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The Reluctant Giver: Starting with Stewardship, Growing in Grace

By Andrew Shaughnessy, May 23, 2019

When most people become Christians, one of the first things they do is make a profession of faith. Then they start regularly attending church, they learn more about the Bible and theology, they get involved in missions and evangelism, and then, somewhere down the road in their spiritual journey, they learn about stewardship and begin to tithe and give. For most people, that’s the natural order of things—but Tom Fogarty is not most people.

That’s definitely not what happened for me,” said Tom. “I made a profession of faith only after I did a rather thorough Bible study of what tithing was and what stewardship was.”

At that time in his life, Tom was, by his own admission, rather materialistic. He was in his late 30s, successful and in the full swing of a lucrative career, at the peak of his earning power.

“I was accumulating wealth and I wasn’t about to give it away to the church unless I was absolutely convinced that this was what I should be doing,” he said. “I was an all or nothing kind of person, and the idea of giving back to God was critical. If that piece didn’t go together, [Christianity] wouldn’t have worked for me.”

Like the rich young ruler, Tom was successful in the eyes of the world, but reluctant to part with his wealth. Yet the Spirit was tugging on Tom’s heart, and he began to meet with a pastor. “To go from zero to 10 percent … I don’t know if I can do that. How am I going to get there?” he asked.

The pastor told him: “I’m going to give you a lot of material, and you’re going to read through the Bible and see what God’s Word says, because I already know there’s no way I’m going to convince you to start tithing.”

Every week, Tom would read through Scripture and study tithing and stewardship. Every week they would meet to talk it through. In the end, Tom decided to accept the biblical teaching on stewardship and follow Jesus.

He started tithing right away, but before long, that 10 percent that had once been difficult, grew. Tom started giving to local charities, the homeless, Christian non-profits. He began looking at other biblical principles surrounding what he was supposed to be doing as a Christian: reaching out and serving people.

Fogarty

Over the years, Tom and his wife, Sandy, started thinking more about kingdom building. By this point, just tithing was well behind in the rear view mirror. Some years Tom was giving 50 percent of his income, in others, more than 100 percent. He retired three times, and each time God would put it on Tom’s heart to give substantial amounts of money to particular kingdom-building efforts. Then he would give his retirement money away, and return to work to earn it back again. Over his lifetime, the giving just kept growing.

“The best way I would describe it is: the closer my walk got to the Lord, the more I was willing to give,” he said. “To me that seemed simple. The more I understood who God is, the more I understood what Jesus Christ did for me, the more I understood God’s story in the Bible, the easier it became. It became clearer to me—this is how you’re supposed to live your life.”

Tom has given enormously to missions and for kingdom purposes over the years, is an MTW Ambassador, and regularly writes and speaks about what God has taught him about stewardship: that our savings and investments don’t belong to us, but to the Lord; that God has a kingdom purpose in mind for our stewardship; that God wants us to work and increase what he has given us and give now, while we’re alive on earth; that it’s OK to be dependent on God. 

“In fact it’s a good thing,” he said, “but none of us wants to do that. We want to be dependent on ourselves.”

“I believe you cannot be a strong steward of God’s financial providence unless you have substantial faith and trust in God,” he added. “You’re not going to be a strong giver without it, because you’re always going to go back and depend upon yourself; and if you depend on yourself, you’re never going to think you have enough.”

Andrew Shaughnessy

Andrew Shaughnessy is a long-time word slinger who spent nearly six years as MTW’s staff writer, gathering and telling impact stories from missionaries across the globe. These days, he’s off working as an analyst and editor in the publishing industry, writing fiction, and mountaineering. He holds a B.A. in history and English literature from Covenant College, and an M.S. in political science from Portland State University.

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