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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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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog God is great. God is good. And God, in his fatherly love, has a plan for our lives that will work out for our benefit and salvation. All we have to do is trust and obey.

Conversations with a Guardian Angel

 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
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This Franciscan friar was instrumental in founding many of California’s mission churches.

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