Journey of Generosity - Learning to Give Outrageously01/15/2015 .
Darlene and Dan Siems gazed into the gentleman’s eyes – eyes that conveyed frustration, loss of dignity and shame. He had been forced by life’s circumstances to stand on the street corner and beg for kindness from passersby. It had left him suspicious and jaded.
“What one thing can I do to make your life better?” asked Dan. And he could see the man relax as he answered . . . he desperately needed a new pair of shoes.
Darlene and Dan purchased a pair of brand new shoes at a local store and brought them back to the homeless man. For a brief moment, this man who had lost hope, who couldn’t see tomorrow as any better than today, flashed joy in his eyes. That moment changed Dan and Darlene forever.
The Siems began their journey of generosity in 2006 when they moved with their children from Texas to Southern California. They purchased a home and the resulting mortgage created the largest debt of their 25 years of marriage. Despite this burden, they grew to love their new home, and began attending Saddleabck Church. They took Class 201 and learned what the Bible has to say about giving back to God by tithing.
Dan and Darlene learned through CLASS 201 – a class that focuses on how to become more like Jesus through the spiritual habits of prayer, Bible study, tithing and fellowship – and Pastor Rick’s teaching, that a full 10% should be tithed to the church with additional charitable donations to be made wherever God led them.
So they made the next big step on their journey . . . not because they wanted to change the world or even bless others . . . they simply wanted to be obedient to God. Dan and Darlene decided to give a full 10% of their income to Saddleback and rely on the Biblical promises of God to help them continue to pay off their debt.
“We learned that God owns all our financial resources and possessions. We are only His stewards,” says Darlene. “It is a terrible waste if you don’t realize God only lends resources to us to use and to help others.”
Almost immediately after they began to tithe, Dan lost his job. Panic and fear set in as they wondered how they could continue to pay the mortgage on just one income. Making some tough decisions, they compressed their lifestyle to live solely on Darlene’s income, stayed faithful to tithing and resolved leave their savings intact.
Dan and Darlene decided to join a Crown Financial Ministries small group. In that group, God showed the Siems more of the journey he was leading them on — he wanted them to learn how to rely solely on God. During the lesson on Debt, the verse Romans 13:8 caught their attention, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another…”
“We asked each other what this verse meant for us,” said Dan. “So we studied it in all the online translations, looked it up in the Greek, asked friends and prayed about it. Finally we decided, ‘It must mean exactly what it says: ‘Owe no man anything’, so we believed this was what God wanted for our lives. He wanted us to get out of debt completely – which meant paying off that huge mortgage!”
With determination to follow God’s path, they were able to save even more money by making additional lifestyle changes. They did not purchase new clothes. They began using only one car, walking and riding bicycles to supplement the reduction in vehicles. They even collected gray water for reuse. In giving up things, the couple saw the value in their possessions and protected them fiercely. Repair bills they budgeted for didn’t materialize. They also decided that any additional income they received would be used to pay off their mortgage.
“In the past, we felt secure by the numbers on our financial statement. It was a shaky existence,” Dan explains. “But the Bible came alive as we transferred our security to him. For all we gave up materially, we regained more peace, more of his presence in our lives. We realized no one enters into the real joy of the Lord in spite of hard times, but squarely through the door of difficulty.”
The process started getting easier as they felt God honoring their efforts. “We listened to him and felt his presence everywhere. It was truly palpable; much more than when we didn’t tithe. His presence replaced the anxiety and doubt in our lives and brought peace that made us deeply breathe relief.” Dan landed a consulting job and his entire paycheck went to paying off their mortgage. When Dan landed a much better job than his original position, they used every penny of that new income to make payments on the house. Within three years, they paid off their entire mortgage – 360 payments compressed down to 36!
During the excitement of reaching an incredibly difficult goal, they began to wonder, “What’s next? What do we do with the money that previously went to the bank?” Confused at first, they went back to their life verse, Romans 13:8 “Owe no man anything, but to love one another.” Verse nine began to answer their questions, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” They asked, “What does it mean for Darlene and Dan to love their neighbor?” Slowly the idea formed to give away their entire mortgage payment each and every month.
To use God’s blessings to become a blessing to others, they decided that, for every $1 they spent on themselves, they would spend $1 on someone else. To begin this new phase of their journey, they researched, and prayed about how God wanted them to bless others.
Their eyes were opened in several ways: They went to Rwanda on a PEACE trip and saw how much time people spent on gathering water. This led them to get involved in the Clean Water Initiative. When the Siems walked or rode their bikes, they witnessed the humiliation of the homeless and poor who were forced to beg for money. So they began to help the homeless. And ultimately, they began to build a legacy into their children, giving them the wisdom and tools to use their resources to bless others.
There are still uphill difficulties every day, but their lifestyle takes less effort now. “God shows you your own failings. Working on them is difficult, even scary,” Dan says. “The journey changed our hearts. Now, instead of worrying about money, we live with peace and excitement. If you would like to grow more dependent on God, start tithing. It will start you on your personal journey of being a blessing to others.”
To learn more about tithing and financial security, please connect with the Financial Freedom Ministry.