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The origins of one-tenth as a giving guide

November 17, 2021

Daily Scripture

Genesis 28:20-22; Malachi 3:10

Genesis 28:20-22

20 Jacob made a solemn promise: “If God is with me and protects me on this trip I’m taking, and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, 21 and I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone that I’ve set up as a sacred pillar will be God’s house, and of everything you give me I will give a tenth back to you.”

Malachi 3:10

10 Bring the whole tenth-part to the storage house so there might be food in my house.
Please test me in this,
says the Lord of heavenly forces.
See whether I do not open all the windows of the heavens for you
and empty out a blessing until there is enough.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

God met tired, scared Jacob in a dream, and Jacob (like his ancestor Abram—cf. Genesis 14:18-20) pledged to return 10% of everything he gained to God. The prophet Malachi urged later Israelites to use the same guideline. Figuring a tenth was different in Genesis’ and Malachi’s more cash-free times. But returning 10% of what God gives us is still a wise Biblical guide for how to respond to God. Many Christ-followers make it a spiritual practice to give 10% of their increase to their local church.

  • Do you calculate what you give to your local church as a percentage of your increase (not just what’s handy in your purse or wallet), with 10% as a baseline goal? If yes, great. Reflect on why you choose your tithing practice. If not, what percentage of your income can you begin to give to the congregation that nurtures your relationship with God? If you give, can you increase the percentage? What could you do differently, if necessary, to enter into this practice?
  • In 1897, Johnson Oatman wrote a hymn whose chorus said, “Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done.”* What are some meaningful blessings in your life? (Even as we near the end—we hope—of a disruptive pandemic, almost all of us can find some if we think hard.) After you count the blessings one by one, write them down. Put the list where you can see it (and maybe add to it) daily. Offer God your thanks.

O God, it’s easy for me to thank and praise you for the obvious blessings I enjoy. Give me the vision to value what one writer called the blessings brilliantly disguised as problems or challenges. Amen.

GPS Insights

Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar is the Community Assistance Coordination Director in Resurrection's Congregational Care Ministry. She is married and loves spending time with her family, and she enjoys writing and photography.

I looked at the Scripture for today, and I’ll be honest, my first thought was, “Math? How did I get Scripture that involves math?!” I am, I confess, math-phobic. And here I am, reflecting on Bible math. Ten percent. A simple formula. Even I can divide a number into tenths. No problem. But then come the questions. What am I dividing? Before or after taxes? What about the little bits of other income I occasionally pick up? Do garage sale proceeds count? Cashback? Is there a formula for all of that? And, if there is, will I know how to process it? I’m not very good at math….

This is the problem with me and math. I have a bad tendency to make the simple complicated, get confused and frustrated, and give up. It can also be my problem when it comes to reading God’s Word. Instead of reading the message, I start picking things apart, looking for questions and missing the point. With math, I can’t really tell you what the point is. But God is pretty clear about the point when it comes to Scripture. This word was given to us so that we can come closer to God, live in the best way possible, and figure out the complications of life. Even math. This Word was given to tell us that God loves us and wants to provide for us in every way possible.

So the point isn’t necessarily the numbers. Ten percent is the tool. Ten percent is the math. It’s the goal to help us remember that everything we have comes from God. Everything we have is a blessing. Not just the parts of our life that we can easily put a number on. To really live the blessed life, we need to be sure that we acknowledge these blessings, and we are not hoarding our time, our gifts, our talents, our joy, our possessions, or our income. God loves us, and intends to “…open all the windows of the heavens for you and empty out a blessing until there is enough.” (Micah 3:10)

Lord God who gives us everything we have, help us recognize every blessing, every good thing we have, and return to you what you have asked. Please protect us from overthinking, over-figuring, and over-complicating your tools and instructions. Thank you for your love and care. Amen.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* “Count Your Blessings”—words by Johnson Oatman, 1897 – published in 226 hymnals according to