[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.”