Upside Down Giving

By Kezia Owusu-Yianoma | 24 October 2018

 Reverse tithing. Generous even in poverty. Christians love a juxtaposition. We love to illustrate a point using polar opposites. Maybe that’s because it’s all over the Bible. That’s why you can read the phrase reverse tithing without even batting an eyelid, because at first it seems illustrative. Except reverse tithing isn’t just an illustration, it’s a real way to tithe. Or at least it is for Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and his wife.

The idea is you give away the 90% and live on the 10%. I know. It looks like I’ve put the 1 and the 9 in the wrong place.

Since Jesus’ encounter with one unsuspecting widow we’ve been inundated with sermons telling us that our tithing isn’t about how much we give in strict percentages. Much like the widow who gave her last two coins, our giving is measured by how much it has cost us, not just its economic value.

Sometimes I think to myself, ‘If tithing is an issue of the heart then it doesn’t matter how much I give so long as I feel like I’m sacrificing’, and in that moment self-righteousness wins over worship.

How often have we taken comfort in regularly giving our 10%, instead of being audacious enough to smash open our alabaster jar?

Jesus creates no double-standard in praising both the widow who gave her last and Mary Magdalene for sparing no expense. Here’s what I think is to be praised in both stories:

  • Both women recognised that God is worthy of our everything - whether that everything is 50p or £50,000.
  • The faith required to give God your everything is the same whether you have a little or a lot.

The idea of reverse tithing seems so shocking because I immediately think “well how am I going to provide for myself on just 10% of my annual salary?” But Rick Warren didn’t learn how to do that overnight. Trusting God in generosity on that scale was a lifelong journey for Warren, increasing his giving incrementally year on year until it reached 90%. But what a beautiful picture it has created of God’s economy; you can give more than you keep and still have more than enough. Completely contrasting ideas, but so typical of God.

Sending a mighty saviour as a baby, using the lowly to humble the proud and even rising from death to life. It all seems a bit backwards.

God has a knack for working with polar opposites and often by doing so he stretches our faith. A God who brings something from nothing can definitely supply our every need; even if we’re living on only 10%.

OK, maybe you’re not in the position to tithe 90% today. But Rick Warren’s testimony of reverse tithing serves as an all-too-important reminder that God loves to work miraculously in things that seem a bit backwards. His story might give us the faith we need to give that little bit more than we have before, remembering that even if we try, we can never out-give God.


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