Austin Lee

I shared a parking space in my office parking lot with a homeless man named Rick. Space #19 was where I was assigned to park and it just so happened that it also served as Rick's bedroom. I didn't know that Rick slept in my parking space until I came to work early one morning and woke him up. 

Rick needed some food and I had a McDonald's Gift Certificate worth $5 that I gave him. We would talk every night after work about the things he saw during the day and I shared with him about the accounting issues I was dealing with at work. Neither of us really understood what the other was actually experiencing, but we empathized with each other as friends do.

It was a cold winter, so one morning I grabbed my sleeping bag on the way out of the house and asked Rick if he thought he could use it to stay warm. He wanted to be sure this wasn't charity, and I assured him that I loaned this sleeping bag to my friends when they needed it for camping or guests sleeping over. 

He took the bag.

One night I attended a concert after work and left my car in the parking lot while I attended the show. On the way back from the concert I found a $10 bill on the sidewalk and put it in my pocket. As I returned to my car Rick ran up to me and exclaimed, "They were here!" I asked him who "they" were and he informed me that a group of people were breaking into cars in the lot that night. He was proud to inform me that he stopped them from breaking into my car.

I asked him if I could pay him for that service and handed him that $10 bill. A couple of weeks went by and I didn't see Rick at all. Then one night after work Rick was sitting on my bumper with a big smile on his face. He explained that he used the $10 bill I gave him to take MARTA to get his paperwork that made him eligible for disability and got him into a group home. He was able to receive medical care and new clothes and job training at this new home.

He gave me a big hug in the parking lot, thanked me for saving his life, and walked down 10th street. That was the last time I ever saw Rick.

Growing up in church I head all of the stories about giving and tithing, but my interaction with Rick reminded me that the amount of my generosity is not as important as my willingness to be generous. Just as God can feed a multitude with only five loaves of bread and two fish, he saved Rick with a McDonalds Gift Card, an old sleeping bag, and a $10 bill that I found on the street.

Jan Jordan

There are two reasons that giving is important to me:  1) The church at the corner of Clairemont and Commerce is important to me and 2)  I owe a debt of gratitude to Jesus Christ.

I think that it is important for our church to give to Decatur-area Emergency Assistance Ministry,  and to Decatur Cooperative Ministry, and to Edgewood Church.  I have an obligation to support those of Christ's children who find themselves in a position of need.  To me it is important to give to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship: to do my part to spread the good news of Jesus' death, resurrection, forgiveness, and never-ending love both here and far away.  For me, these considerations leave no doubt that I want to give as generously as possible.  I can’t sit in a pew at FBC Decatur Sunday after Sunday and not care about the work we do on behalf of Jesus Christ.   Giving generously to the church at the corner of Clairemont and Commerce is the most important way I can say that Jesus is important to me and that I care about the work that we do in his name.

Do I owe Jesus Christ anything?   Do I owe him anything for having left his place of power, honor, and splendor to walk among us to love and heal, only to be rejected and reviled by us?  Do I owe the sinless Jesus anything for having been willing to die the shameful death reserved for the vilest of criminals so that I can one day stand blameless before his father?  Do I owe Jesus anything?  The answer is yes, a resounding yes – I owe him everything!  I owe him gratitude for having conquered sin and death so that my last breath on this earth is really not the end. I owe him gratitude for the abundant life he gives me in this life and that continues on the other side.  I owe him gratitude for showing me what unconditional love looks like, for showing me what unconditional forgiveness looks like, and for showing me what it means to love the least among us.  Yes, I really do owe Jesus everything and when I admit that Jesus means everything to me, I must give generously to his church.  Because this church in Decatur really is the church of Jesus Christ.  And because this is the church of Jesus Christ, I will do everything in my power to love and support his church. 

Lisa Tyler

On paper, our financial situation could not have been better. It was the dot com boom, and my husband, David, and his partners had just received enough venture capital to go to the next level. I was working part-time at CNN, a luxury we were afforded by David’s job. We had a baby and one on the way, and things were good. We had every reason in the world to tithe to our church, but for some reason we didn’t. We didn’t really think too seriously about money - either saving it or giving it away - maybe because we didn’t have to. That would all change. The dot com boom busted, and David found himself without a job. I had to go back to work full-time to support our family. I became pregnant with our third child while David was unemployed. We had a tiny house that wouldn’t hold five of us, and on paper, it was a disaster. If something didn’t happen fast, David would become a stay at home parent (a disaster of a different kind!). We had just begun to blow through our savings when David suggested something insane – tithing. I wondered why in the world we would give money away when we had no money coming in. But David was doing a lot of soul searching while he was out of a job, and he really felt led to give. It’s against my nature to let someone else be in control, but this time I went along. I realize now that I was going along with God, not David. I will admit that when we started tithing I hoped it meant God would “repay” us and give David a job. But God is far more creative and knows much more about what we need for now and for the future. 

What God did instead was give us trust – trust in him and trust in each other. Our marriage gained dividends that cannot be matched financially. The stress we were under would have ended many marriages, but instead it made ours stronger. We were a team like we had never been before, and I guess God knew we needed that foundation for the years of parenting ahead. The day we had our third baby, David was hired for a full-time job. A year later with an empty bank account I quit my job - something God audibly told me to do for our children. With our faith muscles strong, we took another leap of faith. We knew God had us. There wouldn’t be anything we couldn’t handle, and so far there hasn’t been. Again, God knows what we need now and later.

Tithing is something David and I wouldn’t even consider wavering on. We know too well what God started to do for us when we surrendered that part of ourselves. I selfishly do not want to miss out on those blessings! Tithing doesn’t mean that God will end your financial troubles. It doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to you. It doesn’t mean that you will be praised by your minister (they have no idea what we give) or anyone else. But it does mean you will grow stronger. I know from personal experience that when you give, you gain. You gain a closer relationship with God. What in the world could be more valuable than that?