Sunday, September 19, 2004

Tithing

I became familiar with the concept of tithing nearly thirty years ago. I was about 20 years old, in my salad years and always broke. I went with my parents to church and thought, "oh lucky me, one time I come to church and the preacher says it's the one day a year he talks about money."

I can't for the life of me remember his name, but I remember his message. He said that you didn't have to believe that it would work, that God promises it will and it does. He basically guaranteed a minimum return on investment of 10 times over...I had two dollars to my name and was hoping they would mate in my pocket and multiply. I ruined that plan by dropping them in the offering plate thinking smugly to myself, "we'll see."

At the time I was working for a state agency and one of my duties was to drive the courier van and make bank deposits. I was sitting in line at the drive up window and noticed in the side mirror of the van a dollar bill laying in a water puddle behind me. A man had just gotten out of his car and was walking that way. He would see it any minute. I didn't have money for lunch, and even if I did I would have done the same thing. I leapt from the van and snatched the bill up. It was a twenty. I started to think there might be something to what the preacher said.

Fast forward through the next 25 years - years of "giving charitably" and forgetting about God. I became successful. I worked my way up from laborer to supervisor to manager and at last I was vice president of a small company. I put fifteen years of my life into building and making that company successful. I made a lot of money in the process. Got the executive house in Overbrook, filled it with antique furniture and drove new cars.

Then, for some reason, things began to go wrong. My father called me and said he'd been diagnosed with brain cancer. He was scared. Even though I'd never met him until I was 28 years old and never had a "relationship" with him, I jumped on a plane and flew to Houston to spend a week with him. After the surgery, the doctor told us he had basically two years to live and they would be comfortable. I came back to Little Rock happy with my new relationship with a sister I had never known (she got the call too.)

About two weeks after I got back, my boss told me that he no longer needed me. The rug was pulled out from beneath me. I slipped into a funk that was the greatest depression I've ever experienced in my life. The only thing that got me out of bed in the morning was the fact that my wife insisted that I take the kids to school. Oh yeah, that's another thing. My 14 year old son had been expelled from school the year before, expelled from summer school, and now had been arrested twice in the first month of school repeating the 8th grade.

I pretty much laid in bed for two weeks. My little bride is an amazing woman. She told me to get my sorry butt out of bed and go find a job. I half-heartedly did so. "Did you go look for work," she'd ask when she came home. "Uh, yeah, sure," I'd answer.

I've never had any interest in watching church or preachers on television. I have always thought of the guys on TV as "swindle preachers" who are only out to get your money. Don't ask me why, but I found myself watching a local preacher on TV. Can't really say how I even found the channel. He was somewhere near the beginning of the David series and I remember being so impressed with his wisdom. I've always said I can't go to a church where the preacher isn't smarter than me. I know, that's pretty snotty. But it was me.

I went on the internet (ever wonder if any of this stuff is worthwhile?) and found when and where they are. I showed up for church that Sunday. I didn't have a job but was receiving my severance pay at the time, so I tithed 10% based on that. Yeah, it was on the net, not the gross.

We had already decided to down-size the house. My wife told me that we couldn't find a house she would be willing to live in for my target price of 100K. I wasn't so sure myself. We started looking.

I talked with an ex-customer at Alltel and he told me as much as he'd love to hire me, it just wasn't in his budget. He did give me a 30 day assignment filling in for folks on vacation. This had the wonderful side effect of putting me on display to his other vendors. I started getting job offers. I put all of my eggs in one proverbial basket accepting a job that fell through three days before my assignment ran out. Within an hour I had an offer from a competing company. I interview with them the next day and mentioned how things had fallen through with the other company. She said that it sounded like God's hands were all over it. Turns out my new boss was a born again Christian.

I began working for the new company doing something I'd never done before - selling. I started to worry when a few weeks went by and I still hadn't sold anything. My boss said don't worry, that's normal. In my second month I sold a job for $8,000. My new employer was quite impressed. I started getting orders. I even sold $7500 worth of printing to a guy whose wife sells printing for a competitor. God smiled on my life.

We found a house nearly as big as our old house within 2 blocks of my mother in law. The owner said he'd tried to sell it six years ago for $135K and couldn't. Said he'd take $100K to be shut of it. My son spent a week in jail and "saw the light." He divested himself of all his worthless old friends and spends his time with a Christian boy who shares his interests in cars and motorcycles. We sold our old house for enough to allow me to buy a new car that I really needed and to fix up the new house the way we want it. My wife says she likes living here better than at the old house.

My son has been going to school and trying to make grades. My youngest son has been going to church with me every Sunday and is learning to tithe too.

I've since changed jobs (so did my Christian boss) and am working for a local company. God has blessed me with the gift of selling. I have sold nearly $30K in mailing services since I started with my new company. Short version of the story (yeah, I know it's too late for that...) is that I will probably make as much or more than I did at my last job as vice president.

We're going to Louisiana next month to spend some time with my "new" sister.

Moral of the story? I've not had to worry about finances since my life turned upside down. I've tithed 10% (yes, net - not gross) for nearly a year and a half now and God has blessed us richly. I was baptized with water in the Assembly of God in January, get son2 to come every Sunday, son1 comes sometimes. Now, if I could just get my little bride to come. Would you pray for me on that one?

2 comments:

jenna said...

Hey

Cangratulations on your success! Good luck with your wife, I prayed for you. :)

mikey said...

Hi there! I was just surfing the net and saw that you had posted a messege on your blog about watching Pastor Rod on TV. I just want to say that it was great that you were moved to come visit because of the Series of sermons on the Life of David. I am involved in the Media department (running the Camera) and always love it when people say they watch the program on TV.
Do you still come to first? If so, what service do you attend - 1st or 2nd? I usually attendt the 1st service now because I am involved with the Deaf Church too. No, I am not deaf, I just have a strong interest in it because my best friend is deaf and my Girlfriend is slightly Hearing Impaired.
Anyway, Hope to see you sometime.
Mike Thornton