Come with me as I travel back in time. Not very far, just to 2019, pre-COVID 19 pandemic. Our lives as believers were fairly consistent and unvarying: working hard, six days a week, welcoming Sabbath on Friday evenings and then attending church with family members and friends on Sabbath morning. 

Think back to that time. What was your favorite element of the worship service? Was it the challenging discussions of a Sabbath school lesson taught by an engaging teacher? Perhaps it was seeing the children have a special part in the Sabbath morning service. Maybe the time of musical praise where you were able to lift your voice with other believers in praise and gratitude to God stands out. Or it could have been a challenging sermon from God’s word presented in a compelling manner by the preacher of the week who was often used by the Holy Spirit to touch your heart.  

I suspect, however, that in your thinking you would not have come up with “when the offering plate was passed” as a significant moment of the worship service. (Post-COVID, most giving is online.) Am I wrong on this? It may seem strange, but to me this is a highlight of the worship service, and maybe the most practical. Hang on, don’t turn the page with a shake of the head, saying, “Well, he is the union treasurer so of course he feels that way!” Let me explain further. 

You see, I believe tithe and offerings are all about grace. Grace? Really? Yes! Listen to what Paul writes in Eph. 2:6-9: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages, he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” 

Plainly, God is in the business of showing you and me the “incomparable riches of his grace,” primarily through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He so wants us to understand that we must trust in Jesus and His mercy—grace–this is how we are to be saved! And how does He teach us? Well, one way is by spending Sabbath with Him. In so doing, we learn that by devoting 1/7 of our time (versus scratching, striving and exerting ourselves to either work for our survival or distract ourselves through entertainment seven days a week) that true rest, peace and wholeness can only be found in His presence. 

I freely admit that I cannot take care of myself and family with unceasing activity; rather I must rely on Him for a joyous and healthy existence. In the same way, by giving tithes and offerings, I learn God’s lesson of grace that He will take care of my material needs. I cannot adequately take care of myself with 100 percent, but He will take my lesser portion and through His blessing, provide me with all that I need.  

How important is it to God that I learn this lesson? Listen once again to the ancient and well-known message of Mal. 3:10. This is what he says: “bring the whole tithe into the store house 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 blessings that there will not be enough room to store it.” Did you hear the challenge, direct from God Himself? “Test me,” He says… it’s the only place in His word where God INVITES me to test Him. When I hoard 100 percent of the resources God has blessed me with, I am saying that I will depend on myself, my works, to take care of my needs. However, when I return tithes and offerings to God, I deliberately place myself in a position where I must receive His blessing for my needs to be met. 

Thus, I have learned that my salvation is also dependent on grace; there are no works that I can produce that will be sufficient to “provide for my salvation” anymore than if I retained all financial resources, and tried to adequately provide for my physical needs. 

Finally, another aspect of this practice is that God trains me to live generously as a “new creation” and thus reflect the generosity of my Savior Christ Jesus. What a blessing and privilege this has been to me! 

Let me share with you my personal experience. As I prepared to write this editorial it dawned on me that the divine lesson of grace in my stewardship of tithes and offerings had lessened over the last couple of years. As I thought about it I realized that I had changed my giving process in a significant way. During Covid, I, along with many of you readers, took advantage of technology and began to return my offerings online. This was necessary because of pandemic-related church closures. Now, church services have resumed, but my new practice of giving online remained. And, I have concluded that for myself the deep impression of God’s lesson in grace was somehow lessened when I simply contributed online when paying my regular bills. 

So, I have gone back to writing a check for my tithes and offerings, and bringing it to God in person as part of my worship experience in church. (Yes, this is retrograde, and so I am not recommending, just sharing; and I do realize some might think that writing a check may not be the best environmental stewardship.) My point? Give some prayerful thought as to how you might adjust so to best experience the stewardship lesson of God’s grace.

I am not alone in finding joy in God’s grace of giving. In this issue you will be inspired by reading the stories of others who have learned through active stewardship that truly, “God’s grace is sufficient” not just for our daily needs but for salvation itself.

Thank you, Jesus, for your love and grace for me!

Dave VandeVere is vice president for finance of the Mid-America Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.