For many years, Wendy Pawsey ticked the box of ‘Christian giving’ through tithing. But seeing sacrificial generosity in action caused her to think again

For many years I’d stumble across articles about tithing, gifts and offerings and would skim-read them with a vague promise to myself that I’d properly study the topic later. Then seemingly more pressing subjects – such as evangelism, cultural decline and my growing ironing pile – ensured this date was a long time coming…or maybe God was waiting for the perfect moment.

In 2016, after much prayer, I moved away from being a full-time minister and embraced being bi-vocational. Instead of returning to the world of finance, in which I was well versed from my days as a financial advisor, I dived into the crazy world that is fundraising. In this new environment I found myself surrounded by a multitude of amazing people who gave lavishly to causes that were close to their hearts. 

Seeing generosity on this scale on an almost daily basis made me curious and opened my eyes to a whole new level of giving that I’d never seen before. I understood tithing and would regularly give outside of the tithe to those who were experiencing need, but being exposed to abundant generosity challenged me to enlarge my perspective and reassess my actions. 

The level of giving I was witnessing within the fundraising world was off the scale – generous with a neon flashing capital G – and my mind was blown with the difference that could be made for God’s kingdom if more people, including me, practised generosity. I started to understand that the world we live in could be dramatically enhanced; Christian organisations, churches, outreaches and missions would be able to reach more people with the gospel and be properly resourced. More and more people would have access to the good news, hope and love that is Jesus. Exciting stuff! 


In the beginning…

It wasn’t just people’s generosity that inspired me to give more, it was also God’s generosity that I began to see spilling out from every page of the Bible. The hints that we read in the Old Testament came to fruition in the New Testament when God gave his Son, who then gave his life that we might live. And God’s generosity doesn’t end there – while preparing his disciples for his departure, Jesus told them that God would “give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17). Our God gives and gives and gives. As Christians we can become so familiar with this truth that it stops impacting us. We can know it, believe it, but do not feel it. 

Right at the beginning in the book of Genesis we read that God gave – he “created the heavens and the earth” (1:1). The earth was empty, but God filled it, using his creative generosity. We only have to observe the brilliance of a sunset, wander around a zoo or meander through the countryside to see that this world God created is overflowing with elaborate detail and inconceivable harmony. There is so much variety everywhere we look, and it is captivating. 

Generosity comes in all different guises and is a lifetime journey

If we move our gaze upwards, the stars in the sky are an awesome example of God’s generosity. Scientists vary in their estimates of how many stars exist – some talk about trillions – but in a throwaway line in Genesis, we are told God “also made the stars” (Genesis 1:16). A friend recently braved wild camping in Dartmoor for her granddaughter’s birthday and she described the sky as not having enough room for the millions of stars it needed to contain. That is our abundantly generous God. 

The God who gives 

From personal experience, being the grateful recipient of a financial or practical gift has expanded my view of God as the giver of all good things. God not only created us, but he also provides for us. We see this time and time again throughout scripture and in our normal, everyday lives – and it isn’t always a monetary gift. I love testimony time at our church, because we get a glimpse of the Father who loves to give. I remember a man – we’ll call him Steve – sharing how one day when he was driving, he asked for a sign that God was real; that he heard his prayers. At the next set of traffic lights, he stopped behind a grimy van on which these words were written: “I love you, Steve.” God is in the details. 

Another friend, who lives in a sizeable home, asked God to help her find an item her grumbling husband had misplaced. Upon receiving her answer, she went to the destination to which God had directed her and retrieved the ‘lost’ item. Like any good Father, he loves being part of our lives.

He is good, generous, thorough and never short-sighted. He knows and understands our needs before we even realise there is a need. And if that isn’t enough, God’s giving overflows into blessing. In Malachi 3:10, God promises: “‘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.’”

He modelled what we should mimic

It is part of God’s nature to be generous and to give, and he wants us to be the same. In fact, this is part of our discipleship journey; this is part of us becoming more like him. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made this profusely and uncomfortably clear when he said: “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:40-42). That’s a tough ask, but it’s one we are all capable of in our own way.

In Matthew 25 we are told, in reference to feeding the hungry, offering welcome to the stranger, clothing the naked and supporting the prisoner, that whatever we do for those in need we do for the King. Jesus builds on this idea in James 2:15-17 when he says: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

In my time as a financial advisor, I had a client who, at the end of the financial tax year, looked for an organisation to bless. One year he did this by buying a helicopter worth millions for a well-known health organisation. That was his level of generosity. In the book I’ve just written – Generous With a Capital G (Instant Apostle) – there is a story about a lady who struggles financially but saves her pennies to purchase the ingredients to bake a cake for those in need within her community. Both are great examples of generosity that reflect very different circumstances. The common denominator is that the gifts weren’t given lightly. Whatever we give to God he can bless and multiply. Think of the little boy with the loaves and fishes; a supper for one that fed thousands (Matthew 14:13-21), or even the widow in 2 Kings 4 with the debtors at her door and nothing to her name but one jar of oil. God met her need by filling every possible jar she could find with oil. Our generous God makes the impossible possible.

When we partner with him in this way, when we place what we have in his hands, giving back a percentage of what he has gifted us, amazing things can be achieved. Over the years, I have helped raise millions of pounds by asking thousands of people to support many good causes. Running alongside this, I have been (and still am) on a personal journey of learning to listen to his voice, responding whenever he prompts me to give generously, recognising and giving thanks that this is a moment to step out in faith and to become more like him.

Generosity comes in all different guises and is a lifetime journey that often spreads and infects others. It has the potential to impact individuals, churches, communities, counties and even a nation for the glory of God. Dream with me for a minute and imagine a world where every believer mimicked what God has modelled and was outrageously generous with what they had. What a world it would be! 

Three reasons tithing is still relevant today

1. It increases our faith

God knows that the abundance and blessings he provides will compete for our affection and challenge our commitment to him. Tithing is a tangible way for us to choose God over the things of this world. When we tithe, we acknowledge where our provision comes from and we declare that all we have is from God; that he has faithfully provided for our needs and we are returning a portion to him as an expression of our submission, love and worship.

2. It is supported by scripture

In Malachi 3:6-10 we are told that God does not change, so to abstain from tithing – a practice that was codified in the law – is to steal from him. Jesus, the very word of God made flesh, or as the author of Hebrews says: the very speech of God (1:1-3), also supports the tithe in Matthew 5:17-19 when he upholds every requirement of the Law, confirming he has not come to “abolish the Law or the Prophets…but to fulfil them”. 


3. It builds the body of Christ

A recent report by Stewardship reveals that Christians in the UK give an average of £73 a month, equating to 3.2 per cent of their income across all causes, including their churches. With this 3.2 per cent, churches throughout the UK are feeding the hungry, breaking the chains of oppression and setting the prisoner free. They are addressing poverty, through funding foodbanks, helping the addicted via rehabilitation centres, sharing the good news by running toddler, youth and Alpha groups, and so much more. Imagine the difference to the body of Christ if those that were able to fully tithe, did.