Sunday, May 4, 2008

God Likes to Give Me $60 in Cash

I have been giving a lot of thought to tithing lately. Giving money to the church/meeting seems to be a problem for Quakers and I have been trying to figure out what I can say to change that. I can only think of one other time that I spent this much effort on the subject of tithing and each time, God has handed me $60 in cash. I think this is a clear sign that God has a pretty good sense of humor.

The first time I really thought about tithing was after my second year of law school. I was working for a professor, writing a book. I didn't get paid much and I only got paid once a month, so I was having trouble budgeting. Around the same time, I read the book Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. My favorite chapter in that book is the one called "Money," where he talks about being broke as a writer. I could really relate. Miller said that he had avoided tithing because he did not have much money to cover rent and bills as it was. Then one of his friends, who Miller did not even really consider a Christian, gave him a hard time about not giving money to God. Miller started tithing, and once he did, he always had enough to cover his expenses.

When I read the chapter, I was inspired. But I also thought, "Well, that's great for you, but I get paid by the hour and I know exactly how much money I am going to get and when." I did remember to tithe that month, but I felt like it was a leap of faith. Then, a few days later, God gave me $60 in cash.

Because I don't have a car, people frequently offer to lend me their cars for the weekend if I will give them a ride to the airport. My boss and his wife were going out of town, and I was borrowing their Cadillac for a few days. On the way to the airport, my boss quietly handed me $60 to cover gas. It was exactly the amount I needed to get through the rest of the month.

Lately, I have been thinking about tithing again because people at University Friends Meeting are not quite giving enough to make ends meet. My first thought was to go to the library and get Blue Like Jazz and give people copies of the chapter on tithing. So I did that, and since I had the book already, I read it again. I liked it a lot better on the second reading.

I have been really broke lately. It is a little embarrassing because you'd think that as a lawyer, I would have enough money, but I always feel like I am just scraping by. It doesn't help that I have a mortgage-sized student loan and I live alone in a fairly pricey city. And, because my parents instilled this in me as a child, I always give 10% to God and put at least 10% into savings (now it's in a retirement account, so I really can't touch it). Things have been especially tight this month because I had to pay in advance for my CSA share. I believe in supporting local agriculture and I know this will save me money on groceries over the summer, but writing another check for $300 made me feel a little sick.

The other day I was complaining (again) to my co-worker Catherine about how broke I am. One of Catherine's friends was hosting a casino night party as a fundraiser for her triathlon team in training to support The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I was whining that I really wanted to go, but I just didn't think I could afford the $10 buy in. Catherine very kindly offered to lend me the money, if that was really the only thing keeping me from going. The next day, she walked into my office and handed me $60 in cash.

I was telling my sister Rachel this story yesterday and she wondered aloud whether there is a special significance to the number 60. I said that I think it's just significant for me because it is the same amount that I got before when I was in a similar financial low point. I feel like I am pretty dense at noticing signs sometimes, so God has to be creative about giving me signs that are so clear I can't mistake them. Maybe eventually I will learn to trust him and not worry about money so much.

And Catherine, if you are reading this, I hope you have a lovely weekend in DC and I do still intend to pay you back when I get paid (six more days!).


  1. I think tithing is really difficult for just about any church- or meeting-goer. In churches, pastors don't like to talk about it but at least a collection plate is passed around.
    It was also part of my growing up that tithing was important so I worked at giving a percentage to church. I got pretty good at doing this regularly while I was in Seattle. For several years I was living on the edge as well and I decided not to have a budget. If I had a budget I would realize how close things were and it might scare me away from giving up that tithe money (which I did actually do a couple times). But as tight as things were, I kept on tithing and things worked out.

    I found out once, at least at our church, that something like 80 or 90% of the church is funded by a small handful of people. A very small handful. I have a feeling it's the same at many churches and meetings.

  2. thanks for paying me back.
    and, that is the first time i have ever been accused of being an instrument of god :)


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