The second time I paid tithing, my electricity was shut off.
I used to hear these stories, you know the type. About how someone’s husband became unemployed, and they were trying to decide between paying tithing or buying groceries, and they paid tithing. And the next day, their uncle drove up in a truck loaded with his excess food storage that he no longer needed since his kids were all grown. And they lived off of it for six months.
That’s not how it worked for me.
I’m a convert. My husband and I married very young (way too young) and while he’d been born into the church, he was a Bishop’s son—so he hadn’t really been active for very long before we were married. Neither of us knew much about living the gospel. We’d never lived on our own before. We were really unprepared to support ourselves or any children—and of course, we had kids right away.
We moved a lot when we were first married and were not as active as we should have been in the church. My husband stayed home with our first baby, and I worked. He was messed up on medication a shrink had proscribed him for his ADHD (which is a whole other post, maybe a whole other blog) and unable to work. We lived in an inner-city gang neighborhood, a ghetto, and were on welfare.
I can remember praying and praying that somehow we’d be able to afford to pay tithing. I hadn’t learned that a testimony only comes by exercising faith first. First you do something, and then the testimony comes. I didn’t even know how you went about paying tithing. Finally someone explained about the envelopes outside the Bishop’s office. I don’t remember what made me at last decide to pay tithing, and pay it regularly. It was probably that we wanted to be sealed in the temple, and you have to be a full tithe payer in order to go to the temple. Or it may have also been that the bishop could help us financially if we paid tithing. Likely both.
So I paid tithing, rather than the gas bill. And our gas was shut off. It was winter. The only heat we had in the house was a gas “furnance.” (I hesistate to call that thing a furnance.) I turned the electric stove on in the kitchen for heat, and we all spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Somehow I got the gas back on—probably through a charity program the utility company had.
I paid tithing again. This time, our electricity was shut off. This was worse than the gas, because the gas furnance used electricity to blow the heat out. And now we couldn’t turn the electric stove on in the kitchen. I may have gone to the Bishop for help with that bill, I don’t remember. I know somehow I got it turned back on.
I do remember at least once being in the Bishop’s office, handing him a check for tithing in one hand, and accepting a check from him for our rent payment in the other.
Gradually, as my attitude towards paying tithing improved, it got easier. If I didn’t pay it, things got hard, and quick. Or maybe I should say, things got extra hard. I started to see the blessings in paying tithing. Eventually, my husband got off the medication that had so messed him up, and my parents let us rent a house they owned next door to theirs for cheap while we tried to get more on our feet. My parents are not LDS, but they could see the value in our paying tithing and always encouraged me to do so.
My husband began working as a VW mechanic. His hours were sporatic, and his pay was not regular. Our income was very small, but I cheerfully paid tithing on it.
And there came a certain poor widow,
and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them,
Verily I say unto you,
That this poor widow hath cast more in,
than all they which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance;
but she of her want did cast in all that she had,
even all her living.
Mark 12: 42-44
I’ve always had a different perspective than most on that scripture. When you have next to nothing, giving away part (or even all of it) just means you still have next to nothing. It’s not really all that hard.
That summer when my husband was working as a VW mechanic, just before he got a much better paying job that led to him discovering what exactly he wanted to do professionally, we had a lot of lean times. But whenever we were about to face a serious crunch, something would happen. Twice, maybe even three times, different strangers knocked on the door asking if any of the broken down, rusty old VW bugs in our yard were for sale. I’d say, “Which one do you want?” And suddenly I had grocery money.
Sounds a bit like someone’s uncle driving up with his excess food storage in a truck, doesn’t it.