One of the most surprising things about the LDS experience is how common it is for members to experience the hand of the Lord in their lives when they muster the faith to pay tithing. At least I am genuinely surprised by it. I see people blessed in many ways when they strive to keep the teachings of the Gospel. Every teaching and principle the Lord has given us is there to bless our lives: morality, honesty, prayer, reading the scriptures, honoring the Sabbath day, the Word of Wisdom, avoiding debt, clean language, spending time with your kids, ministering to others through home or visiting teaching — all of these can make our lives better and faith-solidifying miracles can occur as we exercise faith to follow the Lord in such matters. But I am intrigued by the seemingly high proportion of faith-promoting stories that come when people make the transition to becoming tithe payers. Is this just my observation, or do you see this also?
I just ran into a story that seems to fit the tithing experiences I’ve run into from people I’ve known over the years. “The Orange Car” by Elwin C. Robison in the June 2007 Ensign (scroll halfway down the Web page to see the story) shares a member’s experience after getting a better car and having an old orange car that they considered giving away:
In the midst of our pleasure in having a newer car, we wondered what to do with the orange car. Yes, it was ugly, but the engine ran reliably. We could get a few dollars for it at a junkyard, but we both felt we should look for someone to whom we could give it.
On Sunday morning I went into the clerk’s office to ask the ward clerk if he needed a car. He and his wife had several teens. He smiled and said no thanks; he didn’t need another car. In the corner of the office, however, was a ward member writing something. He perked up at the mention of a car, so I went through the long list of things that didn’t work. But I assured him it had good tires, the engine was reliable, and it couldn’t be too bad since it had always been driven by a full-tithe payer.
He and his wife had only one car, and he worked nights while she worked days. He had turned down better employment opportunities because he would have needed the car when his wife also needed it. A second car would permit them to increase their income and open up advancement potential for him. So we gave them the old orange car.
This would have remained just a fond memory if it hadn’t been for our conversation three months later. This ward member and his wife wanted us to know more about their circumstances when we gave them the car. As is often the case with young couples, money was scarce, and with the birth of their first child, expenses had increased more rapidly than income. They had gotten behind in their tithing and had felt awful about it. With each passing month they felt worse, but they didn’t see a way out of their dilemma. They had gone six months without paying tithing, and they had prayed and felt that they just had to make things right with the Lord. That Sunday morning when I walked into the clerk’s office, he had been writing out his tithing check, wondering how he was going to meet his financial obligations through the coming month.
My first thought was embarrassment at my joke about the car having been driven by a full-tithe payer. But as I reflected on the situation, I marveled at how the Lord keeps His promises when we keep ours. The ink wasn’t even dry on his check when the means to resolve his dilemma unwittingly walked through the door.
I have often looked back at the example of faith shown by this young couple. It comforts me to know that if I show faith, someone somewhere can be in the right place at the right time to help solve my dilemmas. How grateful I am for a Father in Heaven who knows us so well that He can bless us even before we have finished demonstrating our faith.
We hear these kind of stories, but they don’t apply to everyone by any means, even if they are surprisingly frequent. There are also some stories where people make a huge sacrifice to do what’s right, and as a result seem to suffer. Some are preserved by the Lord when thrown into a lions den, while others are consumed. We must be prepared for our sacrifice to be a real one, and recognize that any miraculous deliverance or help is unearned and solely through miraculous and exceptional mercy. But the Lord seems to look for opportunities to bless us when we exercise faith. Faith is what it’s all about. We pay tithing not because we have enough money, but because we have enough (often just barely enough) faith to follow the Lord in a real and tangible way.
Regardless of the outcome, I would encourage you to trust the Lord and obey His universal command to honor Him with the ancient biblical and restored LDS principle of tithing.