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Adventures in Tithing View Comments
By Marilynn Judd

THERE IS a curious passage in the biblical Book of Malachi: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, That there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the LORD of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?” (3:10). It sounds as if God is issuing a dare to the reader.

I might have read this passage before, but it did not come alive for me until 1982 when I heard a priest quote it and witness about what tithing had done to transform his finances. That priests had financial problems was a revelation, but frequent bank overdrafts proved that my family surely did. My husband, Steve, and I had five kids in parochial schools, mortgage payments, dental and medical bills and a car dying of rust disease. I ordered the kids not to grow, but they stubbornly disobeyed, inhaling food and bursting out of their clothes. You can perhaps understand why “blessings without measure” might have appealed to me.

The bubble burst, however, when the priest spoke of tithing 10 percent of one’s gross income. “Isn’t that a typical priest idea?” I said to my husband. “What does he know about a family’s cost of living?” I spent much time muttering about the stupidity of giving away money when you needed money.

What finally turned the tide was the dare: “... try me in this, says the LORD ...” I know God keeps his word, but I also knew from past experiences that his blessings didn’t always match my wants. Nevertheless, in a leap of faith, we (with a wrong motivation) desperately and fearfully wrote those first tithing checks, off the top. “We are signing up for a life of rags and oatmeal!” I complained.

But this complaint was countered by a blessing. Steve found a shiny stone on the sidewalk. He took it to a jeweler who said it was a diamond. We were unable to find the owner, so Steve had it set into a ring for me. (We had no money before we married, so I didn’t have an engagement ring.) The new ring on my finger was a constant and sparkling reminder that tithing isn’t a doorway to deprivation and misery.

As for the oatmeal, I (almost effortlessly, it seemed) became an expert shopper and a skilled cook, finding bargains everywhere, not only on food, but on clothing and other needs also. People gave us odd gifts — the most extraordinary being a good, undented station wagon, just before our old car expired.

One day we realized, to our surprise, that we didn’t even miss the tithe. The overdrafts also stopped. God is trustworthy! In the beginning, until your trust is strengthened, God seems to go out of his way to overwhelm you with very tangible blessings. Bit by bit, negative motivations are transformed.

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Marilynn Judd is a writer from Roseville, Minn. She has written three nationally circulated newsletters and numerous magazine articles. Her latest book is Called, Equipped and Deployed to Love: The Foundation of Stewardship (Xulon Press).

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Peter and Paul: 
		<strong>Peter (d. 64?)</strong>. St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus. 
<p>The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles. </p><p>And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19). </p><p>But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus. </p><p>He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b). </p><p>Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17). </p><p><strong>Paul (d. 64?)</strong>. If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate. </p><p>Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus. </p><p>Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise. </p><p>In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.</p> American Catholic Blog The way of the cross is unavoidably uphill. Christians don’t get to carry their cross downhill. Suffering has always been inextricably linked with Christianity, but those who carry their cross willingly in these times can serve as an example and inspiration to all of us.

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