He Learned a Valuable Lesson About Tithing and Faith

The student pastor was worried about paying his bills. Then two earth angels provided heaven-sent reassurance.

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Posted in , Jun 24, 2022

Illustration by Daniel Liévano

Yet another door slammed in my face. My shoulders slumped in defeat. I hadn’t expected door-to-door sales to be easy, but I certainly hadn’t expected it to be this hard. Monday, my first day on the job, was a bust, and if my luck didn’t improve before the end of the week, I was in trouble.

We were in an economic slump in 1968, and I was a broke graduate student at the Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. I needed $200 to cover next semester’s tuition. That was a lot of money. So, instead of spending my week of spring break relaxing with friends, I was stuck pounding the pavement, hawking cookware. With the few sales I’d managed to make thus far, I had no idea how I’d reach my goal.

Before setting out on this endeavor, I’d ended my daily devotions with a desperate plea. “Lord, if you bless me financially this week, I promise I’ll give 10 percent of my income to the church.” Since I was a boy, I’d been schooled in the concept of the biblical tithe. My father, who worked as a missionary, had talked about it. So did my Sunday school teachers. Not that I’d ever practiced it myself. The way I saw it, giving away 10 percent of my earnings was driving a hard bargain. But at this point, I would have tried anything to complete my religious studies.

By mid-week I wondered if my prayer had finally given me confidence in my sales pitch. For whatever reason, I saw some success. I made sale after sale. I guessed I’d really honed my skills. By Saturday, I had $250 in my pocket—and zero memory of my promise to tithe.

I was a student pastor at Lamberts Chapel, in a rural area in central Kentucky. I woke early on Sunday mornings so I could complete my devotional before the day’s services. First, I thanked God for a successful week of door-to-door sales. Then I read the scripture for the day, Malachi 3:6-12, in which the Lord chastises the Israelites for not keeping the tithe. The words hit me right between the eyes! It couldn’t be a coincidence! I scrambled for my checkbook, writing out a donation of $10. I ripped it up. I wrote another check for $15. It took me three tries to commit to the full 10 percent. I got to church and dropped it in the offering plate. It did hurt a little, but at least my conscience was clear.

Sunday services began as usual, until “unusual” happened. We had two visitors to our rural gathering place, which was rare. The older couple stole into the sanctuary and took a seat.

At the end of the service, I stood to the side, shaking hands with the worshippers filing out. The visiting couple approached, and the woman handed me an envelope, which I passed on to our treasurer, thinking it was a donation for the chapel.

A few hours later, before the evening service began, the treasurer approached me, the same envelope in her hand.

“No,” she said. “This is for you, young man.”

I opened the envelope and found a check for $25. It was made out to me.

I didn’t understand. I’d never met that couple before. Why would they give this gift to me? Only angels would know how conflicted I’d been about tithing this very amount on that very morning. But of course, angels didn’t write checks…

Two Sundays later, when I feared I wouldn’t see the couple again, I used the names on the check to look up their address. I knocked on their door, and they invited me inside. I thanked them for their generous gift. But I was still confused. “Why me?” I asked. “Why that Sunday? And how did you know who I was?”

“We know about your father’s work,” the woman explained. “We wanted to show our appreciation by giving a little something to his son. And that Sunday seemed as good a day as any.” As good a day as any for a blossoming young seminarian to see a simple theological principle put into action—that God will always provide. I did manage to graduate, and in the years since I’ve written out my tithe check correctly and thankfully the first time around.

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