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By Karen Linkous. Photo by Keith Carroll.

Rick and Stephanie Whittington began tithing in January 2011. Now, Rick says, it has created a “lifestyle of generosity” for his family.

Rick and his wife, Stephanie, discussed their giving through First Baptist Church as part of their financial planning for 2011. They based their decision on Proverbs 3:9: “honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops” (NIV).

the Whittington family

Whittington family

Since Rick is a small business owner and has an irregular income, the Whittingtons determine their tithe at the end of each month, based on his gross salary plus any business profit. Rick tithes on his gross salary because “first fruits means the first portion, before taxes and insurance are paid.” The Whittingtons were careful to give ten percent to FBC because the Bible says that the tithe should be given to the local church (Malachi 3:10). Rick shared, “I have faith in giving to my local church, and trust (our) leaders to spend it wisely.”

Most traditional financial planners would say the Whittingtons should save more for education and retirement. Rick said that since the family has been tithing, his worry about saving for retirement or his children’s college educations has not been as great because they trust their finances more fully to God. “If we’re faithful in our giving and providing for the needs of others now, I trust that God will provide for our future needs.”

His advice to fellow members who are considering their giving plans is to “set your budget around your giving, not give around your budget.” He also recommends praying consistently and intentionally about giving decisions.

Prior to moving to the tithing philosophy, Rick didn’t consider himself a generous person. The family gave a flat dollar amount in offering each month. Moving to the tithing plan made them feel “nervous, but excited.” And even if their business had losses for a month, they still planned to make a gift.

In order to set themselves up to be tithers, Rick and Stephanie worked hard to remove all debt, with the exception of their mortgage. They do a monthly budget on paper that has enabled them to live within their means while giving. The tithe is the first expenditure each month.

Rick introduced Financial Peace University to our congregation four years ago. FPU is a 13-session course that is taught by nationally-known financial counselor Dave Ramsey, and is described on www.daveramsey.com as a course on “how to beat debt, build wealth, find bargains, invest for the future and give like never before.” While they were getting out of debt, they cut back on certain activities, such as travel, and Rick did freelance work at night to pay down the debt quickly. “For us, having debt for material goods was our admission that God hadn’t provided enough.” By using a budget they have been able to keep household expenses stable for the last five years. “Once you put the Financial Peace principles into practice, your life and attitude toward saving, spending and giving change.”

offering envelopeIn addition to the joy they have found in tithing, the Whittingtons also provide gifts to people in need when they can. This has been an activity where God puts the desire to give directly into their hearts. In one case, they have been fortunate to help a family friend make ends meet during a difficult time. Stephanie and Rick sponsor a child through Compassion International; their own children have become involved through the child’s picture and letters. “We hope that through child sponsorship, our kids see that there are people that are less fortunate than we are, and that they can do something tangible to help.” In finding opportunities to help others, they are not focused on whether or not they give to an organized charity or get a tax deduction.

Rick adds, “I truly believe that all we have belongs to God.” As they have increased their giving they have seen that God is providing for them in many ways. In addition, God is revealing more needs and nudging them to be more generous. Rick shares that he is learning that he “can’t outgive God.”

He challenges all who are considering increased giving to make a commitment to tithe for three months: “Examine your budget, take a leap of faith, and see what happens.”

Share below your stories of assuming a lifestyle of generosity.


Karen LinkousKaren Linkous joined First Baptist in 2008 and is a member of the Seekers class with her husband, Bob. Karen is the team leader for the Budget Team and serves on the Stewardship Education Team. She is a senior manager at Capital One and enjoys gardening, decorating and reading.

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Financial Peace University is an intensive 13-week workshop designed to help participants learn biblically-based financial management principles and achieve their financial goals. The workshop is based on the internationally acclaimed work of Dave Ramsey. It begins Wednesday, September 14, 6-7:15 p.m. in Suite 280-F.

When Rick and Stephanie Whittington began thinking about a new home, their thoughts turned to debt. Rick had heard Dave Ramsey on satellite radio and was interested in what he had to say about that subject. Dave’s radio show and book about financial peace were such a help that Rick shared the program with his First Baptist church family.

Rick has led three sessions of Financial Peace University (FPU) at FBC. This fall he hands over leadership of this ministry to Carlos and Susanne Acosta.

Susanne said she learned about FPU when her parents bought her the book. She first read it while she was in Venezuela for a year in 2009. “Carlos and I wanted to be on the same page right away as we got married. Coming from different cultures, and hearing that money problems are 50% of the reason why people get divorced, we wanted to make sure we were on top of it right away.”

Suzanne added, “Carlos and I never fight about money, we know where our money is going, we are debt-free, aside from our house, and we have peace and are able to set goals and save for them.”

No matter if you have money or not, this class is for you. You will not have to discuss personal financial issues. Dave Ramsey makes the lessons fun with his sense of humor and honesty.

Susanne concluded, “In my particular situation, I felt like there was no way to have peace over my finances, but that changed within eight months. This is a great way to bond with your spouse, or just feel accomplished as a single.”

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