Here's a piece of hope to overcome a shame I carried for years. Maybe it will release you too.
I'm repeatedly startled when God reveals new truths in scripture even though I've spent hours studying the Bible. Here is a nugget I hadn't "seen" before.
Deuteronomy 26:12 (NIV)
When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the WIDOW, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.
I've been raised to tithe. Give 10% of my income, prior to taxes. And if you do that, God will bless you greatly. This is based on several verses but here is one for context:
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 there will not be room enough to store it."
Prior to my divorce, I was a stay at home, homeschooling mom of 4 children for 17 years. When the divorce was finalized, I was given 5 years of alimony to figure out how I would become financially independent, pay off my attorney fees, and still support my kids. Waking up at 4 am in a cold sweat trying to figure out a solution for our lives, night after night, became my normal. How would I ever be able to tithe, obey God, and still pay my bills?
(Ironically, the more money I tried to make, the more alimony and child support would be reduced... a cycle of never getting ahead...)
The "helpful" people in my community said to pray, do what God wants you to do, and through blind faith, He will provide. I don't mean to sound faithless, but that did not sit well with me. God never let me win the lottery, no matter how much I tithed.
I tried to find other ways to tithe by offering my clients a few free or low cost coaching opportunities. Maybe God would accept this gift as tithing. Maybe I could stop feeling guilt or shame.
I worried God would be mad at me... but surely He would understand my fears and concerns for my little family. So when I read, "you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow," I felt a little hope and started exploring the scripture's true rendition of tithing.
Here's what the old Testament actually says about tithing: the Israelites were to take 10% of their income (sheep, silver, grain, etc) to the temple so that money could be divided for each of the following groups: Levites, the foreigner, the fatherless, and widows.
Why does the concept of widows resonate with me? I believe my clients are widows (see my blog Not a Casserole Widow™ for a deeper dive). While their husbands or partners are not physically dead, their relationships are dead and their futures are unexpectedly altered.
They have lost their husbands/partners to addictions or other women, which led to the death of their marriage.
They have been forced to divorce due to emotional abuse, covert manipulation and/or domestic violence.
They were not mentally, financially, or physically prepared to survive alone.
They are grieving the death of their marriage, life, and future they believed they had.
These women are widows too.
I realized I'm actually not the one to be ashamed of my inability to tithe; our faith communities should carry that shame because they refuse to recognize the needs of these women. I have never, ever been to a service in which the pastor asks for a tithe to widows, of any sort. Have you?
"Life’s persistent and most urgent question is,
'What are you doing for others?'"
Martin Luther King