[Word count: 695. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]
My first car was a rust-colored super-oxidized ‘89 Pontiac. My papa got it for me the year before he passed. I loved that car, and drove it everywhere ‘til one day on the 405, the inevitable happened. It grabbed its chest and kneeled in pain as white plumes of smoke rolled from under the hood. Blown head gasket. My car was done.
I took the nearest exit, rolled down to a stop light, and got out to ponder my next move. Just then, a middle-aged Black woman pulls up next to me nodding her head, her larger-than-life church lady hat rocking back and forth in agreement. As she draws closer, I realize she’s talking to me.
“Yep. Yep. See? That’s what you get. You should’ve paid your tithes.”
But I did pay them. I stood, perplexed, expressionless, enraged, my temperature rivaling the overheated engine in my dearly departed car. So much I couldn’t understand. Is she saying this because of the Jesus fish emblem on the back of my deceased car? And why is this happening now? It’s the middle of the week. Who wears a hat that big this close to Hump Day? While driving. How can she see out of the rear view mirror? She must be a professional church lady.
The teens in her car looked away in shame as if to say “This is not my mother, my aunt, or any blood relation. She always does this. We are so sorry.”
I remain frozen without expression as she amened herself, hat still rocking. Meanwhile, I held a conference inside me to decide which sequence of words would open the epic cussing out that was about to begin. This COGIC high voodoo deaconess was about to GET it. The most sky-darkening verbal salvo of all time. Until she barked, “COME on over here, lemme pray for you.” Damnit. She’s showing grace. Countdown aborted.
“If you wanna look good and not be bummy? Girl, you betta gimme that money?!” —Russell Jones, aka Ol’ Dirty Bastard, aka Dirt McGirt, aka Big Baby Jesus, et al.
How often have you heard Malachi 3:8-12 orated in church? “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me… in tithes and offerings.” Working my menial teen job as a sandwich artist began a faithful habit of tithing. When I asked a youth pastor whether to give 10% of net or gross earnings, the response was “Well, what do you want to get blessed on?”
So I started tithing like you invest venture capital. In college, I upped the ante to 25%. I wanted God to give me double. [record scratch] It doesn’t work like that. Instead, I got behind on payments, and ran up a hefty tab. I couldn’t pay what I owed, and I felt ashamed. When that weight got too heavy, I asked my pastor what to do. What she said revolutionized the way I know God’s grace: “When you had nothing to give him, he gave his whole life for you.”
Really? God wasn’t as ruthless about his money as the mob or an irate pimp? My thinking was turned on end. And there was more to learn. In the years since leaving church, I’ve been far from a model Christian. Most notably, I didn’t tithe anywhere for a year or more. By the logic I was taught, my world should have unraveled.
Instead, just as I was awash in the highest credit card debt I’d ever had, job after inexplicable freelance job showed up. In a couple months, my credit card was paid off. In another month, my car was paid off. The following month, I got a full time job offer with health benefits and the largest salary I’d ever made.
I don’t know what God’s fiscal logic is, but I’m beyond thankful for it. I went from “can’t do nuttin’ for ya, man” to helping family and friends in critical times. I tithe now out of more gratitude than compulsion. I don’t recommend trying to scam God, but now I know he gives more compassion than he does swift backhand. COME on over here, lemme pray for you.
Other Junkyard Salvation articles:
- The Dirtiest Job In Church (May 5, 2014) — Hint: It’s not janitor. If you think it’s hard to be a Christian, try being chosen to coach a whole team of them.
- Let Them Eat Cake: How To Fail at Christianity (December 16, 2013) — A sense of entitlement separates believers into those who are victorious… and then the rest of y’all.
- If, Then, But, and Other Things God Said (August 28, 2012) — When doubt or disappointment arises, I call God’s promises into question. Will you still do what you said?
- Worship, Unconscious (November 12, 2012) — What would you do if someone you loved was laying unconscious? Doctors say you should still talk to them. They can hear you.
- How Titties Almost Got Me Saved (August 11, 2013) — “You know how you automatically tune in when someone mentions something you care about? I’m waiting for that. It’s not happening.”
Hilarious! Had a smile on my face the entire time.
God is indeed a lot more compassionate (and patient) than we give Him credit for. Is he not Love? (He KNOW we aine right!)
Sidebar: WHAT is it with church ladies and they hats???
That should be your next topic…..
The Man Sitting Behind Ms. Ola Mae Johnson
That happened like 12 years ago. I will NEVER forget the hat. LOLOL Thanks for reading, man!
GREAT THOUGHTS. Thanks for sharing it with me on Twitter.
It’s amazing how selfish we can be about tithe. Some think about it more as “C.R.E.A.M” by WuTang as opposed to like you said, doing it out of gratitude rather than compulsion. God doesn’t need anything from us. Spiritual practices are there for us to get ourselves together and in alignment with the Creator.
I remember when tithing used to be about getting some “blessing.” It’s not that anymore. It’s about the state of my heart. It’s about being a blessing to others, not trying to get a spiritual come up. The Bible has MANY stories that reveal a narrative of generosity to one’s neighbors. And for the stories that are about sowing and reaping, it’s often not for the benefit of the individual reaping only.
Blessings on your journey, man!
I appreciate you taking time to read. (Also, I almost named this entry after Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” LOL) It’s one thing to know what the Bible says, but it sometimes takes us years to learn how to walk out the things we learn. I feel better about this one thing now!
Thanks so much for sharing this to me on Twitter.
I see God’s generousity in your story and I enjoyed reading your blog 🙂
I still stand on the same grounds that tithing money to the church doesnt have any scriptual grounds for the Church.
Hope this finds you well, Bro.
Blessings in Yesha Ha Mashiach – Jesus the Messiah.
No problem! I appreciate you taking the time to read. God bless!
Man, doesn’t this article just hit the nail on the head. It is ALLL about attitude. When we try to pay for our salvation by doing good works, we never experience God’s grace the way He wants us to because we’re trying to pay for something Jesus already paid for. When we tithe because we think God needs our money, it blocks blessing because we don’t understand that all things already belong to him. But when we give from a heart of gratitude understanding God can DO more through us with our 90% than we can alone with our 100%, the promises of God are released and blessings flow powerfully.
What a great testimony Mark, thanks for sharing that. God bless you!
Man. “Try to pay for our salvation.” Isn’t that ridiculous? But I was gonna get it even if I had to break it into 340,000 payments. I had salvation on layaway at a department store. Ha! Anyway, James. Thanks for reading man. I appreciate your time!
This was great!! I know if I’m short a month I start thinking…shoot…now God won’t bless me……stinking thinking…..This helped remind me of God’s grace….thanks! 🙂
The idea that something I wrote is helping people to feel freer…
…does it make me a bad writer if I don’t know how to put that into words?
A smile on the inside & out. Fantastic.
Thank you for hearing me. 🙂
Boy Did I need to read that! Thanks again for keeping me on track! #Tither
I don’t know what your church teaches, but just check your heart! Don’t feel condemned! 🙂