YOU CAN'T OUT GIVE THE LORD!
Judith Thomas has experienced the reality that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." The "joy of the Lord" was evident as she shared her experiences with Sarah Luke, her administrative assistant, along with Larry Evans and Mark Finley. Hopefully that joy will be contagious.
It seems that through what happened back then, God built into your heart, into the fabric of your being, the spirit of giving. He recognized that you’ve always had that desire to give, and said, “OK, Judith, I’m going to give you the opportunity to fulfill that desire. I'll pour out blessings on you so that you can share them with others!”"
Larry: Judith, Mark tells me that you have had some incredible opportunities to be a witness to God’s leading and blessing. Please share what has been happening.
Judith: My witness is stewardship. It is the witness God gave me. And I would say that I’ve tithed for many, many years. But in 1991, when I started my own business, I started a 20 plus 10 rule—20% for tithe and 10% offerings for local church budget needs. At the end of my first year in business, the accountant came to me and said, “Judith, did you know what you made this year?” I told him a small sum. He then shared with me what I had left in the bank after I had followed my rule of 20 plus 10. I was amazed. It was far more than I even imagined. We didn’t have a large team—just three employees—and the Lord!
After that first year I thought, “That was 20 plus 10. I’m now going to increase it to 20 plus 20!” Three years later, that first year’s income tripled! Next, I went up to 25 plus 20. I can just say that, over the years, all that has compounded many times over. Sometimes it wasn’t the liquidity, but God had given me a big business opportunity which turned out to be very profitable. Last year my accountant said, “You’d better slow down, Judith. You gave 60 percent of your income to charity!” I don’t worry about it. I know that the Lord will come through for me and I will be able to do this work for the last days. I don’t know how many years we have left, but I do know that my purpose in life is to continue my witness, which is stewardship. One can’t out give the Lord!
Mark: Allow me to clarify—You’re now giving 60 percent of your income?
Judith: I think this year it’s going to be 70%! We’re praying that some of the properties that we have up on the market will be sold so that we can do some very special projects.
Larry: So you do enjoy doing these projects?
Judith: Yes, I just love doing them!
Larry: What is there about contributing that brings such satisfaction to you?
Judith: I like touching lives where I am. Last year, I befriended a young lady in my home town. She had stage 3 cancer and was awaiting surgery. Now, she has been cancer free for a whole year! In her honor, I threw a birthday party and a cancer fundraiser in my home! I had to remove all my furniture to make room, and put it all back later. We raised a significant amount. Over the last few months she has been having Bible studies in my home. I have just heard that she has set a date for her baptism. Praise the Lord!
Mark: Judith, you said you started by giving money but that stewardship is a lot more than finances. Tell us about some of the ministries you do for some who find themselves in some really tough circumstances.
Judith: I think the ministry that I enjoy the most is for women coming through the emergency room who have been battered or raped, and are traumatized. At the Adventist Hospital in Atlanta, we provide a care package for these victims. They're given in the name of the hospital. The boxes are beautifully wrapped and include all those ‘essentials’ for women: lotions, cosmetics, soap, perfume, toothbrushes, toothpaste and more. Every woman in that situation can at least leave there with a little bit of care in that box.
Mark: What about the man under the bridge?
Judith: You are referring to the incident in Savannah. During cold winter months the homeless flock to the southern parts of the states. The shelters are filled, so many live in tents or sleeping bags under bridges. That icy winter I was able to purchase king-size blankets cheaply. I prepared a refrigerator-like box with food and asked a gentleman to accompany me to share these gifts. The homeless were wary at first but soon realized that we came as friends. During our visit I noticed a man who had burn wounds from trying to light a fire to keep warm. By God’s grace we had included some first aid supplies which I used to dress his hand.
Mark: Sarah, you work with Judith. What inspires you about this ministry?
Sarah: Just the giving, and to see how it’s blessed Judith. She has ministered to me and to a lot of people who work with her. To know Judith is to love her. She’s so giving. Her heart is so big, and things just pour out of her heart.
Larry: You’re not just talking finances, then?
Sarah: No, no! It’s about a lot more than just money.
Larry: Judith, how would you say that your way of doing stewardship impacts your spiritual life?
Judith: Let me tell you a little bit about tithing. I’ve talked to other people about this concept too. The hardest thing for a man to do is to part with his money. It says that in the Bible! Stewardship is addressed over 300 times, as opposed to many other things that we believe are more important, but mentioned much less frequently. So when man parts with his money, it’s a step of faith. Jesus said this himself. Malachi 3:8-10 confirms this thought: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me....Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse and prove Me if I will not open up the doors of heaven and pour you out a blessing so great your arms will not be able to receive it.”
Larry: Occasionally we hear of individuals who have been hurt or disappointed with the church and they are inclined not to return either their tithe or their offerings. What would you say to such an individual?
Judith: The church is made up of men and women. We all make mistakes. I’m not the judge. God says to return tithe, and He’ll take care of it. Once I’ve returned it, it’s out of my hands. I have been disappointed at times, and I’ve been to the church leaders to talk to them about it. They did their best to meet my concerns. I feel that in the Adventist Church there is more faithful accounting of tithes and offerings than in any other denomination which I’ve been acquainted with. [Judith has not always been a Seventh-day Adventist.]
Sarah: I was very hurt at one time by the church, and Judith said, “I’d rather be in there praying to make a difference than be outside criticizing what’s going on.”
Larry: These are tough financial times for many. What kind of counsel would you give to others about their returning to the Lord?
Judith: This is the test. The times are bad. People are out of work. People are homeless. It is the greatest test for faith. Can we be faithful when things aren’t going so well? The Lord’s pledge and indeed His commitment to us is, “Prove Me.” He says, “Put Me to the test. I won’t fail you, no matter what the circumstances are.” I do not know why He has trusted me with money, but He has, and that puts me under an obligation to give back. And if I can give 60 to 70 percent of my income then why wouldn’t I be faithful to God? He’s been faithful to me.
Larry: What a wonderful testimony! So if I hear you right, living during difficult financial times doesn’t lessen the importance of our faithful walk with Christ.
Judith: It’s wise. If we can be committed to Jesus when the chips are down by taking one step at a time, He will take two, He will take ten!
Mark: Judith, you have blessed the church in many ways. But times were not always easy for you in the past. You have faced a lot of hardship and hurt, right?
Judith: It’s a refining process. I can look back and say, “God’s hand was in all of that.” Even in the fact that I faced some persecution as a young girl. As a result of being able to put that behind me, I’ve been able to get an education, and God has helped me exceed even my own expectations! Those of us who have not had it silky-smooth growing up know that it shapes us into who we are today.
Mark: It seems that through what happened back then, God built into your heart, into the fabric of your being, the spirit of giving. He recognized that you’ve always had that desire to give, and said, “OK, Judith, I’m going to give you the opportunity to fulfill that desire. I'll pour out blessings on you so that you can share them with others!”
Judith: I like the way you put that. It’s exciting. I wouldn’t trade my walk with anybody!