Moving along in our study of Biblical mathematics, we come to the story of the 5 loaves and 2 fish that became enough food to feed a crowd. That looks like multiplication, right? Miraculous multiplication, no doubt, but have you ever looked at it from the little boy’s perspective? In order for all that food to bless the crowd, he had to give his little packed lunch away! The trust of a little child allowed Him first to be generous, and then what he gave was multiplied, and many were blessed.
Cows and All
Imagine a fenced channel: suffling cattle cause the dust to rise, the dry heat overwhelms, a man stands ready with an outstretched rod. We are out on a farm in Botswana, in Southern Africa, where a group of men and a woman are eagerly observing. One of them is counting, and the others are checking his counting. The cattle pass by: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.” The rod falls, symbolically marking that particular living, breathing, moving animal as God’s property, and it is led into a separate enclosure. They repeat this all afternoon, because it is the season, and Mum Kegalale Gasennelwe is paying her tithe!
Paying tithe in kind is an old tradition going back to Bible times, and live animals just seem so much more tangible than money - especially here where cattle embody so much of daily life in the African culture. They are used to pay “Lobola” in marriage, they plow the fields, pull carts, provide fuel for the fire, material for building and decoration. They provide milk, food, clothing, blankets, and are generally the substance and symbol of the wealth or status of a man and his family.
How did Dr Gasennelwe come to have cattle, on such a lovely farm, and still have the energy to run it, and be so full of smiles, in her retirement years? As I chat to this good-natured lady, I gather that tithing is not the only way in which she has given to the Lord. She has led a life of giving. Indeed, much of what she has done in life has been for the benefit of others from her nursing days through to her positions of leadership in the nation.
The Giving Circle
This seems to be a pattern for those who give. Giving builds trust, and trust builds generosity, and life becomes other-centred. She likes to invite her children and grandchildren and involve them in the seasons of tithing. She hopes it will be continued as a family legacy in generations to come.
The legacy which Dr Gasennelwe’s father left her was that of taking care of those less fortunate than ourselves. He was someone who had never gone to school, but he read his Bible twice a day. His interpretation was that, in it’s simplest form, Christ’s mission is for us to look after the widows and the orphans – those less fortunate. She remembers her mother cooking food for the children in the hospital, setting a similar example of caring for others. In fact, traditional culture in Botswana holds that if someone is struggling to take care of their family because of a lack of livestock, and you have enough, you are obliged to help them by loaning animals to them. If you don’t, the chief may step in to make sure that you do your duty.
These childhood and cultural influences have made Dr Gasennelwe constantly aware of the needs of those around her. In her personal life, she feels that she has become a kind of generic ‘mum‘ to many young people around her. She goes to the nearby villages with her local Adventist personal and women’s ministries people to help bring relief where there is a shortage of food, clothing and education. She hosts a party for the community kids every year at a certain time of the year, and they all know her for that!
In her professional life, she is well-known in political and religious community circles in Botswana for working towards the benefit of all, especially the less privileged, through her varied positions of responsibility in government over the years, in both the ministries of education, and health. She likes nothing better than to be in a position to make sure that the money gets to the people whom it is intended to help!
God is Faithful
Things have not always been easy for Dr Gasennelwe. She has experienced the untimely loss of her son, and then her husband, but she believes that God is always there. There must be a purpose, and rather than asking questions which we will never have answers for, I believe that God is in control, she says.
I mention Malachi 3:10 to her, and ask her whether the Lord keep His promises. He does, she says, and repeats it, He does. We did not always have cows, she reminisces, we started with goats – the government was giving goats to people to help them get started. We first tithed in goats. My husband was the one who heard that the local pastors needed support, and he felt that giving tithe was important. And now, everything on this farm belongs to God – not just the cows! Everything.
And we have been blessed.
What is your wisdom on Tithing, Dr Gasennelwe? What would you say to people?
“Tithing is linked to a concern for others,” she feels. “If you cannot give to others, you cannot give to God, and if you cannot give to God, you won’t give to others.”
That’s what a generous Spirit is all about. And what of all the people who have been blessed through a generous life? That’s multiplication – Bible style.
The Sum Of It
It is clear to me that Biblical mathematics challenges the rules a little. It’s based on different-world principles. In God’s world, in order to make more, you need to give up everything. And when you add Him to your life, exponential blessings abound. We are grateful to the example of so many who have given their lives to increase God’s kingdom. It is very clear that with God, one plus one is more than you can ever imagine!