The Words of the Lester Family
I would like to share some experiences I have had tithing. I have been a member of the church since I was in high school. After I graduated, I came to New York to work in Performing Arts, where I have been the past seven years.
During the first few years I was in the church, I was a fairly good fundraiser, but then I started having health problems: the familiar dual plague of back trouble and hypoglycemia. Thus for the last four years I have been unable to fundraise. Since Performing Arts is supported totally by fundraising, I was somewhat a financial bur- den. Also, it was difficult to ask for money for medical expenses when I was not contributing anything. So two years ago I was given permission to get a job to support myself and pay my bills.
Job-hunting was pretty miserable. I had no work experience and no job skills. I had not taken typing in high school because I assumed that 1 would be a fundraising religious fanatic for the rest of my life. Interviewers would ask me what I had been doing since I got out of school. Witnessing, fund# raising, playing the clarinet in the Go- World Brass Band, and restoring the world. They would ask me what I was getting paid. Nothing. Bed and board. They were not impressed.
After two weeks I applied at temporary agencies -- they are not so picky. I finally, got a job paying $3.50 an hour. For 40 hours of work a week, I was barely making $100.00 after taxes -- a far cry from fundraising.
Things improved a bit. After picking up skills and getting raises, I finally landed a job as an assistant bookkeeper. I had enough money to live on, but just barely.
At first, my department still paid for my rent in the World Mission Center. Gradually I had to start taking responsibility for that, too; I should have done that from the beginning, but God is gracious. Even with rent at only $60.00 a month, it was very difficult to live on so little money.
Some friends in similar situations and I would discuss our financial woes. Occasionally the subject of tithing would come up; we all were aware that Father said we should tithe, but the direction was somewhat vague.
Tithing was a nice idea, but it did not seem practical in our situation. We could barely support ourselves; there wasn't anything left to give to the church. Tithing was something else to feel had about.
Then suddenly the company I was working for shut down, owing me two weeks' pay. At the same time, a blessed sister that I know was about to have a baby, and I went to help take care of her family.
I was really grateful for the chance to work in a house instead of a business. It was good to attend morning service, to pray and think about the past few months, to try to understand God's will and desire. It seemed that no matter how hard I worked, I could only break even. If I worked enough to have a little extra money, I had no time for witnessing or doing my mission (which was still playing in the band).
If I spent time witnessing, I fell behind in paying my bills. Many people devote all their time to making a living; but in order to restore the world, we need to make a living and do spiritual work. Also, if I could just manage to support myself now, what was I going to do some day when I had a family? If I spent all my time working, who would take care of the children? If I took care of the children, who would support them?
After nine months of working in the "real" world, I had progressed from being a clerk at $3.50 an hour to an assistant bookkeeper at $5.00 an hour. At that rate, I could either have children or support them, but not both.
I guess you could say my question was, "How can we be financially successful?" One day at the end of November, during morning service the director read from the October 1981 issue of Today's World a 1978 speech by Father called How to Gain Spiritual Help. I liked that; I could sure use some help. At the end Father said:
Return a portion of what you earn to God, as a tithe. Give one tenth to the local church, one tenth to the national level work, and one tenth for the worldwide level -- three tenths in all.
When you give to others, don't think that you are giving to them out of your own pocket. Give out as though it were coming from a heavenly treasure. Then he who receives through you is actually receiving from God. Then the spirit world can help you, and God will remember everything and return it all to you ten times over.
I had felt that I couldn't afford to give away my money; Father said it wasn't mine in the first place. I had felt that I didn't have anything left over to give; Father said that I should tithe first, before anything else. I couldn't figure out how to get ahead; Father said that if I followed this principle, spirit world would help me out.
Being a cynical person, I thought, "That sounds nice, but it's probably a bunch of hooey." Being also adventurous, however, I reasoned, "Why not try it? That's the only way to know for sure if it works."
For the rest of the year, I thought very seriously about this. Although I had grown and learned a lot in 1981, I was not at all satisfied. I want to work for God and True Parents, but an integral part of serving God is taking responsibility for one's own life -- and a large part of that responsibility is economic. The old adage that "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" seemed only too true. Since almost everyone in our church is poor after years of sacrificing all worldly possessions and positions, I felt that unless we found some breakthrough, our church members -- and by extension, our church -- would forever remain so poor that it would require all our effort just to support ourselves. That can't be God's or Father's desire.
I decided to experiment. Not quite having the guts to tithe three tenths, I thought I would start off the year by tithing one tenth and see what happened. If spirit world will return a 30 percent tithe tenfold, then they should give back at least a little bit of a 10 percent tithe. Also, I figured that if worse came to worst, I could tighten my belt and get by on only nine-tenths of my former income.
So I made a condition for 1982 to give one tenth of all the money I received to my department (as my "local church").
Things became very interesting. That Christmas I went home for my sister's wedding. Since for once in my life I had a little money, I bought Christmas gifts for my family. Returning to New York, I realized that I had been a bit foolish; true, I had a job, but it didn't start for another week, and it would be a week or so after that before I started getting paid.
Fortunately, I have lots of friends, who fed me and helped me keep going. Things looked promising at work when suddenly I was called for jury duty. That means you go work for the government and get paid $12.00 a day -- six months later.
So far, I hadn't thought much about my tithing condition; I hadn't gotten anything to tithe. Then my grandfather sent me $300.00. I stared at the check. I looked at my wall where I had a list of all the people I owed money to... and I thought of the commitment I had made to God on God's Day... and, oh boy, what a mess! In any case, I had made a commitment to tithe, and I couldn't violate that. On January 211 wrote a check to the band for $47.50, which was one-tenth of all the money I had received so far.
I have kept records of all my income and expenses for both 1981 and 1982, accounting for every penny that came in or went out. If I made a phone call for a dime, I wrote it down; if I found a dime on the sidewalk, I wrote it down. Comparing my records for the two years, I have substantial, objective evidence that the tithing principle does work.
The day after I gave the band $47.50, I received a check from the temporary agency for $46.57. Close enough for the first try. On February 11, I gave the band a check for $30.00, and within a week I received $32.00. On March 10, I gave $40.00; by the 14th I had received over $120.00.
I worked the same number of weeks in 1982 as in 1981. In 1981, I started working at the end of February and was laid off in October, 36 weeks. In 1982, I had jury duty, attended a 21-day workshop, became sick after the American Blessing and only worked half-days for the rest of the summer, and was away for three weeks because of the Korean Blessing. In September I received permission to attend college part-time. Although I worked about 36 weeks in 1982, during the last half of the year it was rarely more than half time.
Financially, 1982 should have been a disaster. With workshop, weddings and school, I had less-than-steady employment and some frightful expenses. However, at the end of December, 1 discovered that I had received more than twice as much money in 1982 as in 1981! I say received, not made, because some of it was gifts from various sources, and also because of a changed attitude about working and money.
I am convinced that everything comes from God, no matter what I may think I have done to "make" or "earn" it. Money would come in the nick of time -- just as a bill was due, or just as I was down to the proverbial last dime. Every time I would write out my tithing check, I would worry about how to survive on the remainder. But God had already sent the money on its way to me before I even started to worry about it. I don't want this to seem like pie-in-the-sky spirituality, because that is not my experience at all. I never found hundred-dollar bills lying around, or won sweepstakes or had someone walk up and shove money in my hand. Rather than the money itself, God was giving me the opportunity to make money.
In 1982 I was given the chance to improve my skills and earn double my starting wages in 1981. The lack of those opportunities in 1981 made me despair of ever getting ahead.
What's more, I discovered that God was working through me to take care of the band. Once when I gave a check to the band director, he opened the envelope and exclaimed, "Oh, great! This is just what we need to pay our flower bill." A few weeks later, the same thing happened, and I began to realize that God and spirit world could begin to trust that I would tithe; so if they wanted the band to have $20.00, they would direct $200.00 my way, in the form of some business opportunity, or overtime work.
Many people have told me, "Tithing sounds great, but I am already giving everything to the church already; my department is supported through fundraising." It's true that when you are fundraising, everything goes to the church, but ask yourself: do you never have any money that is your own? Whenever I received a few dollars from my parents, or picked up a few dollars on the side from doing odd jobs, I considered it "personal money" -- quite separate from "church money." Why not try tithing the money that comes to you personally; ten percent of a small amount is an even smaller amount -- will you really miss it that much?
The most important insight I received from tithing was that neither God nor the spirit world can lift a finger to help me as long as I think first about my own situation. However, if I put God's situation and desire before my own, even in a small way, He is eager to do everything He can to assist me.
Intuitively, I am absolutely sure that tithing made the critical difference between my situation in 1981 and 1982. I also have cold, hard facts -- in the form of my account books -- that point to the same conclusion. Furthermore, I used to feel guilty and ashamed when I would spend money, because it seemed that somehow I had no right to it. Now when I spend money, it feels cleaner because I first offer it to God and contribute to the purpose of the whole before caring for my individual needs.
Please think and pray about tithing. I am convinced that anyone who follows the tithing principle will receive an abundance from God; moreover if enough of us are tithing consistently, God can direct economic resources to our whole church. The more we give, the more we receive, and if we allow God to direct the giving and receiving, then we can have heavenly prosperity for ourselves and our children.