Since at the time I didn't actually have any income, or a local church membership, tithing was mostly theoretical. Until it wasn't.
It was a rather vicious circle. I didn't have enough money to live on. So I gave 10% of my gross to my church at the time, in hopes that God would make sure I had enough money to live on. Except I still didn't. And there is an implied teaching that goes along with tithing. I may have been giving 10%, but if God didn't bless me monetarily, then obviously it was my fault. If I had more faith, He would bless me. So I kept tithing in order to prove to God (and probably myself) that I had faith.
I was psychologically held hostage by my own desire to please God.
In the meantime we had no food.
Finally I came to a conclusion. Since God obviously wasn't holding up His end of the deal, either 1) He was a liar... or 2) I was misunderstanding the whole tithing thing somehow. Since #1 was inconceivable, I obviously needed to review what tithing was all about to make sure I was doing everything right.
It's really a challenge to be poor and Christian when ministers all seem to equate Christianity with a freefall of primarily monetary blessings. Didn't Jesus promise us all a hundredfold return when we gave? (Mark 10:30)
So if I admitted that, financially, I was really struggling, the obvious response would be "Tithe and trust God." Except I had been tithing, and I couldn't figure out how to quantify faith. This might also come with a testimony of how they or someone they knew had started tithing and shortly thereafter got a job or a raise or a check in the mail.
Since I was poor and a Christian, I must be lacking in faith. After all, strong Christians were rewarded with blessings.
I undertook my study, going into the Bible with a distrust of all preconceptions. I wanted to know what God had to say, not just regurgitate past Bible studies. When I finished, I thought to myself, "That can't be right." It took three studies before I finally accepted what I had learned.
This is the beginning of the fourth and final study.