I grew up in a middle-class family and, from what I can tell, we didn’t lack money. I started tithing as a child during my Sunday school years 一 whenever I got an allowance or a money gift, I took 10 percent and gave it to church. To me, tithing was like any other of God’s commandments, like “honor the sabbath” and “do not murder.”
My life changed dramatically when my dad passed away in a sudden car accident. I was 15 years old, and we had only just immigrated to the U.S. a year earlier. Because of that, my dad had no life insurance and my mom did not have a career. We ran down our savings pretty quickly.
I started working to help support my family at the age of 16. We were poor. We had to move every year as we were always late on rent and couldn’t renew our lease. Our gas was cut off in the middle of winter and our car was repossessed. One day I came out to go to work and found our landlord had taken our shoes; I had to give her my whole paycheck 一 the only money we had to survive the next two weeks 一 in order to get them back. Incessant calls from collectors put us in a constant state of nervousness and insecurity. The Dollar Menu was my lunch most days, even as my income grew, as I was busy paying off debts and bills.
Throughout these experiences, I continued to tithe. It wasn’t necessarily out of a great faith. It wasn’t even always a conscious decision. I think I just desperately needed hope and the only thing I could hold onto was God’s promise in Malachi 3: ‘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.’
It was in the midst of this hardship that I gave up control over my finances and told Him that no matter how much or little I had, it would be all His. Not just 10 percent 一 all of it. And through that, a peace came over me that God would take care of me.
He certainly did and continues to take care of me. But it didn’t happen overnight 一 it took a lot of discipline and sacrifice to live on the bare minimum for years until I paid off all our debts. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t always do it right. But God was with me every step of the way. He gave me a full-time job in IT when the economy hadn’t fully recovered from the dotcom crash. He blessed me with a career beyond what I ever imagined. He continually brought people around me to bless me. He took me from a part-time intern on the helpdesk, stuffing envelopes, to now a managing director at an investment bank. People sometimes ask me about my career and I tell them it was all God. But I don’t do that lightly 一 I really felt God’s hand in every aspect of my career over the last 16 years to be at a place financially I never could have imagined.
He also allowed me to join His mission by giving beyond the tithe. Giving is the most joyful and humbling experience for me because I get to distribute His resources and take the journey with Him! God doesn’t need our money. It’s all His, and He has the ability to give or take it away as He pleases. God calls us to be faithful with what we are given.
Many of us don’t hesitate to serve in our church, give our time to help our friends or volunteer for events. We talk about how serving leads us to humble our hearts and strengthens us in faith to love our God and our neighbors. I believe giving is the same 一 when we give, we recognize all of it is God’s and it strengthens our faith and helps us to love God and our neighbors. Our family is following the Baby Steps outlined in Financial Peace University, and we dream of the day when we can give 100 percent of our income.
Soomin is part of the Stewardship Team and a Trustee of Hoboken Grace.