tithing a matter of faithfulness, church members say

Robert Welch (left), pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church in Chandler, takes a picture with faithful church members Jean and Joe Fleming. Photo courtesy of Ed Fenton

CANADIAN / CHANDLER Betty Thomason can’t participate in as much at First Baptist Church in Canadian as in former days, but that doesn’t prevent the 85-year-old widow from tithing. 

Widowed over 20 years, Thomason said she lives on a fixed income from social security and her late husband’s pension as a county commissioner. She is also a seamstress. 

Thomason’s strategy for the tithe is simple. It’s the first check she writes when her social security and pension checks arrive. “I really don’t even figure my tithe into the budget. It’s not mine.”

“I think the Bible is God’s true Word,” Thomason said. “The Bible says it’s impossible for God to lie. If you are not tithing, you are robbing God. If you do tithe, he is going to open the window up and pour out more blessings than you can tell. I believe that. I have tested it. I know.”

Quoting Jesus in Mark 12:17, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (KJV), Thomason added, “And God’s part has always been a tenth, as far as I can tell.”

Even if she cannot do as much as she used to, Thomason said, “I know if I give my tithe, someone else can go in my place.”

“Everybody knows that I believe the Lord takes care of me and my needs. Anything I am or have ever hoped to be is because of my walk with Jesus Christ.”

Like Thomason, Jean and Joe Fleming, retired schoolteachers who attend Rock Hill Baptist Church in Chandler, consider tithing an act of obedience and love. While widows on fixed incomes may dwell at the bottom of the economic ladder, retired teachers are only a few financial rungs above. This does not stop Jean and Joe Fleming from giving generously.

Parents of two married children, the Flemings taught in four Texas public school districts. Jean taught special education for 41 years while Joe was a science and history teacher and football and baseball coach until 2010. 

“We’re old!” exclaimed Jean. “We’re both 66.”

Joe said the couple’s philosophy of tithing centers on obedience and gratitude to God for all he has given: “beyond your house, cars and all the tangibles … he gave us life. He has given his love. He has given his forgiveness, grace, mercy. He gave us his Son, who gave his life for our salvation. He rose again, which gives us hope and assurance.”

“Our lives here are temporary. Our tithing and offerings are just an expression of our gratitude, of our love, a way of worshiping and saying thank you, we leave our finances in your hands,” Joe said.

“The Bible says you are to give a tenth. Anything over that, we would consider a love offering.” Jean said. 

Like Thomason, the Flemings write their offering checks as soon as they receive their monthly retirement income. 

“You don’t see it, you don’t have it, it’s gone. And you work with what you have left,” Jean said, referencing Malachi 3:10 as “the one time in the Bible that God actually tells us to test him. ‘Give what you are supposed to give and then test me and let me show you what I can do.’”

“You can talk yourself out of tithing because you feel like you need the money,” Jean added.

The Flemings counter arguments of those who say they cannot afford to tithe with examples of God’s provision. 

Jean recalled wondering how they would manage a $400 down payment for their son’s braces. Help came from an unexpected source: the U.S. Treasury Department issued rebate checks to eligible taxpayers as part of the Bush tax cuts. 

“In the mail, I got a check for $400,” Jean said. “It wasn’t any more. It wasn’t any less. He knew I needed S400. That was a God thing.”

The Flemings also put two children through college debt-free, partly thanks to community scholarships, Joe said. The children participated in college extracurriculars, maintained good grades and held down part-time jobs. Their daughter was a cheerleader at Baylor and their son played baseball at Mary Hardin Baylor.

As the daughter of a Baptist minister, Jean has a personal “soapbox” regarding tithing: “People want to have a big church that has all these things to offer, but if you don’t tithe, there’s no money to do that.”

Jean’s “biggest thing” regarding giving involves the church’s responsibility to take care of the staff. “If we do not tithe, then our staff does not have what they need to take care of themselves [or] their families.” 

“People who come to church like to be fed,” Joe added. “And God expects us to bring our offerings. You are not going to get fed if people don’t bring any offerings. The pastor can’t survive. The staff have lives too, and family. Jean was a product of that. She saw it firsthand.”

Joe, whose father worked in an airplane factory and mother sold real estate, said he also hailed from a family of modest income. 

“We didn’t have a whole lot of money,” Joe said. “We ate a whole lot of hot dogs.”

However, tithing was always part of their lives. “I remember going to Sunday school with my little envelope carrying 50 cents in it,” Joe mused.