Liberty Found Through Tithing By Dan Page, Volunteer Storyteller
Shana “Rusty” Reilly-Pond began tithing the day she lost her job in 2012. As a financial services professional, she understood the risks. As a Christian, she decided the moment was right to put her faith to the test.
“Like many people in California and on the coast, we need both incomes to support this house,” Rusty said. “We lost our medical, dental and vision coverage. The mortgage jumped because we lost the interest rate discount. I decided if we were going to be serious and trust God, we needed to do it now.”
Rusty manages the household money and wasn’t sure how to tell her husband, Chris Pond, about her leap of faith. The right moment came within weeks as Chris, inspired by a Sunday morning message, made an independent leap of faith and began to write a check on their dwindling account to drop in the bucket.
Rusty balked. Chris insisted. They left the service and went for a walk, where Rusty broke the news that, in fact, the couple had been tithing for weeks. Chris was on board immediately.
“We always knew that we were supposed to be tithing,” Chris recalls, “but it was an on and off thing … we didn’t do it regularly. We’d look at bills and say ‘wow’ and (pull back).”
Rusty saw Chris’s response as a sign.
“I thought my husband would push back. And when he didn’t, I knew God was working. He keeps providing for us,” Rusty said. “And God gave back when we really needed it. We’ve never gone without meals. We’ve always been able to pay our bills. We’ve even maintained our credit.”
Chris and Rusty committed to a tithe via very different faith journeys.
Chris was educated in a strict Baptist environment and accepted Christ as his savior at age 19. He was very familiar with scripture on tithing.
Aside from a brush with Christianity in high school, Rusty grew up unchurched. As a young adult, she became an atheist. A significant encounter with God at her mother’s funeral brought her to Christ. Chris and other friends in the community introduced her to Mariners.
“I was a longtime baby Christian. I really started to learn while I was here, from fellowship with friends, pastors and others in the church, at classes. I grew up here at Mariners without feeling judged.”
Both agree prayer is a key element of tithing.
“When you first start … it’s really hard and it’s really scary,” Chris said. “Somewhere along the line I learned to pray when I gave, and to thank God for the ability to give this back. It represents this small portion of what he wants back. He wants it as an act of faith.”
And tithing has helped the couple think less about money and more about personal and spiritual growth.
“I don’t want to chase money anymore. Money isn’t important to me,” said Chris, who recalls working long hours on commission to build income. “Quality of life, my relationship with God, and what God has as a plan for me to make a difference in the world, that’s what’s important.”
“That’s what liberating,” Rusty says. “It is the ultimate act of faith. Any acts of faith you put forth with God he gives back 10-fold with the liberation of it. That’s really the journey of a Christian person. When you do what he asks, when you step out in faith, when you dip your toe in the water, he liberates you.”
Rusty found her current job as a bank branch manager in 2014, and the financial challenges began to ease. But just 18 months later Chris went out on disability from his job as a termite inspector. He will not be able to go back.
In response, the couple is embarking on a radical lifestyle change. Rather than struggle with servicing a mortgage on the coast, they plan to sell their home here and move to a more affordable market in Northern California. Chris will move first and Rusty will join him as soon as she locates work near their new home. Change and separation can be hard, but they are excited as their faith journey continues.
“I don’t want to chase money anymore. I want to live a simple, comfortable life where money is not a big issue,” Chris said. “We try to have joy and be thankful for trials, tribulations … and trust in God, and know that he is going to take care of us no matter what. Everything will work out to his glory.”
And the couple will continue to trust God with their tithe.
“We have always been able to make ends meet,” Rusty said. “Though our circumstances are what they are now, we’re not worried about it. And we will continue to give.”