I will not take for the Lord what is yours,
nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.
1 Chronicles 21:24b
There’s nothing like a loss of income to make a person sit up and pay attention to their finances. Early in my marriage, I had a basic understanding of how to balance a checkbook, but I did not have a biblical understanding of handling money or running a household. When my husband and I decided that I would stay home with our children, we did it with minimal planning and virtually no prayer. I didn’t know I had entered God’s financial boot camp.
When I quit my job, we immediately lost two-thirds of our income; and right around that time, my husband also had an idea for a small business. Without having planned a budget based on this reduced income, we were in for a struggle. God was working, though, and we had many opportunities to step out in faith.
One of my biggest obstacles was learning how to grocery shop for five people on a small budget. I was tempted at times to use the money that was for God’s work to buy groceries—and a few times I did just that. Though I knew God wasn’t going to condemn me for it, I felt bad and really wanted to give even though finances were tight. Several Christian teachers encouraged me to seek God first and trust Him to supply what we needed (Matthew 6:33), and to give regularly even though it seemed not to make financial sense.
Honestly, I stink at shopping on a budget and tend to whine about it. I like to get in and out as fast as possible; and having to shop for high-quality food on limited budget really puts a crimp in my desire to get it over with. I always have a sense of relief once I am out of the store, and my grocery purchases are packed in the trunk.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, that this is exactly where God gave me a nudge—after a trip to the grocery store. On this particular shopping trip, I was able to purchase most of what I needed, and I even bought a special treat for my children. I was happy to not have to think of shopping for another week. I didn’t realize, though, that this training session had just begun.
As I sat at a traffic light on the way home, I had a strong impression in my spirit to turn the opposite direction and take my groceries to a friend’s house. She and her husband had been struggling with finances too, and apparently they needed the groceries in my car more than we did. I sat for a moment thinking, Could God really be asking me to give my groceries away? What would we do for food? Because the traffic light was going to change, I only had a moment to decide. I felt God’s assurance, and decided to take the groceries to my friend. I worried for only a brief moment, but then I became so excited to bless the other family. It became a joyful journey to drive over to their house and secretly put the food on their porch before they got home.
To this day, I can’t remember what I did next. But I do know that, even though I gave away our week’s supply of food, we did not go hungry; and in our 23-year marriage we have never gone without food, shelter, or clothing. God still challenges me occasionally to give away something that I need or want. With the challenge always comes a bit of anxiety at first, but then a great joy comes as I have learned to anticipate the greater blessing which follows obedience. When we take giving seriously—and maybe even stretch ourselves a little—we please our Father in Heaven. Just as He watched the widow give out of her little supply (Mark 12:41-44), He watches us give, too. I pray we can be like King David when he, with reverence and awe, stated, “I will not give offerings that cost me nothing” (1 Chronicles 21:24).